Bringing the ball upcourt against Georgetown in January of 1999, the Boston College point guard faked past an opponent, stopped and prepared to pass off to a teammate. Then Bouchard heard an ominous "pop" in her leg: She had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, ending her junior-year basketball season.
The setback proved only temporary, and within a few months the Aurora, Ontario, native was playing for the Canadian national team at the Pan Am Games. But Bouchard found the injury had an unforeseen and complex impact that went beyond the basketball court. The lesson may have been a hard one, but Bouchard - "Cal," as she is more familiarly known - says she is a better person for it.
"It changed my perspective," said Bouchard, who graduated from the Carroll School of Management Monday with the University's top Commencement honor, the Edward H. Finnegan, SJ, Memorial Award. "I was quite driven, focused solely on what I wanted to achieve. But being injured and having to sit out made me realize there are other things in life. I had a chance to slow down and relax a little, catch up with family and friends.
Carolin (Cal) Bouchard: "I expected BC to be a good place for me, and I feel completely fulfilled by what I've experienced here." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"My perspective on basketball changed, too. I was captain of the team, but I couldn't play. So I learned that you have to demonstrate leadership in other ways, by what you say, and how you say it."
Bouchard's words and deeds throughout her four years at BC earned her this year's Finnegan Award, presented to the graduating senior who best exemplifies the University's motto, "Ever to Excel."
Her accomplishments as a basketball player could easily fill one side, if not more, of her diploma. Among other honors, Bouchard has been named a member of the NCAA Kodak All-District I and All-Big East First teams, a Big East Women's Basketball Scholar Athlete, and was chosen as the female Eagle of the Year, Boston College's top athletic award.
But Bouchard has applied herself equally to her academic demands, compiling the highest GPA (3.91) in the CSOM Honors Program. She recently was awarded a $5,000 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, one of only 16 women's basketball players chosen for the honor, which is given to student-athletes who have excelled academically and athletically. Next year, Bouchard plans to apply for the coveted Rhodes Scholarship.
Bouchard also has answered the University's call of service to others, through her participation in such programs as Habitat for Humanity and Helping Educate through Athletic Responsibility, which teams BC student-athletes with local schoolchildren.
"When I think about Cal, I'm reminded of the Aristotelian sentiment that the truthful person knows her ability but does not belabor it," said CSOM Associate Dean Richard Keeley. "She does not boast, nor is she self-deprecating. Cal simply uses her talents the best way she can, whether she's running on a basketball court, doing a class project, or working with schoolchildren."
Bouchard's athletic achievements naturally attract a lot of attention: She is the first BC woman's basketball player to be drafted by a professional team, the Detroit Shock of the Women's National Basketball Association. But she is more than happy to talk about her other major calling, accounting.
"My dad was an accountant, so I took accounting courses in high school, and as awful as it sounds, I enjoyed it," said Bouchard, with a sly smile. "I think of myself as a Type A person, very precise about what I do. Accounting requires a lot of repetition, a lot of focus and discipline, like basketball."
For her senior honors thesis, Bouchard combined elements of these twin vocations in a project on the economics of hosting the Olympic Games, with an analysis of past and potential future sites. One would-be host included in her study was Toronto, a bidder for the 2008 games. Bouchard, whose hometown is nearby, served as a women's basketball liaison to the committee that prepared that city's bid.
Bouchard's professors are quick to emphasize her ability to produce outstanding work while coping with the demands of participating in a major college basketball program. But Bouchard notes matter-of-factly that some faculty "didn't even know I played sports."
"It's kind of fun when people find out you're a good student as well as an athlete," said Bouchard, who took up basketball as a sixth-grader. "The idea you can be both still takes some getting used to, I guess, but I don't mind.
"I came here wanting to play basketball, but I also wanted to do well academically. I've gotten tremendous support from my teachers as well as Learning Resources for Student Athletes."
Bouchard is gratified to see the attention women's basketball is garnering, not only among eager young girls in the local schools she's visited, but also national TV audiences. Although she has a prime opportunity to compete in a high-profile professional league, Bouchard hopes to make the Sydney Olympics her next major arena, and will try out for the Canadian national team. She plans to play overseas for a season, then return to the US and give the WNBA a shot.
The last few weeks, however, Bouchard has been content to reflect a little on her time at the Heights. "It's been a great four years," she said. "I expected BC to be a good place for me, and I feel completely fulfilled by what I've experienced here."
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