Eight alumni and one coach were inducted into the UR Athletic Hall of Fame in an emotional ceremony on Saturday as part of Meliora Weekend.
“The only thing my daughter said to me, ‘Are you going to get the medal?,’” Adrian Smalls ‘88, a four-year letter-winner for UR Men’s Basketball, said to the crowd. “Well, here it is, sweetheart, and I love you.”
Athletes are inducted into the Hall of Fame through a series of nominations recalling their skill and performance showcased during their time at UR.
“The individuals that represent the class of 2016 are exceptional in every way” emcee brian Pasley ‘76 said to open the event. “They represent a group from multiple decades, they’re individuals who have garnered multiple awards, with academic honorariums […] they all have diverse backgrounds.”
But the individuals, honored for their own accomplishments, were tied together by one thing, according to Pasley: “pursuit of excellence both on and off the field.”
Alongside Smalls were athletes Kareen Kreutziger Coulombe ’01 for Women’s Lacrosse; John Dunnigan ’68 for football; Barbara Bliss Mahnke ’86 for swimming; Andrew Milne ’91 for track and field, and Everett J. Phillips for his coaching work with the same; Joseph B. Sebastianelli ’85 for football; Timothy Voloshen ’96, ’00 MS for cross country; and Jason A. Walker ’96 for soccer.
“The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees represent a wide-range of athletic accomplishment, academic achievement, and professional success,” Executive Director of Athletics George VanderZwaag said in an email to the Campus Times. “Five earned All-America honors as undergraduates. One was a two-time Academic All-American. These Hall of Famers distinguished themselves as athletes at Rochester and made many other significant contributions in their lives.”
The ceremony took place in the Leibner-Cooper room, a space reserved often by dancers, martial artists, and boxers. For the induction, the room had been carpeted, the mirrors covered, and bar set up in a corner where a punching bag normally resides.
Hall of Fame Inductees were walked in by current UR athletes who volunteered to attend the function.
“I think hearing the speeches of the people here was a really great representation of the University, the community around athletics,” senior Samantha Kitchen, a track and cross country athlete, said.
Attendees were served dinner and drinks as alumni mingled, and, as the meal came to a close, inductees gave their acceptance speeches.
“The students, alumni and staff attending the dinner are always inspired by the stories and the opportunity to celebrate our rich athletic history,” VanderZwaag said.
Attendees were mindful of the diverse interests of those being honored that evening.
“It’s not like athletics is all they did,” senior Eric Franklin, a track and field athlete, said. “They left and there’s doctors and lawyers and judges. You can see how great everyone continued to do afterwards is really.”
“I think it really represents the best of what Rochester is about,” he continued, “balancing athletics and academics as well, it really gives you a sense of the history of the program and all the programs here, the strong addition of athletics.”
The stories alumni shared during their speeches varied in both their victories and their challenges. One alum recalled his grades slipping, and after a phone call between his parents and his coach, the coach and his parents colluded to take his car home, leading to a spike in both his grades and his performance on the field.
Coulombe told the audience Rochester’s coaches taught her that losing was the not the equivalent of being a “bad” athlete.
“I definitely learned here at Rochester that you work hard and you follow a passion and I had so many great teammates and classmates that helped me to reach my greatest potential,” Coulombe said. “I really encourage students to follow your dreams and work through the hard times, because those are always going to come. Keep your head up, you’re in a great place, you’re in a great community.”
2016 marks the twenty-fifth year of the Athletics and Recreation Hall of Fame.
“I will cherish it for the rest of my life,” Voloshen said, holding the medal to the crowd and smiling.