GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – Each week throughout the fall, the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) will highlight one of our conference members and feature two of the institution’s standout student-athletes. The weekly series begins with an in-depth look at Gallaudet University where we meet student-athletes Darriyan Thomas and Jonathan Tikhonoff.
Gallaudet University, the world’s only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Gallaudet, located in Washington, D.C., offers 14 varsity sports that compete in the NEAC and the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.
|The statue of Thomas Gallaudet signing the letter "A" to a young girl named Alice was made by the same sculptor who did the Lincoln Memorial.|
Bison athletics has a rich tradition dating back to the late 1800s, including credit for inventing the football huddle in the 1890s. Gallaudet has won conference championships and been represented at the NCAA tournament as a team for football, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. Over the years, individuals have also represented the Bison in cross country, track and field and wrestling at the national level. In addition to its achievements on the field, Gallaudet has 11 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America honors to its credit.
Junior Jonathan Tikhonoff has thrived as a member of the Gallaudet men’s swimming and diving team. The 2017 NEAC Male Swimmer of the Year, Tikhonoff cemented his place as one of the league’s top student-athletes after winning the 200-yard backstroke, 500-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley at the 2017 NEAC Championships. He also anchored four relay teams that placed second at the event. His sophomore season culminated with earning 2016-17 Gallaudet Men’s Student-Athlete of the Year honors.
For Tikhonoff, the culture and society served as a big selling point for Gallaudet and it continues to be a highlight for the Folsom, Calif. native today.
“I love the Deaf community the most at Gallaudet,” Tikhonoff reflected. “I have been out of touch from the Deaf world for too long and I am really happy to be back.”
The sense of community is strong at Gallaudet, with senior Darriyan Thomas emphasizing how impactful Gallaudet has been in her experience as a student-athlete.
“I decided to apply to Gallaudet during my senior year in high school because this is the only Deaf university in the world,” Thomas said. “I enjoy socializing with my many Deaf friends. I feel like I belong here and it’s a perfect fit. This school gives 100 percent access for all deaf and hard of hearing people.”
Thomas has also been a perfect fit on the Bison women’s volleyball team where she has enjoyed tremendous success on the court. The outside hitter from Vallejo, Calif. is a two-time NEAC First Team selection and was also named 2016 NEAC Player of the Year. Thomas’ junior season also included American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Region First Team honors and an AVCA All-American Honorable Mention. She was also recognized as the 2016-17 Gallaudet Women’s Student-Athlete of the Year.
A two-time NEAC Scholar-Athlete, Thomas has fully embraced her role as a Division III student-athlete by maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher since her freshman year.
“Being a NCAA Division III student-athlete here at Gallaudet I am surrounded by many others that have the same goals, passion and dedication in the classroom and in sport,” Thomas added. “When I walk across the graduation stage I will know I gave it my all in the classroom and on the court because of my passion and dedication.”
Both Thomas and Tikhonoff also noted the opportunities as a Division III student-athlete extend far beyond just the ability to compete and earn a degree.
|Chapel Hall was part of the original campus and serves as one of Gallaudet's main buildings.|
“Volleyball is my true love and my top priority,” Thomas said. “I take great pride in representing Gallaudet outside of sports. It is flattering to see young kids looking up to me and my teammates as role models.”
“My experience as a Division III student-athlete has stressed fitness and recovery to help me surpass my personal records and goals,” Tikhonoff added.
With the skills they have acquired during their time as student-athletes at Gallaudet, Thomas and Tikhonoff have lofty goals for the future. Thomas is majoring in International Studies with a minor in Spanish and has aspirations to work with underdeveloped nations with Deaf children in an organization like the Peace Corps. Tikhonoff is pursuing a degree in Information Technology with plans to get a job in security, programming or game development.
When Thomas and Tikhonoff complete their education, they will have the rare honor of receiving a diploma signed by the current President of the United States of America. They will also join a network of more than 21,000 Gallaudet University alumni from around the world. The Gallaudet University Alumni Association, organized in 1889, currently has 53 chapters.
To learn more about Gallaudet University and Bison athletics, visit gallaudetathletics.com.
*Information provided by Sam Atkinson, Gallaudet University Associate Athletic Director for Communications
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 tennis. For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.