2012 Give Back Alum, Zak Pedersen, is a knockout in the classroom and the boxing ring.

It is always exciting to discover what our scholars have been up to following graduation; the impact of the Give Back program has extended far beyond the college campuses. Take Give Back alum Zak Pedersen, for example. A young leader in both business and society, Zak has never been afraid to embrace a new challenge.

After high school graduation, Zak entered the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he excelled — earning degrees in both Political Science and Communication in 2012. He went on to receive a Masters in Sports Administration the following year, and is proud to be a “double Illini, like Mr. Carr.” While at U of I, Zak bravely walked onto the football team as the long-snapper and became a three-year varsity letter winner — earning a full athletic scholarship after his sophomore year. He also served on the Illini Tradition Council and took it upon himself to start a Registered Student Organization.

Zak’s organization, Uplifting Athletes, raises awareness for the rare disease, Acoustic Neuroma. It was launched in honor of a former teammate whose football playing career was prematurely cut short as a result of the disease. Uplifting Athletes continues to thrive today and has already raised over $50,000 for The Acoustic Neuroma Association of America and for rare disease research.

But that is just one phenomenal example of how Zak embodies the spirit of giving back.

Last year, Zak left his IT Sales and Solutions firm in Chicago to pursue his MBA at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. On top of focusing on Management Consulting and Organizational Leadership concentrations in South Bend, Zak has jumped into a new ring —literally. This winter he participated in the 87th Annual Bengal Mission Bouts Boxing Tournament at the University of Notre Dame.

Why is he willing to subject himself to multiple black eyes?

For the cause, of course. The Bengal Mission Bouts were started in 1920 by the legendary Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne, to keep his players in elite form during the off-season. The program evolved, commissioning sponsorship of the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh: a noble cause that aligns with Notre Dame’s focus on catholic foundations. Bengal Mission Bouts harnesses advertisements, ticket sales and private donations to raise money for a cause that “resonates heavily” with Zak.

Zak reached the tournament quarterfinals (impressive!) and raised nearly $2,000 (extra impressive!). His work ethic, commitment to a cause, upstanding character and giving spirit are clearly an inspiration. We are lucky to have Zak as part of the Give Back family and look forward to learning about his future accomplishments.




“I am eternally grateful [for the Give Back scholarship experience] and I am currently trying to demonstrate that gratitude by being a mentor to another local student fortunate enough to earn a scholarship through Give Back.”

– Zak Pedersen




Sources: Zak Pedersen |