When Ben Cross ‘20 graduates from Denison, he’ll be headed to law school with an extra $10,000 scholarship in his pocket, thanks to the NCAA. The philosophy, politics, and economics major maintains a blistering 3.92 cumulative grade point average — and he also happens to be a standout defensive lineman. In the fall of 2020, Cross was one of only 21 male athletes in the nation to be awarded the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, and one of only a handful who didn’t hail from a large state university.
From his very first day on campus, Cross found a family here — both with his football team and with his professors. “I’m from a very close family, and when I moved to campus, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Cross.
Football players are among the first students to arrive on campus. After a busy day of moving in, Cross walked onto the field the next morning for a conditioning test. “The lights were on. The music was pumping, and I knew I had arrived.”
Cross also connected with his professors in all kinds of classes, including Kirk Combe in English, Coach Jack Hatem, and Ted Burzak in economics, but Political Science Professor Heather Pool really stood out.
From his very first day on campus, Cross found a family here — both with his football team and with his professors.
“I won’t forget my first class with Heather Pool, and the quality of her efforts in the discipline combined with the natural interest I have in the subject. We missed each other when I studied abroad in Hong Kong, and even though she is on a sabbatical this semester, we still speak once a week and share books — she really helped carve my path,” says Cross.
In her letter supporting Cross’s nomination for this scholarship, Pool wrote, “Regardless of where life takes him, Ben will listen across difference, think creatively and against the grain, and work to raise up the most vulnerable.”
Cross knew he was destined for law school even back in high school in Oakton, Va., when he volunteered more than 200 hours at a hunger relief pantry. “They were stoked when they heard a 19-year-old football player was interested in helping them move all those cans of food.”
He sat down with Assistant Athletic Director Greg Lott early in Cross’ sophomore year to talk about his goals and post-graduation plans. Lott nominated Cross for the scholarship that will help pay his tuition.
“I believe in listening to those who come before you, and deferring to their experience,” says Cross, who is deciding among Michigan, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt law schools. “I am fascinated by court opinions and constitutional law, and might even become a judge.”