Hall of Fame Inductee: Jennifer (Gabel) Buckley, AU ’95
Describe your student experience at Aurora University.
I was one of those students who attended high school graduation and did not know where they were going to go to college. The only reason that I came on a campus visit was because the basketball coach convinced my mother that we should come. I was apprehensive about the fact that it was small and that I had never heard of the school. But, when I came to campus, I felt comfortable and that I belonged. That feeling that I had as a senior in high school continued throughout my four years as a student. I was a marginal student at best in high school; it was because of that feeling of comfort, a sense of belonging, and caring from the professors in the classroom that I excelled in my studies. The faculty and staff at AU proved to be instrumental in my academic career by making me think that I was capable of accomplishing things that I never thought were possible.
What moments in your time as a student-athlete at Aurora University stand out most?
The moments that stand out most as a student-athlete at AU were the successes that we experienced my junior and senior year. My junior year, we hosted the first round of the NCAA tournament in Thornton Gymnasium. I am convinced that the whole Aurora community was at that game. The place was packed. All of the football players painted themselves blue and white. It was electric. We won that game in a come-from-behind victory. Another moment that stands out was during my senior year when we went to the Sweet 16. We beat Luther on the road, Washington University on the road, and flew to Minneapolis to play St. Benedict’s. We had a tremendous team that year and a chemistry on and off the court that is rare in sports.
How has your post-AU experience been influenced by your AU athletic experience?
My post-AU experience would not have been possible without my AU athletic experience. Since coming to AU as a first-year student in 1991, I have been away from campus for a total of four years. After graduating from AU in 1995, I earned my master’s degree and then worked on the east coast for two years. I was encouraged to apply for the Head Women’s Basketball Coach position in 1999. It was my AU athletic experience that created this opportunity for me. I have been at AU ever since.
Since graduation, what has been your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment came last summer when I successfully defended my dissertation and earned my doctorate from Northern Illinois University. It took me almost six years. During those six years, I worked full time and had my son Jake. I look back at that now and don’t know how I did it.
What do you hope for the future of AU Athletics?
I would not have been as successful at AU or after graduation if I was not mentored to the extent that I was by the coaches, faculty and staff. My hope for the future of AU Athletics is that this collaborative effort on campus continues and allows future student-athletes the opportunity to reach their potential.