Most are record-holders or pioneers — the five elite alumni athletes who entered the Stevens Athletics Hall of Fame over a rainy weekend in Hoboken this fall.
But they are also examples of lives well lived away from the playing field and the classroom. Among them are a World War II Navy veteran, engineer and beloved father and grandfather; a men’s volleyball stand-out who played professionally in Germany and now builds Manhattan high-rise apartments; a chiropractor and new mom; a clinical specialist who assists surgeons with technology right in the OR; and a fitness coach and competitive weightlifter working toward the 2020 Olympics.
They are the Class of 2016 Athletics Hall of Fame inductees, who joined this prestigious club on Sept. 30 at Stevens during Homecoming Weekend 2016. The inductees are Robert J. Murphy ’54, who was posthumously inducted for men’s lacrosse, soccer and squash; Andrew Cranford ’09, men’s volleyball; Alyssa Pigott-Decker ’10, women’s lacrosse; Zachary Carr ’11 M.Eng. ’13, men’s soccer; and Laura Barito ’11, women’s swimming and women’s track and field.
The weekend welcomed back alumni and the community to also enjoy Stevens varsity games (all teams scored victories), several alumni games, theater, art, live music and an Oktoberfest.
But the new Hall of Famers occupied much of the spotlight.
Four come from the newest generation of Stevens student athletes of the past decade who represent the university’s recent success and growth as a powerhouse in Division III athletics. Barito —the owner and coach of Falls City CrossFit in Louisville, Kentucky, who is training for the Olympic trials in weight lighting — was a national champion in both swimming (50-meter freestyle) and track & field (400-meter hurdle), an extraordinary 22-time All-American and NCAA Woman of the Year in 2011.
The former engineer, who is attending graduate school at the University of Louisville for exercise physiology, echoed the deep gratitude of her fellow inductees.
“You need teammates who push you,” she told the Hall of Fame audience. “That’s a big part of my success.
“I love what I do. My passion is coaching, and I would not have discovered this if it weren’t for my coaches here.”
Carr was also a national stand-out – and one of the greatest’s goal-keepers that Stevens has ever seen. This All-American was named the NCAA Today’s Top 10 Award Winner in 2011. Every year he played, Stevens made the NCAA Tournament, including an historic appearance in the 2008 national championship match.
Carr now works with MRI Interventions, Inc., as a clinical specialist, attending surgeries and assisting the surgical team with use of the company’s technology.
He finds this chance to directly help patients and medical professionals deeply rewarding, as he does his memories of Stevens. They don’t involve games as much as long bus rides with teammates, practices in the rain, victory parties and, mostly, meeting his wife, Krista Sticco Carr ’12.
“No one really stands here alone,” Carr said. “We are all here due to the people who helped us along the way.”
This was poignantly illustrated through the friendship of the late Robert Murphy and his lacrosse co-captain and fellow Hall of Famer Arlan “Dick” Rogers ’54, who drove up from Virginia to honor his friend, who died in 2011.
“I wanted Bob to be here,” Rogers said. “Bob Murphy was qualified as anyone I knew to receive this honor. I’m absolutely delighted he got the honor that he worked so hard for and deserved.”
Murphy managed to play three sports –lacrosse, soccer and squash – during his Stevens years and finished ninth in the country in lacrosse scoring. Amazingly, the longtime Foster Wheeler engineer never played lacrosse or soccer before coming to Stevens.
When Rogers was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, Rogers felt that his lacrosse co-captain should join him. Murphy attended the ceremony to support him, and Rogers lobbied on Murphy’s behalf until he was selected for this year’s class.
Murphy’s wife, Joan, his two daughters Dani and Karen, and his son, Robert, Jr., all attended his induction, with Robert Jr. accepting his father’s Hall of Fame plaque.
“He lived and breathed Stevens Institute,” Robert, Jr. said. “He loved this place until the day he died.
“Bob Murphy has an everlasting home in the Stevens Athletics Hall of Fame.”
Cranford, now a project manager with Tishman in New York, earlier spoke of the winning culture that was built over the years within the men’s volleyball program and athletics program, culminating in the men’s volleyball national championship win in 2015, which he was so proud to witness.
This All-American and national player of the year for 2009 spoke with awe of how Stevens can produce national champions and “one of the best academic colleges in the country.”
“That’s what makes Stevens special,” he said.
Meanwhile, All-American lacrosse player Alyssa Pigott-Decker found love, a career and teammates who became close friends during her Stevens years.
She and men’s lacrosse player and husband David Decker ’10 are now chiropractors in private practice together in Robbinsville, New Jersey, and have a 1-year-old son.
Pigott-Decker thanked her parents, her coach, Celine Cunningham, her teammates and, of course, her husband, who she couldn’t resist teasing.
“He was a lacrosse player, too,” she said. “Obviously, I’m the one up here tonight.”
Homecoming also featured several alumni/alumnae games, with this growing tradition including alumnae lacrosse and two men’s alumni lacrosse matches, an alumni softball game, alumni swim meets and an alumni baseball game. Theta Beta Pi, with student and alumni cast members, presented comedic vignettes of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” The weekend also welcomed the visual arts and music to campus with the inaugural OnPoint Fest, which drew approximately 500 people to two outdoor stages and an art exhibition across campus.
Current brothers and alumni of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity had their moment too-- an awards ceremony to honor the chapter with a 2016 Chapter Award of Distinction from the North-American Interfraternity Conference. The prestigious national award honored the chapter from thousands of chapters nationwide for its high GPA (3.562), community service and leadership.
Michael Kochanik ’87 returned for Homecoming with his family, including his son, a high school sophomore who dreams of being an engineer.
“It’s nice to show my family where I went to school, and I wanted to show my son, who’s a soccer player, what a collegiate game looks like,” he said. Stevens men’s soccer obliged, defeating Elmira College 5-1.
“It was a great game,” Kochanik said.