Jon Hall has been playing soccer almost as far back as he can remember.
He started before most kids begin kindergarten, graduating to various club teams before moving on to play for his high school in suburban Pittsburgh.
He was also a gifted student with an eye toward forging a career in business. So when he went searching for a college, both soccer and academics were factors in his choice.
“When looking at the different things I considered to be important, soccer was a really good fit here at Carnegie Mellon,” he says. “But more importantly, I [wanted] to study business here because I felt an undergraduate business degree would give me a broader framework than just studying economics.”
That kind of analytical thinking — not to mention a 4.0 GPA and an ability to shut down attacking forwards as a standout defensive player — earned Hall the title of Academic All-American of the Year from ESPN The Magazine.
A Business Administration major with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship, Hall is entering his senior year in the fall. He first learned of the honor during his Christmas break while visiting relatives in suburban St. Louis. A friend sent him a message on Facebook letting him know he was in the magazine, but nobody in the small town where Hall was visiting had a copy. He finally got to see it when other cousins who were also visiting brought him the magazine.
It wasn’t the first time Hall has found a correlation between his sport and his studies. He took a class from R.F. Culbertson, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, in which student teams are given $150 to $200 at the start of the class as seed money toward a real-world project. The object is simple: to make money.
“The yardstick’s different,” explains Culbertson, who started the class in 2000. “As opposed to the university, where everything is quality-driven, it’s time frame- and finished product-driven. Then there’s the greed factor, which his prevalent as soon as graduation hits.”
Hall struggled initially to come up with an idea, so Culbertson prompted him by asking: “What do you know? People will pay for knowledge. That’s why you’re at Carnegie Mellon.”
Soccer was the easy answer. He had taught the sport at camps before, they were well attended, and he had testimonials. So he set up his own weekend camp at Carnegie Mellon’s campus, attracting several young athletes — including Culbertson’s own children, who gave it an enthusiastic review.
Hall’s team wound up winning the class and splitting the profits from their camp.
“I never knew Jon as anything other than a spectacular student. I never knew his passion outside the classroom,” Culbertson says, though he adds, “This guy’s passionate about anything he does. That’s a true tribute to a man.”
Hall completed an internship before his junior year at UBS Investment Bank in Stamford, Conn. He was invited back for an internship in the summer of 2009 at the bank’s Manhattan office, where he will work in financial services.
“I think the endgame for me would be to do private equity or buy companies, maybe run a company someday,” Hall says.
His advice to other college-bound athletes is to factor academics into the decision.
“Always understand that you’re going to school to learn. Academics played a much larger role in my decision to go to Carnegie Mellon,” he says. “I couldn’t justify forgoing four years of a top-notch education to go play a sport.”