Mary Jane Wilkerson `17, recipient of this year’s 1st Lt. Andrew K. Stern Scholarship and Rowing Award, shares much in common with the award’s namesake.
Wilkerson (Fishers, Ind.) is a four-year Culver student and four-year rower, as was Stern `98. She raced in Culver Varsity eight, as did Stern, and she medaled at the Midwest Scholastic championship, as Stern also did. Further, she intends to enter the armed services and serve her country after college, just as did Stern, who became the only Culver alumnus to lose his life in the Global War on Terrorism.
Culver rowing coach Guy Weaser noted all of these similarities during his presentation of the award to Wilkerson Sept. 16 at the White-DeVries Rowing Center.
Adding that Wilkerson’s father is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and her mother was in the Army (retiring when she had children), Weaser quoted Wilkerson regarding her post-Culver path: “I want the feeling of doing what’s right and being a part of something important.”
Andrew Stern was a four-year cadet in Battery C, and rowed during all four years. He was a captain on the rowing team and the Artillery Battalion commander during his senior year.
Stern continued to row at the University of Tennessee, where he was captain of the rowing team, an officer of the Inter-Fraternity Council, and a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Because of his experience rowing at Culver, he was coaching the university’s novice teams by his second year, said Weaser. A Culver crew shell is named in Stern’s memory.
The coach discussed the characteristics of heroism during his presentation to Wilkerson, which was attended by several members of the crew team and other students and faculty.
Being a hero, Weaser said, relates to the life a person lives and values he or she exhibits, and “includes being willing to take on a task that is large, with an uncertain outcome that is perhaps even dangerous…Andy Stern is a hero.
“This remembrance is not a celebration of war nor of a death,” Weaser added, “but the life that Andrew Stern, CMA class of 1998, lived.”
Weaser also described Stern’s pride in his Culver rowing experience, visible via a large tattoo on his back with a pair of crossed oars (one Culver oar and the other a Tennessee oar). He also noted Stern asked his parents not only to pray for his own safety but also that of the Marines in his command, one more reflection of his character.
“I look at his photograph in the dining hall every time I pass by and I think of him as I pause at the Gold Stars at the Memorial Building,” said Weaser.
Following the presentation, as has become an annual tradition associated with the award, those in attendance walked in reverence behind the Culver Color Guard and Gold Star flag to the Memorial Building, where ‘Taps’ was played and all dispersed in silence.