“Once a Saint, always a Saint”
SARANAC LAKE, NY – More than 130 people who have made outstanding contributions to North Country Community College athletics were inducted into the college’s new Athletic Hall of Fame before a packed house of enthusiastic family, friends and college supporters on Friday, Sept. 22.
Part of the college’s ongoing 50th anniversary celebration, the dinner and Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium felt more like a family reunion. Former teammates who hadn’t seen each other in years reunited with smiles, handshakes and bear hugs. Coaches shared laughs and reminisced with their former players.
“It is so rewarding to see all of these guys after so many years,” said Bob Hudak, a Hall of Fame inductee who was a lacrosse and ski coach and a long-time athletic director at the college. “Seeing and recognizing their faces and getting a chance to visit with them, it’s like just going back to the old days. It’s fantastic.”
The initial class of inductees to the Athletic Hall of Fame represents the first 30 years of North Country’s athletic program, from 1967 to 1997. Nominations were sought by a committee of current and former coaches, administrators and players. The Inductees who were selected “have helped bring recognition, honor, distinction and excellence to North Country Community College and its intercollegiate athletic programs,” per the Hall of Fame’s Mission Statement.
This inaugural class includes student-athletes from men’s soccer (40), men’s ice hockey (28), men’s lacrosse (21), women’s soccer (13), women’s basketball (12), alpine skiing (11), men’s basketball (7), women’s field hockey (7) and women’s softball (7). Eight coaches and administrators, two contributors, a distinguished alumnus and the members of teams were also enshrined in the Hall of Fame: the 1995 men’s hockey team, the 1988-89 men’s alpine ski team, the 1981-82 women’s alpine ski team, and the 1973-74 men’s basketball team.
Better than normal
One by one, each inductee was introduced, brought to the stage and presented with a plaque commemorating his or her selection to the Hall of Fame. Their athletic accomplishments at the college were outlined to the crowd, in many cases by their former coaches.
Tim Gerrish, a Hall of Fame member who coached North Country’s men’s hockey team to a national title in 1995, said the inductees all share “special talents.”
“You saw the game, you performed, and did it at a high level,” Gerrish said. “The college was able to offer you time and motivation, but what you did was take it to a different level. You said, ‘I want to be better than normal,’ and that’s why you’re sitting here tonight.”
“This is validation that you did the right thing, that you were great players,” added Hall of Fame inductee Larry McFaddin, who has coached men’s and women’s soccer at North Country. “It’s all because of your hard work, skill, determination, your will to win and your crazy personalities.”
“We have a saying in our department: Once a Saint, always a Saint,” NCCC Athletic Director Chad LaDue, who was also enshrined in the Hall of Fame, told the crowd. “And when I look out at all of you, that saying has never been more true.”
Returning to NCCC was a trip down memory lane for all the inductees. Men’s lacrosse Hall of Famer Mike Hayden, who attended the college in 1972-73 and now lives in St. Augustine, Florida, recalled having to shovel snow off the lacrosse field in May so the team could play a game.
“We used an orange ball because the snow was all over the place,” he said. “It was fun though. I’ve always loved it here. It’s magical coming back here to the Adirondacks and the college. I have a lot of good memories.”
Scott Anderson, a goalie on the 1995 national championship hockey team, said this was the first time he’d been back on campus since graduation.
“I remember walking from my apartment in Saranac Lake through the winter streets to get to class, and the rides to and from the Olympic Center (in Lake Placid) for practice and games,” Anderson said. “The town has changed. There’s more development but it still has that small-town charm.”
Hall of Fame inductee John Konowitz coached men’s basketball at North Country from 1982 to 1985, including a 21-5 record in his final year. In retrospect, he said he wished he had stayed longer.
“We were only here for three years but it was three of the most fulfilling years of our lives,” he said. “What this college has done is it’s really put this area on the map.”
Many inductees shared how their time at North Country — in the classroom and on the field of play – shaped their lives. Anderson, who lives in Rockland County and teaches sixth grade math and science, said his success in hockey at North Country created new opportunities for him.
“I was able to continue my hockey in college and even try out for professional teams,” he said. “It opened doors for me to further my education, which allowed me to become a teacher. I’ve had a lot of important stepping stones along the way, and this was definitely a big piece.”
Anderson’s teammate, Tobias Elgan of Sweden, credits his North Country education with setting him on the right path. He has a PhD in biochemistry and is a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
“I was more into hockey than academics in high school,” Elgan said. “But when I came here, I started to really study hard and got good grades and found my interest in the physical sciences: math, chemistry, physics and biology. It was here that I found that focus.”
“We know our alumni have gone on to great things,” said college President Dr. Steve Tyrell. “Our alumni athletes tell us that they have learned to lead, to work hard, and to be effective on teams at work as a result of their experience in intercollegiate sports as a Saint. For the college, we’ve been blessed to enjoy decades of high-caliber competition, and we know the importance intercollege sports have played in fostering student engagement.
“We’re so pleased to host the first of many Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.”
What it shows
The induction ceremony was the kick-off to a Hall of Fame weekend full of festivities at the college. The inductees were recognized on the field between a pair of Saints’ soccer games on Saturday, at a new Wall of Fame outside the Sparks Athletic Complex gymnasium and at a reception at Nonna Fina restaurant. They participated in men’s and women’s alumni soccer games on Sunday.
Charles “Tug” Duffy, a men’s lacrosse Hall of Famer and local building contractor, took in Saturday’s festivities with several family members who returned home to see him inducted, including his sister Patti Duffy, a NCCC graduate who lives in San Diego, California.
“I think what the college is doing for the past athletes and students, and what it shows to the current and future athletes and students is remarkable and incredible,” he said.
“It shows the community what this region has, and the quality of the school,” Patti Duffy added. “It really says a lot.”
Subsequent classes of Athletic Hall of Fame inductees will be named every five years. For a complete list of this year’s inductees, or to nominate someone to the Hall of Fame, visit http://nccc.prestosports.com/landing/index
About North Country Community College: As the only public college located in the Adirondack Park, North Country Community College provides educational, cultural and recreational programming to a 3,500 square mile service area with 90,000 inhabitants. The College maintains three campuses in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga, New York; an extensive high school-based academic partnership; and online course offerings. North Country Community College is part of the SUNY (State University of New York) system. With 64 unique Colleges and Universities, SUNY provides learning environments for every type of student, every stage of life, and every kind of passion. For more information contact Stacie Hurwitch, Executive Assistant to the President at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Athletic Hall of Fame contact Chris Knight, NCCC Director of Communications, at 518-891-2915 ext. 1267.