Alabama holds graduation; honors students killed by tornado; student-athletes graduate

VIDEO: The University Of Alabama held its commencement ceremonies Saturday and the six students who died in the tornado were honored.

Alabama Student-Athletes Receive Degrees during Commencement Weekend (via UA Media Relations)
When the University of Alabama held its spring and summer commencement ceremonies Saturday in Coleman Coliseum, more than 80 Crimson Tide student-athletes were honored for earning their degrees.

“We are so proud of our graduates,” UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore said. “They are to be commended for all the hard work they have put into balancing academics and athletics throughout their careers.”

At least one member of each of Alabama’s 21 varsity sports figure among the 87 student-athletes who are eligible to take part in commencement that includes graduates from both the spring semester, which finished in May, and the recently concluded summer semester. The spring commencement ceremony was postponed after the April 27 tornado that affected Tuscaloosa, but did not damage campus.

The football team leads the way with 20 past and present players earning their degrees, including the Preseason All-Southeastern Conference trio of Josh Chapman, Barrett Jones and William Vlachos, all of which are returning starters heading into this season. Jones earned first team Academic All-American honors last year as well as a spot on the All-SEC team. In addition to those three, five more football players are set to suit up this season having already earned their undergraduate degrees.

Also among those graduating this weekend are All-Americans Catalin Cosma (swimming and diving), Aaron Fleshner (swimming and diving), Kate Shannon Gray (swimming and diving), Ricki Lebegern (gymnastics) and Kim Laing (women’s track and field). Fleshner, Lebegern and Laing also won individual SEC titles during their Tide tenures. Fleshner competed for Team USA at the 2011 FINA World Diving Championships in Shanghai, China in July.

Meghan Austin (women’s track and field), Tierney Jenkins (women’s basketball), Courtney McLane (women’s tennis) and Alyssa Meuth (volleyball), all of whom earned All-SEC honors during their UA careers, are also graduating this weekend. McLane, a second-team Academic All-American last season, earned her undergraduate degree in three years and will play her final season as a graduate student.