Gallaudet Inducts Ten into Athletic Hall of Fame
Washington DC, October 20, 2008- There wasn't a dry eye in the room as the Gallaudet Athletics Hall of Fame inducted ten new members Sunday morning. The new members of the Hall of Fame include: Ernest "Ernie" Epps; Alexander "Sandy" Ewan; William "Anthony" Jones; Lory Kuschmider; Ronda Jo Miller; Ken Pedersen; Jeff "Killer" Spielberger; Marty Willigan; Darnell Woods; and Peg Worthington.
It was a humbling experience for everyone involved as the honorees told stories about who shaped their lives, what Gallaudet meant to them, and what it took for them to succeed.
None of the honorees got their success without working harder than everyone else. Spielberger was noted for being the only manager for the football team one season in the 1970's and personally carrying all the heavy blocking dummies to and from the practice field. Jones was noted for being the first person in the gym and the last to leave, working on his weaknesses. Ewan could be found volunteering his time at all home athletic games collecting admission fees, which went towards improving the athletic program.
The honorees were also praised for their humility and positive publicity they brought to Gallaudet. Miller was acknowledged for her humbleness, despite being named All-American three times in basketball, being named Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year three times, and leading Gallaudet to a Sweet Sixteen berth in 1999.
Her former coach Kitty Baldridge told the attendees why Ronda Jo was the way she is. "If you've seen her dad, he's a very laid back, easy going farmer from Minnesota. Ronda Jo is the same way." Thanks to Ronda Jo, Gallaudet was repeatedly mentioned in newspapers, TV stories, national magazines, and books written about the Gallaudet women's basketball team, during her heyday. Yet, she never bragged about these accomplishments. Instead, she was more interested in being friends with her teammates, and her fans.
Kuschmider was one of two inductees who has passed away, and was represented by his family at the ceremony. Ewan was the other. Lory's son Chester, who is a senior on the Gallaudet football team said, "I never knew about my father's accomplishment's in athletics until today. He never bragged about himself. He taught me everything I know in baseball and football but never talked about himself. Hearing what my dad did on the Gallaudet baseball field has inspired me to join the baseball team in the spring."
Former women's volleyball coach Worthington was praised for being a calm, positive driving force for the women's volleyball team. The Worthington Classic Tournament at Gallaudet is named after her. Current Gallaudet women's volleyball assistant coach Pat O'Brien said, "Peg built a strong foundation for women's volleyball at Gallaudet, which still exists today."
The honorees have set school records, some which are over 30 years old, and will probably never be broken. Trackster Pedersen set school records for the 400 and 800 meters in the 1970's, which still stand today. Kuschmider stuck out 19 batters in one game, and also pitched all 11 innings of another game which Gallaudet won. Jones scored over 2,000 points in basketball, the only male Gallaudet basketball player to do so. Miller scored 47 points in one game and also averaged 28.7 points per game in 1997-98. Former football wide receiver Woods averaged over 20 yards per catch. Spielberger served 30 years as a manager.
The honorees were selfless in the support they gave to Gallaudet. Willigan, a former wrestling coach was praised for giving over 30 years to Gallaudet, which included coaching at MSSD, Gallaudet, and on several Deaflympic teams. Willigan also coached several All-Americans at Gallaudet and still coaches wrestling today, at Long Reach High School in Columbia, Maryland. "Retirement is not in Marty's vocabulary," said his inductor Jeffrey White.
None of the honorees would have made it without a support system that includes families, friends, other coaches, and of course the Gallaudet community. Willigan thanked, "My assistant coach, who is also my wife, Barbara. I would never have made it without her support." Woods thanked his wife, children, and his parents. "I would not be here without them. My parents made me work for everything I had. When I was 11, I wanted a pair of football shoes, but my parents told me I would have to earn them by cleaning up the yard before I could get them. I spent that whole afternoon cleaning up the yard because I wanted football shoes."
Gallaudet Athletic Director and former MSSD basketball coach Mike Weinstock told how Jones, while a student at MSSD, got mad and kicked the basketball and hit the ceiling, at practice. Weinstock told him to go home, and come back again tomorrow, with a better attitude. Later in the season, he was late for a game. Weinstock told him to go home, and come back tomorrow, on time. Jones told the audience, "I learned my lesson, and was never late again, in high school or college."
Former Gallaudet men's basketball coach and athletic director, and current Maryland School for the Deaf basketball coach Jimmy DeStefano inducted Jones. "Anthony always wanted to know what he needed to do to improve his game. He got where he is with lots of hard work, and was a pleasure to coach."
Woods was praised by former Gallaudet football coach Rich Pelletier for making his teammates better. "My defense never faced anyone as good as Darnell. When they faced him in practice, I told my defense to stop him and focus on him. But they never could stop him. That made us better because no one we faced on the other team was as good as Darnell."
Most of the athletes were heavily recruited out of high school by Division I colleges, but chose to attend Gallaudet. Epps was one of the most recruited players out of Kentucky, where he scored over 30 points per game, at Kentucky School for the Deaf. He had numerous scholarship offers, but his teachers encouraged him to attend Gallaudet, and he did. "I loved every minute I was at Gallaudet and am glad I came here. I want to thank my teachers, coaches, and friends at Gallaudet."
Miller also received many recruiting letters. "I never bothered to open the letters. I knew I was going to Gallaudet." Miller admitted she planned to leave Gallaudet her freshman year because she was homesick. "I went home at Christmas time and told my parents I didn't want to go back. My parents wouldn't hear it. They told me I was going to go back. And I'm glad I did. I had a great support system at Gallaudet that helped me get through school."
Pedersen also received numerous scholarship offers, but his family encouraged him to go to Gallaudet because of accessibility issues. "I didn't want to have an interpreter with me all day. I wanted to be able to communicate with my professors and friends, without an interpreter. Thanks to my brothers and sisters, I came to Gallaudet."
Woods was also heavily recruited but chose Gallaudet. "I appreciate the many opportunities Gallaudet has given me. I've seen the world, thanks to Gallaudet." Woods has played in several international deaf basketball tournaments.
Jones said, "Playing on the Gallaudet basketball team was the best moment I ever had."
Spielberger said, "I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to work with athletics for so many years. God bless Gallaudet University!"
Coaches, staff, and supporters are just as important as the athletes themselves. Mike Moore, who inducted Ewan said, "He was great with all students. Not just student-athletes. He helped students become part of the athletic program."
Provost Steve Weiner summed up the event. "I feel inspired by the stories I heard today. That's Gallaudet. The honorees have high expectations and high standards."
The Committee that selected the Hall of Fame includes Mike Weinstock, Alumni Relations Director Sam Sonnenstrahl, former Sports Information Director Oscar "Luke" Ocuto, alumni representative Ron Sutcliffe, and sportswriter Barry Strassler.
Ocuto served as Master of Ceremonies at the event.
Weinstock announced there will be more inductees at next year's Homecoming Weekend at 10 am October 24.