Hall of Fame Honors Athletic Alumni

El Vaquero News Editor

The GCC Student Center Conference Room was transformed into an elegant banquet hall Saturday night for this year’s Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

The 190 guests, who were mostly college alumni or friends and family of this year’s inductees, came to enjoy a fancy three-course dinner and witness five individuals and two teams recognized for their outstanding athletic achievements.

The annual event, now in its fifth year, was sponsored by the Glendale College Foundation and was spearheaded by a nine-member faculty committee. It served as a reunion for many alumni and an opportunity for guests to admire the Athletic Hall of Fame mural on the wall in SC 212 as well as the new Sartoris field.

Athletic Hall of Fame Committee Chairman Rick Roche kicked off the evening with his welcoming marks, and was followed by GCC President John Davitt. “[This event] is one of the highlights of the year,” said Davitt. “This tells a lot about the school’s athletic program-which is something we can be proud of.”
Broadcast journalist and college alumnus Joe Rico was the evening’s master of ceremonies. “I’ve had a fun, fun, fun career that started here at the college,” Rico said.

Rico acknowledged the presence of Glendale City Council Members Ara Najarian and Dave Weaver. He also mentioned Andrew Feldman and Nancy Jordan of the Culinary Arts Department, who, along with several students, prepared the three-course dinner, hors d’oeuvres and drinks enjoyed by the guests.

The induction ceremony began after dinner. Past inductees who were present that evening, such as Health and Physical Education Division Chair Jim Sartoris, were acknowledged first, and a slideshow featuring this year’s inductees and their achievements was shown simultaneously.

According to Alex Leon, member of the Hall of Fame Committee, the winners are chosen according to the degree of excellence in their respective sports, both in and out of the college. “A committee of three or four members selects the awardees,” Leon said. “They have to be gone [from GCC] at least five years, except for the coaches.”
The first inductee, recognized for Outstanding Athletic Achievement, was Mike Haney. Haney was awarded for his exceptional performance as a golfer for the Vaqueros in 1970 and 1971. He is also the first golfer to earn a place in the Hall of Fame.

“Glendale College gave me the foundation for everything I’ve done,” said Haney, who went on to become the USC Trojans’ number one golfer, as he accepted the award. “What I want to do is bring back golf to the college. I think we owe it to the city and we owe it to the college. I challenge the foundation to raise the funds [needed] to bring back golf.” Haney’s statement addressed the discontinuation of the college’s golf class.

Blanche Donovan was this year’s awardee for Meritorious Service. Donovan was a teacher at the college for 34 years, and served as the division chair for the women’s physical education department and head coach of the coed volleyball team.
“It was wonderful to spend my professional career at a wonderful school,” Donovan said after thanking the committee for the honor. She ended her speech by joking that she could hardly “recognize the place [GCC], but a lot of people seem to recognize me.”

This year’s inductee for Outstanding Coach was John Tansley, the Vaqueros’ cross country track and field coach from 1968 to 1979. Tansley led the Vaqueros to win 50 consecutive dual meets, including the 1980 state championship in cross country.

Before Tansley accepted his award, Jim Sartoris introduced him by saying, “You can’t find a more hardworking coach who has dedicated his life to training athletes.”

“I spent 14 years here at Glendale College, and it was memorable in every way,” Tansley said. “GCC is really awesome in track and field.” He ended by saying that he had “so many people to thank.”
Lon Simmons and Bill Thompson were honored next as the Pillars of Achievement. Both were on the college baseball team in the 1940s and worked together as sports announcers with the San Francisco Giants.

In his introduction of the awardees, Rico reminded the audience of Simmons’ famous home run call, “Tell it goodbye.”

Thompson passed away in 2003; his daughter Kathie received the award on his behalf. “I’ve always been so proud of my dad,” she said. “Baseball was his life. Their friendship [with Simmons] lasted forever.”

Simmons began his speech with jokes and anecdotes from the World War II era. “One pitcher [from our team] went to USC,” he said with a grin. “The rest of us went into the service to make this country safe for all of you.” According to Simmons, he and Thompson were the only GCC team players who “made it to major league as broadcasters.”

The two teams who were recognized as the Outstanding Teams this year were the 1980 Women’s and Men’s Cross Country. The Women’s Cross Country team was undefeated in the 1980 season, and that year’s state championship was the first time a community college won back-to-back titles.

The team’s coach, Scott Schweitzer, received the award alongside two former members of the team. “We were in better shape than anyone else and we were just better than anyone else,” Schweitzer said. “There was not anybody who came close to us that season.”

Jeff Nelson, first place winner of the 1980 state championship meet, gave an acceptance speech on behalf of the Men’s Cross Country Team _” the same one coached by Tansley. “Glendale has such a great past of athletes, especially runners,” Nelson said. “It’s incredible that we are a part of this.”

Plaques bearing the inductees’ pictures and achievements were presented to them in turn, identical to the newly mounted tiles on the Hall of Fame mural.

Leon said that the Hall of Fame ceremony has a “tremendous impact” on the college. “It refocuses attention on college athletics and the college’s history.”

He went on to say that the Hall of Fame was “the genesis of the [Sartoris] Field Endowment Project.” “This event gets a lot of support,” he said. “The recognition of athletes bolsters athletic funds.”