WPI Basketball Team Shines On and Off the Court

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. - March 17, 2005 - The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Men's Basketball Team completed one of the greatest runs in university history last week, but its work is not finished. Head Coach Christopher J. Bartley has built WPI into a top program in New England through practice as well as community service. Even during their tournament run, team members were serving as Big Brothers to area youth and tackling their challenging coursework.

In the midst of the exciting season, coach Bartley and his team members were volunteering their time as role models with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MA/Metrowest. For the past two years, the whole team spends one to two hours every Wednesday during the academic year with young boys from the organization. They help them with their homework, play games together or just sit and talk. They often act as counselors and support persons for these youngsters.

Melanie L. Perreault, director of program development for Big Brothers Big Sisters, notes that the team has made a real difference in the youngsters' lives. "The boys really look up to the WPI players, and the WPI team members set an excellent example for the boys. The team members really take their roles seriously and they show up week in and week out - never letting the boys down, even during their hectic tournament schedule. They are all outstanding young men." The organization was so excited about the team's on-court success, that Perreault brought a group of boys to watch the team play in some of its tournament games.

In addition to its Big Brother Big Sister work, the WPI Men's Basketball Team participates in other volunteer activities such as Cleanup Worcester, a community service event run every spring by the City of Worcester. Two years ago, the team won the Silver Platter Award for service during this event for its excellent work and 100% participation rate. The team also takes part in community service and outreach programs on the WPI campus, including working with the Explore a Dream after school program for area youth. The team annually runs two clinics for youngsters from Worcester and has created quite a fan base within the group.

The 2004-05 basketball season was one of thrilling milestones for WPI's men's team. It set a new university record for regular season wins with, won the NEWMAC (New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference) regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA Division III championships for the first time in 20 years, making it to the Sweet 16 round.

"Coach Bartley should be commended not only for his on-court success, but for instilling strong ideals in his players," says Dennis D. Berkey, president of WPI. "The environment he has created within the program of giving back sets a shining example for the entire campus. In addition, the team's accomplishments are especially satisfying when you consider that the team members are scholars first - their primary focus at WPI being on academics."

In the classroom, the team has maintained a high level of academic achievement despite the potential distractions caused by their basketball schedules. The team members are pursuing studies in not inconsequential majors such as chemical engineering, economics, and electrical and computer engineering. For example, last year team co-captain and biomedical engineering major Ian Bonzani '04 was selected as one of only 44 American students to be awarded a prestigious Marshall Scholarship from the British Government. The highly competitive scholarships provide an opportunity for American students who have demonstrated academic excellence to continue their studies for two to three years at the British university of their choice. Bonzani is now attending Imperial College in London pursuing an advanced degree in tissue engineering.

Members of the 2004-05 WPI Men's Basketball Team hail from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. For more information about the team, including a season summary, bios of the coaching staff, and a roster complete with player hometowns, visit the team's Web site at www.wpi.edu/Academics/Depts/PE/BasketballM.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today its students, working in teams at more than 20 project centers around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

WPI's innovative, globally focused curriculum has been recognized by leaders in industry, government and academia as the model for the technological education of tomorrow. Students emerge from this program as true technological humanists, well rounded, with the confidence, the interpersonal skills and the commitment to innovation they need to make a real difference in their professional and personal lives.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master's and Ph.D. programs in more than 30 disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region's biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programs - including the largest industry/university alliance in North America - that have won it worldwide recognition.