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The College of Human Sciences welcomes back alumna and decorated Olympic medalist Kirsty Coventry for graduation weekend

The College of Human Sciences had a special opportunity to host one of its own, 2006 hotel and restaurant management graduate and seven-time Olympic medalist and former Auburn swimmer Kirsty Coventry, for a unique reception on May 2, as a kickoff to graduation weekend.

Kirsty Coventry Reception

Coventry made the trip back to the Plains to serve as one of the commencement speakers addressing the spring 2024 graduates as she currently serves as Minister of Culture, Sport, Arts and Recreation, in her native Zimbabwe.

The intimate welcome reception held at the Ag Heritage Park Pavilion welcomed several Auburn University and College of Human Sciences leaders and alumni where the college's Director of Communications and External Relations Kim Hendrix engaged in conversation with Coventry on a number of topics ranging from her Auburn experience, the drive it took to become a seven-time Olympic medalist, her advice to soon-to-be graduates and more in a casual setting.

Growing up in Zimbabwe and placing a strong emphasis on family and values, Coventry said she felt that set her up well to make the transition to Auburn to begin her college journey in 2001.

“I think growing up at home with a very strong family unit and the values that they gave me set me up to really embrace the values and the environment here at Auburn,” Coventry said. “The biggest thing that I walked away with from Auburn, was an understanding that the success of the team is always greater than your individual success. If you have good people around you, you’re going to be successful. Don’t ever be scared or fear someone with better skills than you. Bring them close and have them help you succeed. It very much taught me that my success is going to be the success of the people around me.”

“I think growing up at home with a very strong family unit and the values that they gave me set me up to really embrace the values and the environment here at Auburn.”

Kirsty Coventry

To say that Coventry succeeded at Auburn would be an understatement. Coventry emerged as the highest individual scorer at the NCAA Championships in 2005, clinching three separate titles in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke. Her NCAA achievements include seven national titles and 25 All-American honors. In addition to being honored as the SEC Swimmer of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year for 2004-05, Coventry was named the most outstanding female swimmer of the year by "Swimming Magazine" and remains the most decorated Auburn Olympian.

When asked what her message would be to share with new Auburn graduates, Coventry again spoke about the importance of teamwork and how she was honored to be chosen as a commencement speaker.

“First, it’s such a huge honor. I never thought when graduating and leaving and coming back a few times this is what I would be asked to do so I’m very honored that I get to do it,” Coventry said. “I sat down and reminisced but the thing that really stayed with me was the whole team aspect. I will talk about the importance of being a team and not being afraid of failing. I think some of the best lessons I’ve learned have been through my biggest failures. I’ll talk about that and embracing that, and Auburn has set you up with a good foundation to succeed.”

A beloved figure in Zimbabwe, Coventry continues to positively impact her home country by giving back through the Kirsty Coventry Academy. For the last several years, Coventry has used this Academy to spread water safety awareness and “inspires youth to become their own heroes.”

Kirsty Coventry and Kim Hendrix

“We have a swim school where I work with coaches and essentially, we set it up as a profit side and a nonprofit side,” Coventry said. “Heroes is our nonprofit where we work in underserved areas for kids and we train coaches in those areas. We pay for all their training and what they give to us in return is twice a week spend time with kids in the community to teach them sports. We do soccer, rugby, basketball, net ball and water safety skills because there are a lot of open water sources in Zimbabwe especially after heavy rains. We had about 3,000 kids per week coming through the program which is wonderful.”

To conclude the conversation with Coventry, she explained that Big Blue Bagel is still her favorite restaurant in Auburn where she had numerous memories eating there as a student. On her visit back to Auburn, Coventry was excited to have her husband and daughter accompany her to reminisce and show them around The Loveliest Village On The Plains.

For more information on the Kirsty Coventry Academy, click below

Kirsty Coventry Academy

For more information on the College of Human Sciences, click below

Auburn University College of Human Sciences