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Consummate Student-Athletes Mark Rich Undergraduate Legacy at MC’s Winter Commencement

Erin and Avery Hederman made the most of their time as undergraduate student-athletes at Mississippi College.
Erin and Avery Hederman made the most of their time as undergraduate student-athletes at Mississippi College.

It would be difficult to find a more accomplished pair of student-athletes at Mississippi College – let alone in the same family – than Avery and Erin Hederman.

The duo successfully navigated rigorous standards of academic excellence as members of the initial cohort of MC Honors College students. They played instrumental roles on the pitch, leading the women’s soccer team to its first Gulf South Conference championship in 2022 while making the All-GSC Tournament Team. They experienced the wonders of international education, participating in the University’s Study Abroad Program on an unforgettable Honors College trip to Thailand.

In athletics parlance, when it comes to their undergraduate careers, the Hedermans “left it all out on the field” at Mississippi College.

“Because the athletic schedule is so busy, not many student-athletes get the opportunity to become involved in the Honors College or to study abroad,” Avery said. “Being a part of the soccer team and the Honors College has allowed me to stretch my limits in athletics and academics.

“Erin and I both worked closely with a faculty member at MC to write an Honors College thesis, which gave us a fresh viewpoint on education. We got to develop a close relationship with the faculty, which allowed us to develop a more intentional learning style and do some research.”

Their hard work will be rewarded on Friday, Dec. 15, when Avery Hederman will receive her accounting degree, and Erin will receive her kinesiology pre-physical therapy degree. They will be among hundreds of graduates to be honored by Mississippi College leaders during the Christian University’s Winter Commencement in the A.E. Wood Coliseum.

The ceremony for the School of Business, the School of Christian Studies and the Arts, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Science and Mathematics, and Students in Interdisciplinary Studies is scheduled for 10 a.m., while the ceremony for the School of Education and the School of Law is set for 2 p.m.

Following an invocation by Gregory Travis, affectionately known as “The Mayor,” a public safety officer in the MC Office of Public Safety and 2022-23 Van “Doc” Quick Distinguished Staff Member of the Year, MC President Blake Thompson will welcome the graduates and give opening remarks. Melinda Gann, associate professor in the School of Science and Mathematics and 2022-23 Distinguished Professor of the Year, will give the Commencement Address.

Thompson and Michael Highfield, provost and executive vice president, will join each school’s respective dean to confer the degrees. Jim Turcotte, vice president and executive director of the Mississippi College Alumni Association, will give the Alumni Charge, and Highfield will offer the closing statement, followed by the Benediction.

Avery and Erin Hederman come from a family with a rich MC pedigree that includes paternal grandparents Jane ‘67 (MC Board of Trustees secretary and 2022 MC Alumna of the Year) and Robert Hederman III ’64 (2017 MC Alumnus of the Year); maternal grandfather John McCormick ’65 (former president of MC’s Alumni Board); and mother, Amy Hederman ’96. Their brother, Michael, is a sophomore at MC. Through hard work and tremendous discipline, the sisters have built their own legacy at the Christian University.

When asked to name the highlight of her undergraduate career, Erin was unable to shorten the list past five.

“It’s hard to pick just one,” said Erin, who was recently recognized by the NCAA as a nominee for the 50th Anniversary Division II Gold Award. “The trip to Thailand is close to the top because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we learned so much about the culture. It opened our eyes to what life is like outside of Mississippi and the United States. Defending our Honors College thesis, which took three semesters to write, was also special.

“Winning the Gulf South Conference was one of the most incredible experiences because it was the first in (women’s soccer) program history and was accomplished with teammates who will be our friends forever. Serving as vice president and president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, I was responsible for creating, planning, and organizing the Athletic Banquet for everyone involved with Choctaw Athletics. Watching the athletes celebrate their success and receiving appreciation from the University was cool. And being a part of that committee when it partnered with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to raise money to grant a child his wish to go to Disney World was special.”

Despite choosing to attend college together, becoming roommates, and sharing many life experiences, the twin sisters had little trouble escaping each other’s shadow at Mississippi College.

“Even though we’ve been on the same teams and we’re at the same university, both of us play different positions on the soccer field, and we have different majors of study,” Avery said. “I’ve had opportunities to become involved and find my own passions in the School of Business. I’ve created a community and networked in the Jackson area.

“I’ve been a part of the Student Advisory Board, a member of different clubs, and served on different executive boards on those clubs. There are days I don’t even see Erin until we get to soccer practice.”

While their individual interests may differ, Erin said she treasures the opportunity to share accomplishments with her sister.

“It’s been amazing to have someone to share the experiences of Mississippi College with,” she said. “Having someone to come alongside you through all of life’s challenges and help you hit them head-on can be beneficial. It’s always helpful to know that somebody is always there for you.”

Both Hedermans have their sights set on continuing their education. Avery, who has signed a contract to work for GranthamPoole PLLC, one of the state’s largest regional accounting firms, plans to remain at Mississippi College to pursue her master’s degree. She intends to take all four parts of the challenging CPA exam before September.

Erin has been accepted into the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s early-admission Physical Therapy Program. She’ll start her three-year journey toward a doctorate PT degree in May.

Erin credits MC’s Honors College for helping her prepare for the challenge.

“I was able to do a lot of research in the field of physical therapy and worked with a professor of kinesiology who helped me understand how to convey that material to someone unfamiliar with it,” she said. “That helped me explain various physical therapy techniques, which is something that I’ll have to do as a physical therapist. A lot of my coursework in kinesiology prepared me for what I will be learning in the next three years.

“More than anything, Mississippi College developed the need for lifelong learning in me. My science courses at MC have taught me that there’s always more to learn.”

The Hederman sisters’ grandparents, parents, and brother are expected to be on hand to watch them accept their diplomas and become the fifth generation of the family to graduate from Mississippi College. When it comes to realizing expectations for their undergraduate experience, MC definitely made the grade, according to Avery.

“I always tell people I chose MC because, first and foremost, I wanted to go to a University with a strong academic reputation,” she said. “I wanted to go to an institution that would help me develop as a student but also develop my spiritual relationship and develop different friendships and a sense of community. I also wanted to go to a school that had a great athletics program where I could contribute. I found all those things at Mississippi College.

“I would choose it a hundred times over if given the opportunity.”