Freeman ‘24 & Buechler-Neimeyer’26 named Thornton Award winners

2024 Thornton Award Recipients
2024 Thornton Award Recipients with Allison Thornton
Colin Buechler-Neimeyer '26, Alison Thornton, & Colin Freeman '24

Colin Freeman '24 and Colin Buechler-Neimeyer '26 are the winners of the Patrick K. Thornton Memorial Award which is presented to the Sport Management student(s) who have earned the highest grade in the Sport Law class.

This award is given in honor of Patrick K. Thornton, who was a member of the Rice University Sport Management faculty from 2003-12. This award was created to memorialize his hard work and dedication to Rice as well as the Sport Law community.

Both students were deeply grateful for receiving the prestigious award.

“Next year I will be attending Notre Dame Law School and then hopefully securing a job in the legal field a few years down the road,” Freeman said. “The class greatly contributed to both my understanding of the industry as a whole and the legal topics that I will encounter in the near future both in law school and in the industry.”

“I very much enjoyed taking the sport law class and having the opportunity to learn legal concepts that are applicable to the sports I love,” Buechler-Neimeyer said. “I particularly enjoyed our case studies like the L.A. Rams vs Billy Cannon as I got to dive into contract concepts that pertained to my favorite sport and the sport I aspire to work in, which is football as a general manager.”

Stephanie Wilka, the instructor of the Sport Law course, spent two decades of her career working for four different Major League Baseball teams where she collaborated with numerous attorneys across teams, leagues, and large firms. Wilka regards both students as exemplary individuals.

“I can comment on their academic ability, reliability, ability to collaborate and contribute in a learning environment, and their oral presentation and writing skills,” Wilka said. “On each of those fronts, both of them will exceed the expectations of the industry and would be excellent company to all of the individuals in the Sport Law field.”

Thornton was considered one of the prominent Sports Law authorities in the United States. Professor Thornton taught Sport Law and intellectual Property Law all over the world, including Russia, Australia, and Vietnam. He was also greatly admired and loved by his students.

“My family and I are honored to have an award given in my late husband's name,” Alison Thornton said. “The award given in his honor allows his influence to still be felt in the program he loved. He was proud to have been a part of the dynamic faculty and staff in the Department of Sport Management at Rice.”

Sergio Rojas, a sophomore from Houston, Texas, is double-majoring in Business with a concentration in Finance and also Sport Management with a concentration in Leadership.