Photo of Matt Ernst


There are scholars and there are athletes.
And then there is the multi-talented McKendree hybrid: Honor student and Bearcat offensive lineman Matt Ernst.

One recent chilly afternoon, Matt recalled the greatest day in his college career. “It happened just a week or two before I broke my ankle in the homecoming game,” the 22-year-old senior from Peoria recalled. “I was at football practice when Dr. James Dennis, the University’s president, came to announce I got the award.”

Not just any award, but the coveted Lincoln Laureate medallion. Given to just one stellar student from each four-year institution in Illinois, the Lincoln Laureate is reserved for the best and the brightest of the state – those students who display overall excellence in both curricular and extracurricular activities.

A Dean’s List scholar and a University scholarship recipient, Matt–who spends his spare time helping others when he isn’t excelling at sports – more than fits the bill.

His many academic honors include being recognized as the outstanding computer science student for 2013, as well as being inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and the national honor societies for history, science and mathematics. Matt also was recently installed as a charter member and president of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, McKendree’s new chapter of a national computer science honor society.

His list of accomplishments goes on and on: resident assistant, computer lab worker, volunteer for robotics tournaments on campus. He also helps with an after-school daycare program at a local church, serves on the Senior Class Gift Committee and is a founding member and vice president of the Association of Computing Machinery on campus.

The first McKendree football player to become a Lincoln Laureate, Matt – who has played football all four years while maintaining an A average – heard the news while surrounded by his Bearcat teammates.

"Dr. Dennis was going to make the announcement on the football field before practice,” he said proudly. “But there was a lightning storm so he did it in the locker room. It was still really neat. The whole team and the coaching staff were there. They congratulated me and then we went back to practice.”

Afterward, Matt went back to hitting the books. Finding the right balance between sports and studies was an art he perfected long ago.

"I was in an accelerated program in high school,” he remembered. “I always prided myself on time management. Between school and football, I’d have two hours of homework every day. Fortunately it translated well from high school to college.”

“One of the things I really like about McKendree is the smaller class size,” he added. “The connection you can have with your instructors.”

A computer science major and history and mathematics minor, Matt has completed several software development projects while at McKendree. The computer science program has prepared me for the real-world by providing interesting subjects, challenging projects, and dedication to excellence that has developed my abilities to succeed at a high level,” he said. “The department has some of the best professors on campus who are always willing to devote their time in order to make sure that everyone succeeds.”

Last summer, he interned at MasterCard Worldwide, studying the Hadoop database system. “I have been involved with so many different projects and with so many different people while I’ve been in school,” said Matt, who looks forward to a career as a software engineer. “I think my ability to communicate with different groups of people is something that will help me in corporate technology.”