Gallaudet University's Ashmore and Frez-Albrecht Honored with NEAC Inspirational Awards

Gallaudet University's Lawjen Ashmore (left) and Faye Frez-Albrecht (right) are the first two recipients of the 2017 NEAC Inspirational Award.
Gallaudet University's Lawjen Ashmore (left) and Faye Frez-Albrecht (right) are the first two recipients of the 2017 NEAC Inspirational Award.

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – Gallaudet University’s Lawjen Ashmore and Faye Frez-Albrecht have been named the first two recipients of the 2016-17 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Inspirational Award.

Each year, the NEAC honors student-athletes within the conference that have endured personal hardships leading to bravery or dedication within athletics through participation, volunteerism, coaching or administration. Ashmore and Frez-Albrecht are two of five student-athletes to receive a NEAC Inspirational Award this year.

A native of Fairbanks, Alaska, Ashmore has exhibited perseverance, dedication and independence throughout her entire life. Ashmore was born hard of hearing and with her entire family originating from China, her first language is Cantonese. As a young girl in elementary and middle school, she did not use an interpreter and relied on hearing aids to follow the teacher’s instructions. 

After learning about Gallaudet University from her interpreter in high school, Ashmore set her sights on playing basketball for the Bison. She traveled from Alaska to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2013 on her own to visit campus before deciding to attend Gallaudet and become a Division III student-athlete. Suffering an academic setback in her freshman year, Ashmore stepped away from the court and turned her focus to the classroom. This past year, the junior forward rejoined the basketball team to appear in 25 games with an average of 5.2 points per game. Ashmore also competes as a sprinter on the women’s track and field team at Gallaudet.

“Lawjen not only believes in herself, but she believes in other people,” added Anna Hall, Gallaudet University Senior Woman Administrator. “She is always volunteering her free time to helping others and she is already keeping her team motivated for the upcoming season. Lawjen is an amazing person that inspires us all to be better people. She works hard and enjoys every moment.”

Frez-Albrecht receives one of this year’s NEAC Inspirational Awards after serving as a catalyst for change with the NEAC and the NCAA. A deaf-blind swimmer, she tried out for the Gallaudet University women’s swimming and diving team with only limited experience. Over the first three years of her collegiate career, the Canton, Conn. swimmer has shown tremendous improvement and has proven to be a true student of the sport.

During her sophomore season, communication barriers caused Frez-Albrecht to be inadvertently disqualified at the NEAC Swimming & Diving Championship. Rather than reacting negatively, she stepped up as a leader and began a push for better accessibility for all competitors at the NEAC Championship meet. Due to her efforts and advocacy, the NEAC included Reaction Light Systems (RLS) at the 2016-17 NEAC Swimming & Diving Championship to signal the start of each event. The successful implementation of the light-based starting system at the conference championship helped to lay the groundwork for recent NCAA rule changes that will now allow such systems to be utilized at any intercollegiate swim meet. With Frez-Albrecht’s dedication and perseverance serving as a driving force, Gallaudet and the NEAC were able to be at the forefront of creating greater accessibility for all collegiate swimmers.

While positive change has already come from her leadership, Frez-Albrecht continues to create awareness for deaf and hard of hearing student-athletes. Since the implementation of the RLS and the recent NCAA rule changes, Frez-Albrecht’s story has been featured by a number of national media outlets including USA Today and The Washington Post.

“Faye has been a team leader and contributes significantly to our team spirit through her inspirational example,” added Larry Curran, Gallaudet University Swimming and Diving Head Coach. “She has met life head on and she inspires others to excel. Everyone benefits from a relationship with Faye.”

Throughout the week, the NEAC will be recognizing its 2016-17 Inspirational Award winners with two more recipients to be announced Thursday at neacsports.com.

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The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Pennsylvania State University – Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College.  Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M&W Lacrosse, M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse, M Volleyball), Pennsylvania State University – Altoona (M Volleyball), and Rutgers University – Camden (M Golf).  The NEAC has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.  For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.