Hall of Fame Honors Alumni Athletes

Brandon Hensley

When Rene Gonzales stood at the podium Saturday night as a member of the Glendale College Athletic Hall of Fame, it wasn’t as if it had been a long time coming. Gonzales had been hard to track down, and sports information director Alex Leon managed to get a hold of him just this year.

“Alex invited me down the campus a few weeks ago and said, ‘This is what this is about,'” Gonzales said of Leon, who also coordinated the ceremony. “When I looked at the names on the walls and the accomplishments, I said, ‘This is pretty cool,’ and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that Gonzales was hard to get a hold of. Being a journeyman Major League Baseball player required that he always be on the move.
Gonzales joined Karoline Tomicich, Ralph Turner, the 1976 men’s cross country team, and Bill and Ethel Gallagher as Glendale’s 2010 Hall of Fame inductees inside the J.W. Smith Student Center.

Gonzales played under Steve Coots at GCC in 1979 and 1980, and was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1982. His career spanned 13 seasons as an infielder with seven different teams, including the California Angels. In 2009, he managed the Helena Brewers, a minor league team in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Gonzales said only when he became a manager “that I realized the time and sacrifice that my coaches put in, so I said I’m going to have to go back and thank every coach I’ve ever had for the time they put in, so right now I want to say thank you very much.”

The fabled 1976 cross country team could be remembered for several things. The Vaqs went undefeated that season and won the Southern California and state championships. It also marked the first season of Tom McMurray, the now legendary coach and 2008 Hall of Fame inductee.

McMurray cited the group’s famous work ethic, and joked that the “illegal” Sunday practices were their idea. “They talked me into it,” he said.

“We ran because it was fun, but mainly it was fun to be with each other,” said Jim Steinshouer, who spoke for the team.

Tomicich, the lone female inductee, was a standout tennis player for the Lady Vaqueros beginning in 1999. She was an All-American in singles as a sophomore in 2001, and finished that season ranked seventh in state.

Her presenter, former coach and current athletic director Terry Coblentz, talked about how Tomicich took a year off in 2000, but when she returned the next season she vowed to become an All-American. Coblentz didn’t believe her at first, but it happened. “It’s her heart that makes her stand out,” Coblentz said, and called Tomicich “the best tennis player we’ve ever had.”

“I cherish the time I spent here at GCC,” Tomicich said. “I have such amazing memories from my classes and the tennis team, but the memories from this special day will surpass and stand out from the other ones.”

Turner, a track and field phenom, set a Glendale record of 20.7 seconds in the 220-yard dash in 1963, a record that still stands. He was an All-American and was named athlete of the year that season as well. He went on to BYU and set the school record for the 220-yard dash in 20.52 seconds.

A badminton player in the 1940s, Palmer came to Glendale initially as a pole vaulter in track and field, but, “That quickly was dispelled when the first year I was here I did one foot less than what I did at Hoover High School in my senior year.”

So he played tennis instead, and that turned out OK. He won the Western State Conference and Southern California singles championships in 1951 an went on to success at the University of Redlands.

Palmer’s badminton career wasn’t close to being over, however. He was ranked No.1 in the country overall in1958 and represented the U.S. as part of the Thomas Cup team that year as well, and again in 1961.

“Glendale Community College started me on my athletic journey and I’ll always be grateful for the years I spent here,” Palmer said.

Closing out the evening was the induction of Ethel Gallagher and her late husband Bill, who passed away last year. They moved to Glendale from New York in 1951, and raised a family drenched in maroon and gold.

Bill was a founding member of the Glendale College Foundation in 1983 and the Hall of Fame committee. Ethel has been a longtime member of the Patron’s club, which raises money for scholarships for students. All seven of their children eventually attended Glendale.

Presenting Ethel was Jim Sartoris, former football coach and men’s athletic director. “The athletic department would not be the athletic department without the support you’ve given it,” Sartoris told Ethel.

Ethel received a minute-long standing ovation, then spoke in front an audience that included three tables of her sons, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons, and in-laws.

She spoke of a life spent being involved with her kids playing sports, including Vaquero athletics. “For 32 years, I sat on benches, but don’t feel sorry for me because I love sports,” she said.

Of her husband, she said, “I know he’s smiling down on all of us.”

For more information on the Glendale College Athletic Hall of Fame visit: http://www.glendale.cc.ca.us/index.aspx?page=320.

Complete photo caption information:
STAND UP AND BE COUNTED: The Glendale College Athletic Hall of Fame Committee held its annual Banquet and Induction Ceremony on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Student Center. The 2010 inductees included, from left to right: Rene Gonzales for Ourstanding Athletic Achievement in Baseball, Ethel Gallagher for Meritorious Service, Karoline Tomicich for Outstanding Athletic Achievement in Tennis, Rick Van Rensselaer of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Mike Zois of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Harry Hull, President of the Glendale College Foundation and 2010 Athletic Hall of Fame Emcee, Mark Hilton of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Jon Cory of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Ron Palmer for Pillar of Achievement in Tennis and Track, Jim Steinhouer of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Mark Byrne of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team for Outstanding Team honors, Tom McMurray Coach of the 1976 Men’s Cross Country Team, and Ralph Turner for Outstanding Athletic Achievement in Track and Field.