Last Friday, Beckham Hall hosted the 2016 Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“The Wesleyan University Athletics Hall of Fame is intended to honor and give lasting recognition to those individuals or teams, who either through participation, support or interest, have made outstanding contributions in the athletics arena and specifically to the Wesleyan athletics program,” Athletic Director Mike Whalen ’83 said. “The individuals and teams enshrined have not only brought recognition, honor, and distinction to Wesleyan and its athletics program, but they also have continued to demonstrate in their lives the values imparted by participating in intercollegiate athletics. Inductions to the Hall of Fame occur every other year.”
This year’s class is the eighth of all-time and inductees included Bill Brooks ’49, P ’71, Jenna Flateman Posner ’04, Alexis Keeler ’02, Peter Kostacopoulos, Don Russell, and the 1994 women’s soccer team.
“This year’s class includes six inductees, three former athletes, two former coaches, and one team,” Whalen said. “All have very impressive credentials and are well deserving of this recognition.”
Keeler captained the volleyball team for two seasons and still holds the record for most services aces of all time at 361. She was the 2001 conference player of the year and led the Cardinals to their inaugural NCAA Championship appearance. During that ’01 season, Keeler finished as an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American Honorable Mention. Keeler reflected on what she took from her experience as a leader of a collegiate sports team.
“There are a lot of things that I learned from being a college athlete that help me in life: perseverance, future-oriented thinking, and the idea that I can get better at something if I work at it,” Keeler said. “Two things that come to the top of my mind, however, are self-confidence and humility. I was a leader, a starter, and had lots of opportunities to feel like a total bad-ass. At the same time, none of my success was solely my own. If my teammates hadn’t also been amazing, dedicated players, we could never have done as well as we did. I think that balance of believing in my own ability and, at the same time, understanding that my success depends on others has really served me well on the job, as a parent, and generally in life.”
The former All-American looked back on some of her favorite moments in Middletown.
“I loved Wesleyan,” she said. “When I was a freshman, I joined and co-created this social group for tall women called Amazon 6’. Once, we had a wrestling match at Eclectic against anyone who wanted to challenge us. They put mattresses all over the floor of the downstairs common area, advertised it across campus, and got someone to be an announcer. I honestly don’t know how many people came, but in my memory of it there were like over 100 people there! We all got dressed up like WWF wrestlers and spent the evening kicking ass and taking names, before I got a concussion…oops! But I literally have hundreds of memories like that, because Wesleyan was full of creative, interesting, and nerdy people, so awesomeness was happening every day.”
Flateman Posner was a two-sport letterman in track and field as well as field hockey. She was the 2003 NCAA Division III National Champion in the 55-meter dash, seven-time NCAA All-American, and three-time Academic All-American. To pile onto her athletic resume, Flateman Posner joined the women’s sevens rugby national team for seven years.
Track and Field Coach Walter Curry was at the helm of the track and field program while Flateman Posner was at the University and remembered his former athlete as determined and tough.
“It was determined in January of her junior year that Jenna had developed a stress fracture across the top of her foot,” Curry said. “We were told it wouldn’t get any worse, but it would not heal up unless Jenna took about 6 to 8 weeks off, which would be the whole indoor track season. Jenna decided she was not going to give up her indoor track season.”
If one just looked at the results, they would have no clue that Flateman Posner was regularly battling injury concerns.
“After a whole indoor season of four-day-a-week pool workouts, with a one-day-a-week, 40-minute track workout doing block starts, she competed in the last regular season meet of the indoor season,” Curry said. “From there, she won the Division III New England Championship, the ECAC Regional Championships, qualified for the NCAA Division III championships, and won the National Championships with a season-best time of 7.01. One of the most inspiring and amazing performances I have ever seen or been involved with.”
Kostacopolous still holds the record for the most wins as a coach at Wesleyan, accumulating these victories as baseball coach for 28 seasons, from 1974 to 2001. He held a .610 winning percentage and was 22 wins shy of 500 for his career. Kostacopolous was also a squash and assistant football coach at Wesleyan. He led the Cardinals to 11 Little Three titles, a NCAA College World Series runner-up finish in 1994, and earned NCAA Coach of the Year laurels during the same campaign.
A former Athletic Director for two decades, Russell served as the head of both the football and women’s squash programs at the University. He was widely respected by the administration, faculty, and his professional peers because of his ability to be extremely active on both athletic and local committees. He coached the last undefeated Wesleyan team in 1969 (8-0), and his .661 winning percentage is the best among coaches in the modern era. Russell also helped to found the NESCAC in 1971.
“It was particularly gratifying for me to have former Wesleyan football coach and Athletic Director Don Russell and former assistant football coach and baseball coach Peter ‘Kosty’ Kostacopolous inducted, as both were at Wesleyan during my time as a student-athlete,” Whalen said. “There were a large number of former student-athletes who played for both Russell and Kosty who attended the dinner to support their former coaches. In fact, Jed Hoyer ’96 who played baseball for Coach Kosty and is now the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs took the redeye from Los Angeles after the Cubs won game five of the NLCS, attended the dinner, and then flew back to Chicago to watch the Cubs win the National League pennant. That is a testament to how strong the bond is between student-athlete and coach.”
Brooks was an integral part of three consecutive undefeated seasons for the football team, and he holds the University record for the longest run from scrimmage at 94 yards. On the oval, the World War II veteran is the all-time record holder in the old English measured 100- and 220-yard dashes.
The 1994 women’s soccer team also landed a spot in the Hall of Fame after finishing 12-4-1 and capturing the ECAC New England Division III Championship. Jeff Vagell coached the team, and Michelle Duff ’95, Olga Fernandez ’95, and Rachel Hunt ’95 captained the Cardinals to its most successful season in program history.
The fancy event sold out and was given rave reviews by many alumni including Whalen.
“There were over 180 people who attended the dinner and it was a first-class event,” Whalen said. “There were many individuals who came back to campus for the first time in a decade. The HOF engages our alumni and presents our athletic program in a positive light.”