Lausanne welcomed back alumna Lauren Avant Sumski '10 on Monday to honor her as the 2021 Chair of Ideas.
The Chair of Ideas is a Lausanne tradition and a much anticipated annual event. It is awarded each year to an individual who embodies the characteristics and values represented by The Lausanne Way through their actions and accomplishments. One of the school’s most prestigious honors, the title has been awarded 24 times since 1994 to Lausanne alumni and other distinguished individuals, continuing a tradition that began with the school’s Distinguished Speakers Series in the 1960s, during which individuals such as Margaret Mead, William F. Buckley, B.F. Skinner and Aldous Huxley spoke to our students.
Held virtually because of COVID-19, Avant addressed the Lausanne community on a Zoom call to discuss how she reached her goals when life presented her with unexpected changes and how Lausanne helped prepare her for the future.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Lauren joined the Lausanne family when she was in the 8th grade. During her time on campus, she said Freshman Initiation/Senior Appreciation Week, her first Biology lab experience, Homecoming Week (especially the pep rally), Artsfest/SportsFest, and, of course, the special tapping the seal are some of her fondest memories. She added that most of all, the people that make up the Lausanne community will always be her most cherished memory.
During her time as a Lynx basketball player, Lauren was named national high school All-American, earned two state titles and was a two-time recipient of the Tennessee Miss Basketball title. She was featured in the 2008 Sports Illustrated "Where Will They Be?" photo series and was twice-named the ESPN RISE Underclassman and EA Sports Player of the Year.
Sumski is also one of only five Lausanne athletes who currently have their jerseys retired. Her #24 jersey sits alongside legendary Lynx Andrew Ross '99, Marc Gasol '04, Carlos Taylor '04 and Cameron Payne '13.
Sumski committed to the University of Tennessee and played one season under the legendary Pat Summit in 2010-11. She played in 19 games for the SEC champions and was named to the All-SEC Academic team.
After dealing with injuries as a freshman, she transferred back home to Memphis, where she played her final three seasons at Rhodes. During her time with Rhodes, she rewrote the history books there. During her last two seasons, she helped lead the team to a combined 50-8 record. Setting the school's record with 25 wins each season.
Sumski was a two-time WBCA All-American during her college basketball career, a National Player of the Year finalist, an SAA Player of the Year, a two-time SAA Tournament MVP an academic honor roll member. She graduated from Rhodes in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in Biology with a Pre-Med concentration before earning her master's degree in education with an emphasis on sports administration.
Passing on numerous professional basketball playing opportunities, she decided to pursue a career in coaching. Sumski has held coaching positions at Union University, Rhodes College and now Lipscomb University. In fact, she is the first female coach to lead the Lipscomb program.
At the age of 25, Sumski became one of the youngest head coaches in the country across all three divisions of the NCAA. At age 26, she became the youngest NCAA head coach to lead her team to a national tournament and at age 27, she was the youngest Division I head coach amongst active coaches.
Those principles learned during her time at Lausanne have also served her well in coaching.
“What you can expect from me is someone who’s going to be passionate about my student-athletes, passionate about the game, passionate about us doing things the right way and passionate about us doing things with the right people,” Sumski said in an interview when she accepted the Lipscomb job.
Sumski is married to her husband, Chris, who served as an assistant coach on her staff at Rhodes and is now an assistant with her at Lipscomb.
You can watch Lauren Avant Sumski's virtual Chair of Ideas speech below: