For one night during Homecoming weekend, the Dodge Ball Room in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union was transformed into a living timeline. Alumni, faculty, staff and a handful of current students, all dressed in their Sunday finest, occupied the upper portion of the Union from 6-7 p.m., chatting and reminiscing over drinks and light snacks.
They were gathered to honor and recognize the achievements of notable alumni who were being either inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame or receiving a distinguished award from Springfield College on October 15. In all, four alumni were presented with awards, while six inductees took their rightful place in the SC Athletic Hall of Fame.
At 7 p.m., the crowd took their seats in the Dodge Ball Room to begin the induction dinner. After a brief opening prayer by senior Kyle Greeley, president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, dinner was served. A brief respite was allotted to allow guests time to enjoy their dinner, after which Master of Ceremonies and former Tarbell Medallion winner Philip “Buzzy” Ernst opened up the presentation portion of the night by calling up the four award recipients. Each recipient was introduced, presented their award and given time to make a short speech.
Karen Woods, who graduated in 2001, was presented with the Young Alumnus/Alumna Award. According to Woods, the class of 1966 presents this award to alumni who carry on the Humanics philosophy and served SC, their community, state or nation in a substantial way after graduating. Woods was nominated approximately a year ago, but she did not find out until this past summer that she had been chosen to receive the award.
Upon graduating, Woods joined the Peace Corps, volunteering to teach English and train teachers in Armenia. After two years of serving, she took on the role of fifth-grade teacher at Quality Schools International in Yerevan.
After her stint overseas, Woods returned to the United States to work at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield. While there, she implemented numerous projects, such as having students pick apples to donate to a local pantry, collecting and distributing food at a local community center, and organizing a pen pal program for students.
In an interview with The Student, Woods said she missed Springfield College and its feeling of community.
“It’s hard to imagine I’ve been gone 10 years,” Woods said. “It feels like home still.”
The two recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award were John E. Danielson, who graduated in 1950, and Rosemary Shelly Caffarella, who graduated in 1968.
Danielson said that he liked the renovated Judd Gymnasia and the YMCA tribute in the SC Museum, which is not surprising seeing as he has spent his life in the YMCA.
From 1970-1980, Danielson was president of the YMCA of Greater Boston, serving the urban community by organizing juvenile justice programs to keep youth out of gangs. Due to his work, he was named the chair of the North American Urban Group and helped found and serve as the first chairman of the YMCA World Urban Network.
Danielson was first drawn to SC due to the service-oriented community, which goes hand in hand with the YMCA.
“There’s a service mentality that enhances the experience at Springfield College,” Danielson said. “It’s not a selfish mentality.”
The other recipient, Caffarella, currently teaches at Cornell, and has written two books about learning in adulthood. In addition, she is a breast cancer survivor who has dedicated her time to educating others about the disease. She organized and ran the Malaysian Breast Cancer Education Project from 2002-2010, and currently heads the Career Education and Resource Center, which supports cancer patients.
Carl J. Pavano, class of 1969, was awarded the Tarbell Medallion, but he was unable to attend the dinner due to a trip with his wife that was not reimbursable. Instead, a pre-taped message of Pavano giving a short speech delighted guests by appearing on screens around the room.
After the recipients spoke, the athletic portion of the program began. Lou Howard (‘48), Emerson W. Dunton, Jr. (’56), Kenneth H. Klatka (’69, graduate ’70), Jack Piatelli (’86), Ramiro Mora (’90, graduate ’92), and Alisson L. Gerrish (’03, graduate ’04) were all inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Each excelled in their various sports due to their unique talents and personalities. Howard was simply a winner. As a high school football coach on Long Island after graduating, Howard never experienced a losing season in his coaching career. Not only did he not have a losing season, but he also won nine consecutive league championships, which has yet to be matched in Long Island.
Dunton turned gymnastics into a lifelong profession. He was a co-captain on the 1956 SC gymnastics team, and earned the team’s Most Valuable Gymnast, Most Outstanding Achievement and Coaches awards. Dunton also went on to coach gymnastics, winning state championships in New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York.
Klatka is a staple on campus, still serving as the track and field head coach after 35 years. His teams are almost always very successful, winning at a 75 percent clip.
Piatelli, a lacrosse player, came to SC as a top 10 attack recruit. He chose SC after visiting with his high school roommate.
“I just got a great feel when I came here,” Piatelli said. “It just felt like family.”
He led his team in scoring for three of his four seasons, finishing as the college’s fifth- leading scorer in history. He was the first player in program history to be selected to the All-American Second Team, and led the team to national rankings in 1985 and ’86.
Piatelli was humbled to join the ranks of SC Hall of Fame inductees.
“When I came here and played lacrosse, you don’t think of Hall of Fame, you think of competing and having fun,” he said. “I’m in the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame, I’m in my high school Hall of Fame, but his is the ultimate honor because there’s so many special individuals that have come and gone at Springfield College.”
Mora, like Dunton, was a highly successful gymnast. Mora won an individual national championship in 1989 in the still rings. He was also a three-time All-American in rings from 1988-90. His teammates recognized his spirit, as he was chosen as a four-time Sparkplug winner as the most motivated and motivating teammate on the squad.
Alisson L. Gerrish, the sole woman representative of the inductees, was a terror on the softball diamond. She set eight SC career records and seven SC single-season records. She performed at such a high level that she ended up being ranked in the top five in NCAA Division III history in career doubles, in the top 15 in career hits and in the top 25 for career RBIs.
Like the other inductees, Gerrish cherished the thought of being inducted into the Hall of Fame at her alma mater.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to be here getting inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame,” she said. “To be a part of the athletic tradition permanently now will be amazing.”
Joe Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org