Montana Tech Basketball Alum Receives NAIA Champions of Character Award



Ivan Sljivar, former standout for the Montana Tech men’s basketball team, was selected as the Frontier Conference recipient of the NAIA Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award. The NAIA Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the NAIA and was created as part of the NAIA’s association with Citizenship Through Sports Alliance (CTSA), a group including ten other organizations from the world of sports that seek to promote and recognize sportsmanship. All NAIA student-athletes are eligible for this award based on the outlined criteria.

"Winning the NAIA Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award for the Frontier Conference means a lot to me and shows that great student-athletes are being developed at Montana Tech," said Ivan Sljivar. "Of course my family helped instill in me responsibility and respect for others but Montana Tech and the Butte community shaped my integrity and sportsmanship. The discipline I gained from playing basketball taught me to seek out opportunities and to take full advantage of them. During my four years of studying, playing basketball, I lived by the motto, ‘Everything I can do today I will not leave for tomorrow.’ Just as Dr. Walker used sports to launch his exceptional career, I combined a love for basketball with a prestigious education to create a base for a promising career in mechanical engineering."

"The NAIA is proud to have you as one of our finest representatives. Your accomplishments in the classroom, in competition, and in the community speak for themselves," said Kristin Gillette, NAIA Director of Champions of Character. "Furthermore, to read of your positive examples you set is refreshing and exciting. I commend you on your efforts in every aspect of your life."

Ivan was nominated for the award by his former teammate, Dirk Anderson, senior at Montana Tech; Joe McClafferty, Director of Athletics at Montana Tech; and Aaron Woliczko, head men’s basketball coach at Montana Tech. "Ivan Sljivar embraces and displays our Athletic Department’s core values of leadership, excellence, pride, and dedication," explained Joe McClafferty. "Ivan taught us all many things during his time in Butte. We are proud to call Ivan an alumnus of Montana Tech."

As a senior in high school, Ivan came to the United States as a foreign exchange student from Belgrade, Serbia in hopes to extend his basketball playing career, as well as to study mechanical engineering. He completed his senior year of high school at Hilmar High School in Hilmar, CA and then enrolled at Montana Tech the following fall to join the engineering program. Ivan was active on the campus and in the community during his time at Tech. He interned at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT); was a member of the Tau Beta Pi-National Engineering Honor Society; tutored and graded physics; held the role of president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Club; participated in undergraduate research; garnered Academic All-Conference accolades as a sophomore, junior, and senior; was named NAIA National Scholar-Athlete as a junior and senior; and was a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In May, Ivan graduated with high honors in Mechanical Engineering from Montana Tech.

"Ivan Sljivar and I met our freshman year of college when we both came to Montana Tech to play basketball," said Dirk Anderson, Montana Tech men’s basketball captain. "Like many outstanding student-athletes, Ivan spent countless hours in the gym and library working to improve in all aspects. If he wasn’t working on his own studies, he could be found helping other students with physics homework in the Tech Learning Center or acting as the Associated Society of Mechanical Engineers president organizing club events. I will always be thankful to basketball for giving me the opportunity to have a happy life with a great education," added Ivan. And just a note for all student-athletes to remember that just about all of us will go pro in something other than sports so please do not underestimate education while playing college sports no matter how good of an athlete you are. Montana Tech has changed my life enormously and provided me with the opportunities I could have just dreamed about so I would most definitely recommend it to all the high schools students around the world."

"Since I took over the Montana Tech men’s basketball program, I was continually impressed with one of our student-athletes, Ivan Sljivar, on and off the court," said Aaron Woliczko. "Each day Ivan demonstrated numerous positive features that include many of our Champion of Character characteristics such as integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership. Many basketball coaches talk of how they have a player that is the 1st to practice and the last to leave, yes I would include Ivan in that category."