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Post-it notes and no excuses

Ashley Pritchard

While watching Ashley Pritchard practice her stroke on the ergometer, the head rowing coach noticed that, in a rare moment, her pace slackened.

“No excuses,” Pritchard, now a senior, remembers Liz Meltzer, the Steven J. ’69 and Karen A. Lee Head Rowing Coach, telling her. Pritchard adopted the mantra. “You don’t have any excuses because you have nothing else to do for eight minutes,” she says.

Pritchard has used “no excuses” on or off the water. Not only does her coach say she is an indomitable force in the boat, Pritchard also received the Class of 1904 Scholarship Award and was selected as a tour guide for the board of trustees meeting last year.

To Pritchard, “no excuses” means working hard every hour of her day, from the moment the alarm sounds at 4:27 a.m. for practice until she climbs into bed at 11 o’clock that night. In her classes, “no excuses” means spending a few extra minutes refining papers for her political science and economics majors.

“No excuses” also calls Pritchard to devote herself to the Community Service Office, where she has worked for the past three years. Her role in co-founding the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in 2008 with Tiffany Searles ’08 earned the program the Outstanding Educational Programming Award in 2008.

In high school, Pritchard served in a soup kitchen in Hemlock Alley, San Francisco, but she learned that many Lehigh students have not interacted with the hungry. As a result, they often assume that people without permanent residences are all drug addicts and drunkards, she says. The National Hunger and Homelessness Week, held last Feb. 18-22, was designed to strip away such misconceptions about poverty and foster compassion.

Pritchard’s teammates supported her efforts. The entire crew team bought T-shirts to raise money for the national program, and several members slept with her in cardboard boxes on the University Center Front Lawn during one of the week’s events.

Pritchard also founded the Wonderful World of Sports, a day for middle-school children from South Bethlehem to play kickball, tug-of-war, flag football, soccer, Frisbee, and many more sports with the university’s student-athletes. Many of the middle-school children had never been on a college campus.

Pritchard’s dedication to community service was recognized this year when she was awarded both the Service Above Self Leadership Award and the Vice Provost for Service Award.

In high school, Pritchard played soccer, tennis, and lacrosse, but when she walked onto Lehigh’s crew team as a first-year student, the older rowers warned her: “It’s the hardest sport you will ever play.”

She considered that hyperbole until she actually sat in the boat. “It’s not just physically tiring but mentally punishing,” she says.

During her first two years at Lehigh, Pritchard rowed in the lightweight boat as the bowman, the first seat to cross the finish line. But last year, she moved to the opposite end of the boat, the seventh position, where she helps to set the stroke’s rhythm.

Her seat change signifies her maturation as an athlete, Meltzer says. “Ashley’s a consistent and vocal leader.”

At the beginning of the last school year, Pritchard stuck a pink Post-it Note on her wall. “Make the Head of the Charles boat,” it read, referring to the regatta held near Harvard College’s Weld Boathouse. That fall, she achieved her goal, being one of 18 rowers her coaches selected from the team of 50 to compete in one of the world’s largest rowing competitions.

A “long-term sticky note,” Pritchard says, is to visit all seven continents. She’s halfway there, having journeyed with her family to Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Central America, Italy, and Spain. At Lehigh, she studied abroad in London, where she rowed with the Cambridge crew team.

This summer, Pritchard crossed another country off her list when she took a two-week trip to New Zealand as a Martindale Scholar. While there, she and 11 other Lehigh students discussed economic issues with government officials, politicians, and economists. Pritchard is writing a thesis for publication on the country’s unique immigrant work program.

This year, Pritchard—never one to slacken her pace—has a Post-it Note reading “law school.” Pritchard studied and interned at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Next year she hopes to continue rowing, with or without a team, while pursuing a degree in law.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2008

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