WASHINGTON – The Gallaudet University Hall of Fame Class of 2012 was officially enshrined on Sunday, October 28, in the Ole Jim at the Peikoff Alumni House before an overflow group of family, friends, Gallaudet alumni and supporters of Bison athletics. The crowd witnessed excellent speeches and funny and tearful stories from the seven new Hall of Fame inductees.
The Class of 2012 includes women’s basketball coach Kathryn A. Baldridge, Brian A. Bippus ’93 (men’s basketball), Stephanie L. Danner ’05 (women’s swimming), Michael C. Kent E-’97 (men’s basketball), sports writer Barry M. Strassler '66, William T. Sugiyama ’59 (wrestling), and Albert A. Walla ’75 (men’s swimming).
GU Director of Athletics Michael Weinstock served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Gallaudet Provost Dr. Stephen Weiner kicked off the event with some opening remarks.
Former Gallaudet women’s basketball head coach Kathryn A. Baldridge, was presented by her long time assistant coach Benjamin Baylor, who shared many memories of ‘Kitty’ coaching at Gallaudet. Baylor pointed out several former players, who are now working in the Gallaudet Physical Education Department, including Sandy McLennon and Sarah Burton-Doleac who were at the ceremony. McLennon, Burton-Doleac and Robbie Carmichael were all members of Baldridge’s first team at Gallaudet in 1977.
“Kitty is the best coach that has ever coached here. There will never be another coach like Kitty. I mean that. She is a national treasure, a Gallaudet treasure,” said Baylor during his speech on Baldridge.
Baldridge is the all-time coaching wins leader for women’s basketball in Gallaudet history. She won 334 games in 29 seasons as the head coach of the women’s basketball program at Gallaudet from 1977-2006. During her tenure leading the Bison she compiled 15 winning seasons and led Gallaudet to the NCAA tournament twice (1996-97, 1998-99). The 1998-99 team advanced to the ‘Sweet 16’ round of the NCAA tournament, the farthest any Bison team has ever made it in the NCAAs.
Baldridge was sentimental when she took the stage and held up her father’s GU Hall of Fame sweater. Baldridge’s father is Paul Baldridge, one of Gallaudet’s Iron Five players.
“I had 29 years of fun and enjoyment,” said Baldridge. “I was a very demanding coach but in the end it was such a pleasure for me to coach here.”
Brian A. Bippus ’93, was presented by his former men’s basketball coach James DeStefano, who discussed his recruitment of Bippus and then went into year-by-year career highlights of his time as a Bison player.
“Brian’s skills were phenomenal. He was just so smooth. I knew he would be something special,” said DeStefano. “I prayed he would come to Gallaudet. When I became the head coach the following year my first call was to Brian.”
Bippus graduated as the all-time leading scorer for men’s
basketball in Gallaudet history with 1,882 points. He played four
years (1987-91) for the buff and blue as the Bison began their
20-year membership in the Capital Athletic Conference. Bippus
became the first Bison to earn All-CAC honors as he was picked for
the first team during the 1990-91 season. The three-time team
captain also excelled in the classroom and became Gallaudet’s
first-ever Academic All-American when he was named to the 1990-91
second team. He also earned All-District II first team honors.
“Being up here is truly an honor. When I first came to Gallaudet I wasn’t sure what I wanted to accomplish. I never thought I would be sharing this moment with my family today,” said Bippus during the induction. “Coach DeStefano taught me to coach with integrity and finesse and to play a good game. He expanded my basketball IQ and improved the way I played the game of basketball.”
Stephanie L. Danner ’05, was presented by her former women’s swimming coach Bill Snape who gushed about Danner’s accomplishments in the pool when the Bison swam in the ultracompetitive Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). He even began his presentation speech with this strong statement; “Stephanie Dannier at this point in time is the greatest all-around swimmer ever to compete at GU. I fully recognize and respect that there are other individuals that can make a case for that same honor. She still holds seven individual records and one team relay mark. She was a University wide leader and a top student,” concluded Snape.
Danner, a three-time team captain was an eight-time all-conference honoree, which included four first team honors. She dominated the 1,650 freestyle event as she earned all-conference honors in that event all four years (2002-05) at the CAC championships. Her senior year she won the event to earn first team honors. She was back-to-back CAC champion in the 500-yard freestyle (2003, ’04). She was named the 2004 CAC Women’s Swimmer of the Year after she had two first-place and one second-place performance at the conference championships. Danner was twice named the Gallaudet Student-Athlete of the Year (2004, ’05). She graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005.
Danner was very thankful to her family and friends for their support during her time at Gallaudet.
“I want to thank them for being my inspiration. I want to thank my parents for being so supportive,” said Danner. “I wanted to show that I could win [when I was a swimmer at Gallaudet]. I was proud to represent Gallaudet during my four years here.”
Michael C. Kent E-’97, was presented by his former men’s basketball coach James DeStefano, who discussed his career accomplishments and when he first saw Kent play at Model Secondary School for the Deaf.
“Michael had raw talent with unlimited potential. No one could challenge him,” said DeStefano. “I remember watching him in practice and he realized he needed to work hard to get him to where he is today.”
DeStafano showed several newspaper clippings and quotes from other coaches who talked about Kent. The former Gettysburg Coach George Petrie was quoted as saying; “I call him ‘Clark Kent’ because I think he is Superman.”
Kent was a three-year letterwinner for the Gallaudet men’s basketball team from 1991-95. He averaged 20 points per game during his career and finished in the Top 10 for scoring in school history with 1,286 points in four years at Kendall Green. His 1993-94 season was his finest as he earned All-American honorable mention status from Division III News and Don Hansen’s Gazette. He was also a National Association of Basketball Coaches Atlantic Region second team honoree. He earned All-CAC first team honors and was named the Most Outstanding Player for Gallaudet’s men’s basketball team.
Kent was very emotional during his inductions speech as he discussed his families’ hardships over the years and the passing of his brother and sister. He proclaimed himself a man of few words but ended up giving the longest induction speech among the seven inductees.
“Today I am quite humble with receiving this honor. What really is important to me were the people that believed in me,” said Kent. “My love and passion for basketball saved my life.”
Kent went onto to thank his mother, father, his brother David Kent, Coach DeStefano who was like a father to him and his wife Kim and his two beautiful daughters.
Barry M. Strassler ’66, a walking encyclopedia of Gallaudet University athletics knowledge and a huge supporter and advocate for deaf news and deaf sports, was presented by his friend David Tossman.
“Barry is a cherished Gallaudet alum. He has been working 50 years behind the scenes,” said Tossman. “He has had a huge impact on the Gallaudet athletics program. Every morning at 5 a.m. all of the Gallaudet coaches would get an e-mail from Barry about new prospective students. He was always working, was not afraid to confront others who had issues with Gallaudet athletics.”
Strassler was active as a student at Gallaudet from 1961-63,
64-66, as he served as the sports editor of the Buff and Blue and
Tower Clock. The accounting major played men’s soccer in '62,
club baseball in '65 and was the head football team manager in '65.
He has made many contributions to Gallaudet athletics over the
years as he once served, as the editor of the Bison Club
newsletter, was chairperson for the Gallaudet Hall of Fame for
1995, '98, and edit and wrote the Gallaudet football centennial
history book on the Bison program.
“I never cry in public but I am crying because when he introduced me he was my best baseball friend. Thank you for that introduction David,” quipped Strassler to start his speech. “I think I am the worst athlete of all those in the Gallaudet Hall of Fame. I have always been a writer, especially sports writing. In the 1980s I got involved in sport writing because of James DeStefano. Once I started I was hooked. Will I retire? I am past retirement age and I am still working. I am afraid of retirement.”
William T. Sugiyama ’59 was part of the one-two punch of the Gallaudet wrestling program in the 1950s. His former coach Dr. Frank Turk, also a member of the Gallaudet Hall of Fame, presented him.
“William was one of my favorite wrestlers,” said Turk. “You knew William and Pierre would win when we wrestled. The two of them were role models. They were the glue that kept the entire campus together. Not only were they champs on the mat they were champs on campus.”
Sugiyama competed in the 123-pound division while GU Hall of Fame teammate Pierre Sevigny '61 competed at the 157-pound division. The Bison posted an impressive 9-1 team record in 1957 and followed that with a 7-3 record in 1958 as Gallaudet finished second at the Mason-Dixon tournament for the second straight year. Sugiyama had the fortune to wrestle under GU legendary coaches Thompson Clayton and Turk.
Sugiyama, who has Parkinson’s disease, had his wife Peggy speak for him during his induction.
“I am sorry to say I have never seen Bill wrestle. He wanted to say thank you for the honor,” said Peggy Sugiyama. “William says thank you for voting him in.”
The final inductee of the day was Albert A. Walla ’75, a three-year letterwinner at Gallaudet in men’s swimming, who was presented by his former teammate Dr. Jeff Lewis. Lewis discussed how the swim team was able to draw a lot of fans back in the 1970s and that many of the people came to just see Walla swim.
“Back in the 1970s our swim team got more spectators then the football team. That pool was packed whenever we had swim meets in Hughes Gym. People would get there early to get a seat, as there would be standing room only left by the time the meet started,” said Lewis. “Albert was the shining star of that time. He is one of the finest athletes here at Gallaudet.”
Walla re-wrote the Gallaudet swimming record book in just three years. Walla swam for the Bison from 1971-74 as Gallaudet won 12 of 27 meets. In his career he set seven individual school records and was apart of three team relay records. None of his records stand now as the Bison swimming program has improved but Walla’s name remained on the record board in four different events up until 2003. He was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer during the 1973-74 season and he served as a team captain from 1971-72.
“This is a great honor today because my family and friends are here. I am so excited Jeff was here to induct me,” said Walla. “A lot of people said I should had been inducted a long time ago I said no this is the right time.”
President T. Alan Hurwitz gave the closing remarks to wrap up another memorable Gallaudet Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, one that had a lot of emotion and great stories.
2012 Gallaudet University Hall of Fame Induction
Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock with Kathryn A. Baldridge
Brian A. Bippus with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
Stephanie L. Danner with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
Michael C. Kent with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
Barry M. Strassler with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
William T. Sugiyama with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
Albert Walla with Gallaudet Athletic Director Michael Weinstock