WASHINGTON, D.C. - Laughter, hugs and old stories were exchanged among friends and families on Sunday, October 25, at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University as the Bison Athletics Department paid tribute to the seven new members of its Hall of Fame. A sold out crowd shared this special moment with seven well deserving individuals who made great contributions during their time at Gallaudet University.
GU Athletics Director Michael Weinstock served as the master of ceremonies for the day and said how the event was like a wedding and that the toughest part about preparing for the day were the seating assignments.
"These seven inductees are very elite. This is a great honor for this group. The ceremony was very inspiring," said Gallaudet University Athletics Director Michael Weinstock. "We will always remember this group and we thank them for their contributions to Gallaudet University."
People enjoyed a lovely brunch before each member of the Class of 2009 was inducted into the GU Hall of Fame. A surprised guest presented each inductee before they took the stage to make their acceptance speech and receive their Hall of Fame plaque. Here is a recap of the event.
Charles L. Hammack, '91, was presented by his former wrestling coach Marty Willigan, who is also a member of the Gallaudet Hall of Fame. Willigan glowed about Hammack's performance for the Bison wrestling program where he broke all school records.
"Charles was the most dedicated wrestler I have ever coached," said Willigan. "He was the leader of the team as he inspired his teammates and told the team what the goals were. I will always will have great memories of Charles and all that he achieved."
Willigan shared a story about how he and Charles would wrestle at practice and coach would arrive home later in the evening with bruises on his faces because of the intense practice with Charles and the team. Hammack was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American wrestler at GU. Willigan said Hammack would had been a three-time All-American but Charles placed academics first and couldn't travel to nationals one year because of school work.
"This is quite an impressive event," said Hammack during his acceptance speech. "I feel quite honored. I am privileged to be among the lucky few to be inducted into the Gallaudet University Hall of Fame."
Hammack amassed a stellar 117-14-1 career record as a Bison. Hammack lettered four seasons as a wrestler for Gallaudet between 1985-1990 and even played football a few seasons. His final season he posted a 36-2 wrestling record.
"Marty treated us like we were his sons. I want to thank him and his wife for their support over the years," said Hammack. "Family is the key to the success in life."
Robert Jackson, former men's volleyball coach at GU, was presented by former player Rob Cundy. Jackson established the men's volleyball program back in 1973 and coached for five seasons after the pilot season. He had five straight winning seasons from 1974-78 where he posted a career record of 61-25-2. Cundy spoke about how Jackson used his connections to have Division I schools play Gallaudet.
"Bob wanted us to play the big boys such as University of Maryland, Duke University, etc.," said Cundy. "He always motivated us and would tell us that we did a wonderful job."
One of Jackson's trademarks as a coach was that he wore turtlenecks with a blazer to games. In honor of Jackson being inducted into the GU Hall of Fame over a dozen former players joined him on stage in turtlenecks and blazers and presented their coach with a signed volleyball.
"When I looked at that table of former players today I couldn't help but cry because of the great memories that Gallaudet gave me," said Jackson.
The Bison won four straight Potomac Intercollegiate Conference championships (1974-77) under the tutelage of Coach Jackson. His best season came in 1977 where Gallaudet won 20 matches. In 1976, the program won the Eastern Region 3 Tournament. In 1975, the Bison were a participant in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament after they won the NAIA District 19 championship. He led the Bison to five straight winning seasons after the pilot season.
Richard A. Jacobs, '91, was presented by his former Gallaudet coaches Jimmy DeStefano (men's basketball and former Athletic Director), Vance Rewolinski (baseball), Thomas Withrow (track and field) and Richard Pelletier (football). Jacobs was an all-around student-athlete at Gallaudet University in the late 1980's.
"Richard always placed the team first," said DeStefano. "He was a great defender. His trademark was his passion."
On the basketball court he led the Bison to 47 wins in his four seasons. He was a swift runner on the baseball paths as he led the team in stolen bases. He used his speed to become a national qualifier for the NCAA championships as a decathlete. Jacobs finished fourth in the Decathlon at the 1990 NCAA national championships in Naperville, Ill, hosted by North Central College. The year before he finished 10th in the javelin at the NCAA championships. He served as a punter on the Bison football team for one season. He was an honorable mention selection to the GU Football Centennial All-Present Era team as a punter. Jacobs later served as an assistant coach with the GU track and field team in 1991.
"You all gave me a chance. I was considered the underdog when I was in college," said Jacobs, who ended up walking on to most teams he played for at GU. "I want to recognize those players who are not the stars and are overlooked or considered dark horses. This is for them."
Touria Ouahid Boren, '01, a former women's basketball star, was presented by her coach Kitty Baldridge. Ouahid played four seasons for the Gallaudet University women's basketball program from 1996-2001. The crafty guard was a pure scorer who could hit a key bucket when needed or fire up a three-point shot to help the Bison in a pinch.
"Touria was a true student-athlete. She had amazing compassion for her team as she never put herself before the team," said Baldridge.
Ouahid was named the Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2000-01 and was a three-time All-CAC first team selection and a second team pick one time. She ranks first in GU history in steals with 348 and second in assists with 560. She was nominated to the 2000 NCAA Division III All-American team during her junior season. She was a member of the Bison women's basketball team in 1996-97 when GU posted a 19-8 record and an 11-3 mark in the Capital Athletic Conference. That team ended its season in the CAC championship. Ouahid averaged 18.7 points per game that season as she led the Bison in assists (155) and steals (102).
"The Field House was my second home. I would always see the Hall of Fame display and think that would be impossible for me to achieve but here I am today," said Ouahid, a native of Sweden. "This is really a highlight in my life."
Michelle Poole, '93, a former women's swimmer was presented by her coach Carol Ann Smalley. Poole set 13 Gallaudet University women's swimming records from 1985-89 and still currently holds three in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard butterfly events. She became the first-ever GU women's swimmer to qualify and make it to the NCAA Division III national championships (1986, '87, '88).
"When Michelle joined the team it was a coaches dream come true," said Smalley. "She was my ace in the hole. I could place her in any event."
Poole is a two-time Team MVP (1986, '89), team captain (1987-88) and the GU Female Athlete of the Year (1989). She also served as an assistant swim coach at GU from 1990-92 and head coach from 1994-95.
"Thank you all for this honor," said Poole during her acceptance speech. She went onto explain how she continued to swim for the Bison when she was a student even though her parents didn't want her to. Her secret got exposed once she graduated as she told her parents.
Weinstock added a quick story about Poole, who was walking with a slight limp, that she practiced with the current Gallaudet swimming teams on Friday for the first time since she was a coach back in 1995.
Vincent Todd Silvestri, '92, was presented by former Gallaudet football coach Bob Westermann, who traveled the farthest of all the presenters from the state of Washington. Silvestri was a force on defense for the GU football program in the late 1980's and a NCAA Division III All-American wrestler for the Bison. The team captain led the football team in tackles for three straight seasons from 1985-87.
"Todd was an outstanding football player," said Westermann. "I have a long history with Todd. I arrived at this fine campus in 1977 and started off coaching at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf and later coached at Gallaudet. I knew we had to change our attitude that we could win at GU. I knew I needed a winner and that's why I called Todd [to come here and play]. He could influence people. He has 'it'."
Silvestri was named to All-Atlantic Collegiate Football Conference (ACFC) first team in 1987. The Washington Football Officials Association (WFOA) named him the Most Outstanding Player in 1987 where he made 103 tackles. The linebacker started 31 consecutive games for the Buff and Blue and compiled 298 tackles during his career. He earned All-American wrestling honors during the 1988-89 season at the 177 lbs. weight level.
"When I got here I was a troublemaker. I met Bob and he pushed me. I wanted to play linebacker but he forced me to play nose guard," said Silvestri. "He taught me to be a team player. Bob was a great role model for me."
The final inductee was Shannon D. Simon, '92, another Bison football player from the 1987 team that went 9-1 as he was presented by Pelletier. Simon is the only football NCAA Division III All-American first-team selection in school history. He earned the highest honor in ‘87 for his outstanding play as an offensive lineman. Simon played the offensive position for four seasons under Coach Westermann.
"Shannon was a hard worker. He did everything the coaches wanted," said Pelletier. "People don't think about the offensive line. They are the silent warriors but the heart of the team."
Simon used his brute strength to block Bison running backs and protect GU quarterbacks from the opposition. He served as a team captain during his senior season. Simon was selected to the Atlantic Collegiate Football Conference (ACFC) first-team in 1988.
"Gallaudet gave me the tools to go out in the world and be a success," said Simon. "Playing football allowed me the chance to travel the world. My education from Gallaudet has given me everything in my life."
Simon mentioned during his acceptance speech that he had wished his parents could have been present but they had booked a cruise a year in advance. Simon also thanked his former teammates that were being inducted into the Hall of Fame with him especially Jacobs. The two were roommates in college.
"We had a wonderful experience together. They are one of the reasons why I am standing here today," said a humble Simon.