Stormy remnants of Hurricane Joaquin may have left Castle Point damp and windswept, but spirits shined brightly during Homecoming Weekend.
Despite some wind and rain, more than 200 people returned to campus on October 2-3 for the annual celebration of Stevens athletics, school spirit and fall. One memorable highlight was the Stevens Athletic Hall of Fame inductions, which drew more than 120 people back to Stevens to congratulate the newest Hall of Fame class, including Frank Rotunda, the former longtime men’s lacrosse coach and athletic director who devoted 30 years to the university. Rotunda, who traveled from California, saw more than 30 former student athletes and guests come back to thank him on his big night, including players from his first year of coaching through his twilight year.
Joining Rotunda in the Athletic Hall of Fame are: the late David E Martin ’53, soccer, basketball and lacrosse; Adam Sandt ’07, baseball; Nicholas Gkionis ’08, soccer; and Dora (Enright) Michniok ’08, basketball. (Read more about their outstanding athletic careers at Stevens).
“The 2015 Stevens Athletic Hall of Fame class is truly special,” said Russell Rogers, Stevens director of physical education, athletics and recreation. “The group covers a variety of eras in our institution’s history and each athlete, along with Coach Rotunda, has left an immeasurable mark on the athletic program.”
Rotunda, who served as men’s lacrosse coach from 1970 to1990 and as athletic director from 1989 to 1997, called the evening humbling. With lacrosse, he thought he was just introducing many students to a brand new sport and a much-needed escape from their rigorous studies. That evening, he learned that he may have been doing something more.
“You find out later that you have an impact (on students) — it’s pretty special when you find that out,” he said. “You did more than you think you did.”
Enright, who holds the women’s basketball record for most points scored and most rebounds, returned from Denver and said that she felt deeply honored, especially when she looked out to see such a stellar collection of Stevens’ best athletes over the decades gathered in one place.
“Our ages ranged, through multiple decades and multiple sports,” she said. “The ability to combine athletics and academics and be successful at both is truly amazing to me, and to see this in so many athletes.”
Adam Sandt, who came from North Carolina and is Stevens baseball’s all-time leader in hits and RBIs, called it a great night of memories, celebration and laughter.
“It was a shining moment for myself and for the baseball program that I will never forget,” he said. “I hadn’t been back to campus in years, so it was great to see some familiar faces of the staff as well as some former teammates of mine.”
Gkionis, who led the men’s soccer team to four NCAA Sweet 16’s, was simply “the most complete player I ever coached,” said former men’s soccer coach Tim O’Donohue. “He played on the only undefeated team in Stevens history (2006, 18-0-3) and was the key component on that team. He is the best player I coached at Stevens.”
Sue Martin, the daughter of David Martin, represented her late father at his induction ceremony. Her father did speak though, through his words read that evening from the book, "A Conversation with Dave Martin." The book is part of the Lasting Legacy Initiative project of Hospice of Warren County, Pennsylvania — a favorite charity of Mr. Martin’s.
“It was a wonderful time for me to go to college because half of the students in college were World War II graduates,” he said in the book. “It was an all-men’s school so we had some very good role models, and we were a bunch of crazy boys and it helped me growing up.”
The weekend also featured Greek open houses and the Alumni Association’s popular Oktoberfest, with brews and German fare. But the weekend mostly celebrated Stevens athletics, past and present.
Despite a steady drizzle, the alumnae lacrosse game went off at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the student team defeating the alumnae 9-7. Some 23 former players took to the field, journeying from as far away as Ohio.
While wet weather canceled the annual alumni lacrosse and alumni baseball games, the alumni swim meet was held again at DeBaun Pool, with alumni travelling from even farther distances – California, Idaho and Florida. In all, 32 alumni returned, with the Class of 2014 winning the Alumni Relay Cup.
Stevens men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball also competed during the weekend. Esperanza and Ernesto Shiling ’82 cheered on the women’s volleyball team and came back to support Stevens, the athletics program – and to check up on son Tyler, a junior electrical engineering major.
Shiling, a proud STEP alumnus who went on to a 33-year career with IBM (he now works with Keysight Corporation) said he was feeling proud to be a Stevens alumnus and is hopeful for his son, given Stevens’ recent top 10 national rankings for 20-year return on investment and mid-career salaries.
“I think these are fantastic stats,” he said. “These are real-world returns. These things make us happy that our son is here.”
Joe Llano ’00 brought his wife, their three children and his parents to also support the volleyball and soccer teams and to expose his children to Stevens and its athletics programs. New family-friendly #RedOUT sports events – with fun activities and giveaways for the kids – have attracted them, but Llano would have come back anyway.
“This was home to me for a while; I want to share this with my kids,” said the former Stevens baseball player, now vice president of ITsavvy. “I’m proud of Stevens.
“It used to be a university only known for engineering. Now, people outside of engineering say that Stevens is not just a great engineering school. It’s a great university.”
Stevens Director of Athletics Russell Rogers, far left, congratulates the 2015 inductees into the Stevens Athletic Hall of Fame. From left: Rogers; Adam Sandt ’07; Sue Martin, daughter of the late David E. Martin ’53; Coach Frank Rotunda; Dora Enright ’08; and Nicholas Gkionis ’08.