The Athletic Hall of Fame, in its sixth year, welcomed six more inductees on March 3 at a special banquet honoring the finest athletes of years past as well as athletic coaches and supporters who have left their mark in the history of Glendale College sports.
A small reception, which was followed by a three-course meal prepared and served by the Culinary Arts department, gave several of the guests and honorees an opportunity to exchange some words and anecdotes of their time at GCC.
“[I’ve gotten] a lot of positive feedback,” said Alex Leon, member of the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. “It’s all about bringing people back to the campus, putting on a nice event and keeping the spirit of the college going.”
Harry Hull, who sits in the Glendale College Foundation Board of Directors and the Hall of Fame Committee, was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening’s event. Hull kick-started the presentation and welcomed the 160 plus attendees who filled SC 212, located in the J.W. Smith Student Center.
The six new inductees included three Outstanding Athletic Achievement awards presented to: Ron Wielochowski, Marji Gilles and Steve Messmer, an Outstanding Coach award presented to Don Bennett, a Meritorious Service award presented to Ted Tiffany, and an Outstanding Team award presented to the 1961s Men’s Swim Team.
Athletes, coaches and meritorious honorees are selected based on their outstanding athletic achievement, records or contributions to the campus. According to Leon, the committee’s goal is to be broad in their selection of honorees in hopes of not leaving any groups out.
“We haven’t honored a volleyball team [yet], so maybe next year it will be that group or an individual that stands out,” he said.
Wielochowski, a men’s basketball legend and the holder of most scoring records in the history of Vaquero basketball [highest scoring average in conference, 33.5, season, 30.5 and career, 23.8 points per game], was not present at the event due to illness.
In a statement to the committee, Abe Androff, a former Glendale College men’s basketball coach and 2004 hall of fame inductee, reflected on 1962, the year when Wielochowski tried out for the team.
“I knew he was a talented player and I know that he liked to drive to the basket, so we played a little one-on-one,” said Androff. “I tried a few tricks to cut off his path to the basket but he was very strong and determined. Right then I knew he had what it takes to become a very special player.”
Gilles, a Track and Field star back in 1989 and 1990, competed in as many as 10 events in a single meet and became state champion in the triple jump at 37-3 in her final meet as a Vaquero in 1990.
“Attending Glendale College was the best decision I could have ever made,” said Gilles. “It allowed me to compete in several different events without the pressure of excelling at one or two and I still had time to represent women’s athletics as a member of student government.”
After her stint at GCC, Gilles transferred to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo were she competed in the triple jump and still ranks among the top 10 jumpers in the school’s history.
Messmer, a former tennis player for the Vaqueros in the ’60s and ’70s, honed his skills at GCC and went on to compete professionally at Wimbeldon in 1973 and the U.S. Open in 1976.
“You have levels.and Glendale College was one of them,” said Messmer. “With me, I had a passion for sports, I had a passion for tennis. At this level [attending GCC], I was able to raise my game up to a point.and I think that kind of jump started my career to go to the next level.”
Bennett, the recipient of the Outstanding Coach award, led the Vaqueros to a pair of Western State Conference titles between 1961 and 1965, among other achievements. A former coach to both Hull and Jim Sartoris, GCC’s Athletic Director, Bennett does not hesitate to credit his players and coaching staff for his “sterling record,” which would have not been what it is without their efforts.
Sartoris, who presented the award to Bennett, was thrilled to be able to introduce his coach.
“We [had] several players from the decade [present at the event],” Sartoris said. “Believe me, we are so proud of what he accomplished and we are so proud that we had the opportunity to play for Don.”
“He was an inspiration in our lives and many of us went on to coaching because of the work ethic and values he created in us,” he said.
Tiffany, the recipient of the Meritorius award, was an athlete himself. An alumnus of Glendale High, Tiffany excelled in both the varsity basketball and baseball teams. He also served the campus as the student body president in 1952.
No stranger to the GCC campus, Tiffany was a student at the college from 1952 through 1954 as well as an all-conference and team most valuable player for the Vaqueros basketball team.
An All-American basketball player in 1957 at Occidental College, Tiffany was the first player selected to the Occidental College men’s basketball hall of fame in 1985. After graduating from Occidental, Tiffany pursued a teaching and coaching career at Clark Junior High before being elected to the Glendale College Board of Trustees in 1981. During this time, GCC was on the verge from separating from the Glendale Unified School District and embarking on growth as a community college.
“It was a wonderful time of growth at the college,” said Tiffany. “One of the things I’m most proud of is helping the Glendale College Foundation get started with Dr. John Grande at the helm and seeing what great work it has done for the college over the years with Ann Ransford and a wonderful group of volunteers.”
The final inductees were the 1961 Men’s Swim Team. Under the guidance of coach Bill Reinhard, a two-time hall of fame inductee, the Vaqueros won the Western State Conference (WSC) title in 1961 and finished ninth among the top teams in southern California that season.
Thanks to swimmers Jim Baugh, Jim Ballard, Garry Johson, Mike Towels and Jerry Wexler, the 1961 team went into the season as the defending WSC Champs and snagged two titles in a row by going undefeated in coference dual meets.
Several years later Baugh took over for coach Reinhard as both the water polo and swimming coach until 1978. That same year Proposition 13 [the landmark proposition that froze property taxes and made it harder for schools to get money] caused Verdugo Pool to shut down, which marked the end of the Glendale College aquatics program.
“If you have a winning team, you have a winning coach,” said Baugh. “We took first place in every competition and we were really proud of that.”
By June or July the Hall of Fame Committee will make its final selection of athletes for the 2008 induction.
“Walt Smith.was the guy behind the desire to get this sort of event formatted and get it to where it is today,” said Leon. “He deserves all the credit in the world because he had the vision.and this [the Athletic Hall of Fame] is a piece of history for the college.”