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Seattle University


(Grade) Point Guard

Written by Mike Thee
July 12, 2011

Seattle University took the lead in welcoming Sister Rose Ann Fleming to the Jesuit Advancement Administrators (JAA) Conference today. As coordinator of academic and athletic advising at Xavier University, Sister Fleming is nationally renowned for her successful work in improving the academic performance of the school’s student-athletes. Her talk was part of a three-day gathering hosted by SU that involved 270 advancement and marketing professionals from 25 of the 28 Jesuit institutions across the country.

Spearheaded by SU’s Advancement office, the conference drew rave reviews from many of the attendees, and Fleming’s talk was a distinct highlight. Since her arrival at Xavier in 1985, the average grade point average for its student-athletes has never dipped below 3.0. The graduation rate for student-athletes, currently 94 percent, is higher than the rate for the university’s overall student body, placing Xavier 23rd among the NCAA’s Division I schools.

Mike Hermann, SU's associate athletic director for external affairs who previously worked at Xavier University, presents a gift to his former colleague Sister Rose Ann Fleming. Sister Fleming was a featured speaker at the 2011 Jesuit Advancement Administrators Conference hosted by SU. 

Over the course of an hour, the soft-spoken but tough nun who has been profiled in a number of national publications took conference attendees behind the scenes to share some of Xavier’s keys to success while humbly giving credit to the coaches, presidents and athletics staff with whom she’s worked. Dubbed the “point guard” of the men’s basketball team by one of those coaches, Fleming spoke of the importance of creating enough time for student-athletes to learn, giving them the support systems they need to succeed and helping them prepare for life after college. 

Fleming also observed how painful it can be for a student-athlete accustomed to starring on the grandest of stages that college athletics has to offer finding themselves completely overmatched in the classroom.

She laid out Xavier’s intensive, whole-person approach to helping student-athletes succeed and spoke of requesting and receiving “benching powers” to sideline struggling student-athletes until they get their grades up. She also described the lengths to which she’s gone in keeping a student-athlete on track academically, recounting the time she called a student-athlete to wake him up so he didn’t miss his studies and waiting 120-plus rings before he eventually picked up.

In addition to Fleming, JAA conference attendees had the opportunity to hear from speaker Martha Choe, chief administrator of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A graduate of Seattle University’s MBA program and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, Choe spoke highly of the “powerful tradition of Jesuit education."