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NSCRO Appoints New Members to Its Board of Directors

By Jeannie Feliciano, NSCRO, 05/30/19, 4:30PM EDT

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We have recently appointed four new members to our Board of Directors (pictured left to right above): Jayme Pendergast, Brett Anker, Michael Appaneal, and Ron Bjorklund. The appointments coincide with NSCRO’s Annual Meeting which will be held on 03 June 2019. A Nominating Committee reviewed multiple candidates and those selected were approved by the current Board of Directors.

NSCRO President and CEO, Steve Cohen, remarked that “I am very excited about these outstanding professionals joining NSCRO. They are passionate about rugby and want to put their skills to work for bettering the small college rugby experience.”

Jayme Pendergast
On October 26, 2016 Life University President, Dr. Rob Scott, appointed Jayme Pendergast as Director of Athletics. She was promoted from her previous post as Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Support/SWA. Pendergast joined Life University in November 2014, when she took the position of Director of Athletic Compliance and Academic Support.

In her tenure as Director of Athletics at Life University, Pendergast has seen the department grow exponentially with the addition of six new varsity athletics programs, and overall growth of more than 450 student-athletes. Pendergast has also seen a vast increase in both academic and athletic accomplishments both at the conference level and national level. Nearly every sports program of the 19 earned an All-Conference honoree in the 2018-2019 academic year. During her tenure, Life University student-athletes have nearly doubled their conference honors, All-Americans, and conference/national academic achievements.

From a rugby standpoint, the men’s collegiate rugby team has won back-to-back D1A 15s National Championships. The women’s 15s team has finished as the D1 Elite National Runner-Up the past two seasons as well. In addition to the varsity programs, Life University’s Men’s Club program has earned a Division II national championship and has returned to Division I this current academic year.

Prior to arriving in Marietta, Pendergast spent several years at NCAA Division I Elon University in Elon, N.C. She began her time there as an Academic Coordinator for Athletics in 2008 and was promoted to Assistant Director of Academic Support for Athletics in 2011.

Pendergast began her career in college athletics as an undergraduate student at Miami University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She also holds a master’s degree in sport psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Pendergast is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), Women Leaders in College Sports, and Marietta Business Association.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the leadership of such an impactful organization. NSCRO serves as a great vehicle to not only grow the game of rugby but to use rugby to give more kids access to higher education. In addition, the opportunities that the sport brings to a small college are invaluable. I look forward to helping this organization grow in numbers and continue to serve its institutions and their student-athletes in the best way possible.”

Brett Anker
Anker brings a decade of rugby experience from a myriad of positions including his time as a college player, communications specialist, journalist, and corporate sponsorship marketing.

As a widely known and well-respected journalist in the college rugby community, he has written for Rugby Magazine, RugbyToday, and FLORugby, focusing on the college rugby landscape. Most recently, he worked with D1A College Rugby as a Communications Consultant and as an on-field Reporter at the recent NSCRO Men’s 15s National Championships.

Corporately, Anker is a valuable member of The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company marketing team, bringing his rugby expertise to the team by managing an active communications calendar and creating original content for the Penn Mutual rugby website, newsletter, and social media.

“I am really excited for the opportunity to be a part of a growing organization,” Anker said. “NSCRO provides tremendous opportunity for small college student-athletes and I look forward to driving that mission forward.”

Mike Appaneal
For the past 26 years, Appaneal has been an insurance executive with experiences in sales, management, and executive levels. Appaneal’s rugby experience spans three decades, beginning his career at an NSCRO member school, Bowdoin College, where he was a member of the 1991 NERFU Collegiate Championship team. After college, Appaneal went on to play for and serve as Captain for both the Pittsburgh Harlequins RFC and Washington Irish RFC. He was named “Most Valuable Forward” for the Irish in 2001 and led them to a Potomac RFU Championship in 2002.

Appaneal is a founder and active Board of Directors member for the Pittsburgh Harlequins Rugby Football Association, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, established to provide community rugby programs to disadvantaged youth and teen groups throughout Allegheny County, PA with the goal of instilling the values that team athletics can provide, including self-confidence, leadership, and integrity. In 2019, the Association has undertaken its 22nd year of uninterrupted Youth Mentoring Programs in the Pittsburgh Area. The 2019 Program includes 4 sites, 28 neighborhoods, 1500 volunteer hours, and over 200 youth from predominantly at-risk communities.

“Rugby has been a fundamental part of my life since I was 18 years old, instilling a sense of sportsmanship, teamwork, and camaraderie that is unequalled in today’s society. The life skills and friendships from rugby I have enjoyed over the years have been invaluable to me. I look forward to promoting rugby throughout small colleges in the United States as we continue to see the level of play improve exponentially for both men’s and women’s sides. “

Ron Bjorklund
For over 20 years, Bjorklund has been the President and CEO of several construction equipment sales and service dealerships in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. He is also an active member of his local town’s youth sports association and is currently serving as their Vice-President. In addition, Bjorklund has served on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater, Siena College, in Loudonville, NY for more than 12 years and currently holds an executive level position on their board. He is also very active with the Siena College Rugby Program and the college’s recent initiatives to expand the men’s and women’s programs.

“It’s exciting to witness the rapid growth of youth and college level rugby in the U.S. Having played rugby in the 80’s, it’s great to see that the principals of respect, brotherhood, service, and comradery still flourish in the sport and that NSCRO supports these values. I hope to bring my talents and understanding of the real-world challenges small colleges face today to NSCRO and help continue the rugby tradition.”