May 28, 2023

Long-Term Goals

UMW senior Haley Kane crossed the stage in the standard black cap and gown. What the crowd at Commencement couldn’t see was the brilliance beneath, from her hot pink Lilly Pulitzer dress with the shimmery trim to the goldmine of honors she collected in college.

Haley Kane

“I hold myself to really high standards,” she said. “I wanted to fully experience what a liberal arts school could offer. I wanted to take hold of everything, and I think I did a pretty good job.”

Her sentiment might be the understatement of the semester. In fact, when Haley turned her tassel, she became one of Mary Washington’s most recognized graduates, both academically and athletically. Ever.

Haley Kane receives the Darden Award May 7, 2016.
Haley Kane receives the Darden Award May 7, 2016.

A psychology major with a perfect 4.0 GPA, she led UMW’s Division III field hockey team through four stellar seasons, three of them as captain. She’s twice been named scholar-athlete of the year by both UMW and the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA). To top it all off, just before accepting her diploma, she learned that she’d also won the University’s prestigious Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award, given to the senior with the highest grade point average.

“Haley has left an indelible mark at the University of Mary Washington,” said Director of Athletics Ken Tyler. “Her accomplishments speak for themselves, but what’s even more impressive are the years of hard work and dedication that made them possible.”

As those years progressed, so did her resolve to give 100 percent, no matter what.

Growing up on a quiet Henrico, Virginia, cul-de-sac, she rode bikes with the neighbors, played soccer and danced. But as the summer of 2001 ground to a halt, so did her childhood. Her father, a civil engineer with chronic kidney disease, died suddenly that August while playing softball. Haley was 7.

Her mother, Irene Sterne Kane ’85, packed up the family, including Haley’s twin brother and younger sister, and moved back to her hometown of Fredericksburg, where Haley found solace in field hockey.

“Nothing bothered me when I was on that field – either practicing or playing,” she said. “It was a wave of pure happiness.”

Haley KaneShe played varsity through high school. But while she worked her midfield position, tracking offense and defense, pressure and pain filled up her legs, her feet would go numb. Doctors thought it was shin splints, but physical therapy – years of it – did nothing to help.

“It was pretty painful, but I’m the kind of person who just pushes through,” Haley said.

Finally, she was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, which keeps tissue from stretching enough to accommodate the muscle inside. The cure, at least for Haley, was an inpatient surgery and physical therapy. But while the condition had kept her from trusting her legs and counting on speed, she’d been soaking in skills that would take her over the top.

“Haley is the best communicator, on and off the field, I have ever worked with,” said UMW Head Field Hockey Coach Lindsey Elliott. “She stepped up immediately as a freshman and was a leader.”

She gave her all to schoolwork, as well. Focused on healthcare, she declared a biology major and dove head first into the liberal arts. In her patchwork of courses, from political science to calculus, one changed the playing field – developmental psychology with Associate Professor Holly Schiffrin.

“There’s a human experience to [psychology] that really drew me in,” said Haley, who, after shadowing a physician assistant, realized she’d like a career that could provide deeper interpersonal connections.

She switched majors and plunged in again, joining the Psi Chi honor society, presenting her research at national conferences and starting an elementary school reading program.

“She’s got the smarts, the personality and the attitude,” said UMW Professor of Psychological Science Chris McBride. “She’s always engaged, and she’s always engaging other people. I’ve seen that in her research group, in the classroom and on the field.”

In addition to all-region and all-America honors, Haley earned the NFHCA’s Scholar of Distinction award, reserved for the all-American with the highest cumulative grade point average. She also served as vice president of the National Society for College Scholars.

And she didn’t miss much in between.

“Anything could happen at any moment,” Haley said. “I needed to make sure I did everything I could possibly do.”