HAVERFORD, Pa. – Abby Payson was honored Wednesday evening with the William W. Ambler '45 Award, presented by the Haverford College Department of Athletics to the senior student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average.
Ambler honorees must have participated and started in at least one sport throughout their college career, and have demonstrated commitment, sportsmanship and leadership. Payson is a captain of the Haverford College women's tennis team.
Hometown: Falmouth, Maine
Head Coach: Arik Zeevy
Advisors: Karin Akerfeldt, Louise Charkoudian
Women's Tennis Faculty Liaison: William Williams
A common theme occurs in Abby Payson's success both on the courts and in the classroom: teamwork. On the courts, that teamwork helped lead the women's tennis team to its first Centennial Conference Championship match appearance in program history.
In the classroom, Haverford has been a community of scholars. "I think over my four years what has been most rewarding is feeling like I have become part of, and am making my small contribution to, the community. Whether serving as an organic lab teaching assistant, tennis captain, or co-head of the Student Health Advisory Committee, it has been great getting to know and work with people in so many different activities."
That contribution has made an impact. "Abby is exceptionally bright and approaches her academic work with discipline, tenacity, and creativity," explained Louise Charkoudian, an assistant professor of chemistry. "Between her infinite appetite for chemistry and her infectiously positive attitude, Abby elevates any class or laboratory that she walks into. It has been a tremendous joy to work with Abby, and I cannot wait to see what great things she will do in the future."
This close-knit community is originally what drew Payson to Haverford. "I came to Haverford because I wanted to continue competing in athletics and Haverford seemed to offer the perfect balance of strong academics and athletics. Haverford seemed unique in its collaborative, close-knit environment and the trusting community that the Honor Code fosters. The chemistry department is one big family because we spend a lot of time together."
However, in order to excel both academically and athletically, Payson learned that she needed a balance. "Time management has been the most important aspect of being a student-athlete. I think student-athletes can apply what they learn in sports to other aspects of their lives. Tennis has taught me how to set goals, to work hard and to not give up when things get difficult."
The most telling example of Payson's determination in athletics was when she prevailed in a third set tiebreak against Colorado College. The then-sophomore was looking to help the team complete its first undefeated Spring Break week in program history. Ultimately, that tiebreak victory helped the Fords to a perfect 7-0 week and the team carried that momentum into another postseason appearance.
"I still remember trying to control my nerves playing in such a close match. While the focus required in a three-set match is both mentally and physically exhausting, it made winning even more exciting and fulfilling."
This individual satisfaction came on top of the team memories. "In general, my most memorable moments as a student-athlete have been on our Spring Break trips to Florida. I feel lucky to be able to travel and spend that time with my teammates who are also close friends. While we attempt to do some school work, spending a week in Florida allows us to focus on tennis more than we would at school. It is also gives us the chance to bond and spend time together."
The intangibles that Payson brings to the program are not lost on the Fords' head coach. "I feel very lucky to have Abby as a co-captain during my first season as the women's tennis coach," commented Arik Zeevy. "Her positive energy and attitude is contagious and lifts up everyone around her. It's been a pleasure getting to know Abby over the last few months and I'm honored to share her final semester of what's been a fantastic tennis career as a Ford."
Payson also found time to study abroad at Lund University during the fall of her junior year. While in Sweden, Payson built on her coursework at Haverford with classes in experimental proteins. The opportunity to explore the town of Lund, the oldest city in Sweden, fueled a desire to travel internationally upon her graduation from Haverford this coming spring.
Payson's interest in studying abroad peaked early. "The first time I met with Abby was in September of 2014 when she was a rising sophomore wanting to learn more about a study abroad program in Sweden," stated Karin Akerfeldt, professor of chemistry. "She was also interested in discussing the chemistry major and the biochemistry concentration. As her research mentor I cannot express in words how grateful I am for having Abby in my group. In this petite young woman rests a true powerhouse."
Akerfeldt continued by saying, "She is a natural leader and quietly and effectively infuses her organizational talents and positive energy into my research group. She approaches her tasks with independence, motivation and determination. While her accomplishments are substantial, she doesn't feel it necessary to advertise or brag about them. On the contrary, when she told me and her academic mentor, Lou, about the Ambler award, she was almost apologetic about it. Abby is a really special person. She embodies the type of high-spirited and well-rounded student who leads by example. I cannot wait to see what her next step will be!"
In her future aspirations, Payson wants to begin her professional career in the biotech industry. With her multiple passions, she is currently exploring options in both research and the business side of the industry.