What started as a local campaign to “#GetCourtneyToEllen” has succeeded in doing just that. Incoming first-year Courtney Wagner ’19 appeared on NBC’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on March 4 with students, faculty and staff from Hobart and William Smith cheering her on at a viewing party in the Scandling Campus Center.
Wagner, who was accepted early decision to HWS as part of the incoming Classes of 2019, has been involved with the Colleges since the spring of 2012 when she was adopted by the William Smith soccer team through Team IMPACT. Since September 2011, Wagner has battled an aggressive malignant brain tumor. Team IMPACT is a non-profit agency that works to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses by matching them with college athletic teams.
“If it was not for the enormous love and support from all of those who have walked with me through my journey, I would not have the positive outlook that I do today. My soccer teammates, both on my high school team and my adopted college team, have shown me what teammates should be,” said Wagner when applying for admission to William Smith College. “My sincere hope is that I have been to them what they have been to me. I will continue to work from here forward to make each day matter, as each day is a gift.”
At HWS, Wagner will receive a Presidential Scholarship for leadership. In high school at Canandaigua Academy, Wagner has been a member of the National Honor Society, co-captain of the varsity soccer team, as well as a member of the varsity basketball team, co-president of Interact Club, an ambassador for student orientation, and first clarinet in the wind ensemble.
Since joining the William Smith soccer team, Wagner accompanied her Heron teammates as they won the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer National Championship in San Antonio, Texas, in 2013. She also attended a Women’s Professional Soccer League WNY Flash game and her William Smith teammates surprised Wagner by cheering her on at her varsity soccer match at Canandaigua Academy.
Team IMPACT has not only allowed Wagner to realize a dream of being on a college soccer team, but has also deeply impacted her new Heron soccer teammates.
“To put it simply, she inspires us,” said forward Madeline Buckley ’15, the team’s ambassador with Team IMPACT and an organizer of the social media effort to get Wagner on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “Cancer does not define Courtney. She told her mom in regards to her tumor, ‘Mom I got this.’ She reminds us that there is no limit to what we can achieve. What a role model for all of us to look up to.” Buckley speaks with Wagner every week, visits her at home and organizes trips and rides for the William Smith soccer team to attend her soccer games. Buckley has also organized outings with Wagner’s siblings such as taking them to the movies.
In the photo above, Courtney Wagner ’19 is presented with her early decision acceptance letter by Head Soccer Coach Aliceann Wilber P’12, President Mark D. Gearan and Associate Director of Admissions Sue Willard ’99.