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2012 Athletics Hall of Fame Induction

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hilton Garden Inn
Troy, New York

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I am delighted to be here today, and I hope that all of you have had an enjoyable Reunion and Homecoming Weekend. No doubt, you had the chance to see and catch up with old friends and fellow alumni and alumnae. I hope that those of you who have not been back here for a few years are pleased with the changes on this campus, especially our wonderful East Campus Athletic Village. Athletics always has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of the Rensselaer student experience.

Nearly four centuries ago, the English poet, John Donne, wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” This concept—that we are all interconnected and, in many ways, interdependent on one another—rings true both globally, and on an individual human scale. For athletes in particular, camaraderie and a sense of belonging is a vivid and cherished part of life.

Nobody knows this better than the honorees who are among us. They also know of the great sacrifices, and of tremendous determination, it takes to rise to the top. Each of you endured long hours of practice, seemingly endless travel, and precious time away from other activities. You know first-hand how important the support of family and friends can be in reaching your goals, and in helping you get to where you are today.

Think back to your earliest days as children -- perhaps playing Little League, or on your middle school sports team. Remember how much it meant to look up to the bleachers and see family members and friends cheering you on?

Think how often your parents or family members drove you to games or meets or practice, whether at the crack of dawn, or after a long day of work, or on weekends.

And when you came here to Rensselaer, your Rensselaer team also became part of your family. Your coaches not only motivated you and your teammates to do your best, but they were supportive mentors who lent a helping hand, or a shoulder to lean on, when you needed it most. Likewise, your teammates encouraged you, and, with time, you learned to work together to make the most of each other’s strengths. Like family, together, you celebrated wins… and, together, you suffered defeats.

Everyone in your circle—your Rensselaer family, your immediate and extended family, and your friends—continues to cheer you on.

In a few minutes, we will honor our six new Hall of Fame inductees. But before that happens, I would like to offer my hearty congratulations to our six student-athlete award winners for their outstanding performance during the 2011-2012 academic year:

  • Our Freshmen of the Year, Class of 2015: Softball player Kristina Weltzin and golfer Brandon Mader
  • Our Athletes of the Year: Women’s basketball player Hillary McKinley (Class of ’12) and football player Mike Hermann (Class of ’13)
  • And our Career Athletes, Class of 2012: Men’s lacrosse player Tyler Hutchinson and softball player Sara Heller

And, of course, we congratulate our esteemed Marvin Anderson Award winner: Leslie K. DeLano, our head women’s lacrosse coach.

Please join me in giving all seven a big round of applause.

Thank you all for your hard work and contributions. We are proud to share in your success.

We also are privileged to have with us six worthy additions to the Rensselaer Athletic Hall of Fame. Let me introduce new inductees:

  • From the Class of ’98, hockey forward Eric Healey earned his degree in management while leading the league in scoring in the ’97-’98 season, and twice leading the team in scoring. He was an ECAC All-Rookie Team choice, a three-time All-ECAC selection and a two-time National All-America honoree. Eric helped Rensselaer to one NCAA Tournament appearance and four ECAC Tournaments.

We have two inductees from the Class of 2005:

  • With a degree in mechanical engineering, Melissa Hershey—known to many of you simply as “Turnip”—was a four-time National All-America diver. She finished seventh or better off both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards every season at the league and state levels. A two-time captain, she was the school record holder in three events, holds the Robison Pool records off both boards, and was UCAA Diver of the Year in the 2003-04 season.
  • Women’s basketball captain, Kaitlyn Saunders, who holds a degree in environmental engineering, was a three-time All-League selection, including First Team honors in her final two years. Twice a National All-America Honorable Mention, Kaitlyn set several school records, and is the career leader in steals and free throws made, while ranking second in points.

And from the Class of 2004, we have two inductees who happen to share not only a sport, but a strong friendship as well:

  • Quarterback Dan Cole—who graduated with a degree in electronic media, arts, and communication—set nearly every school passing and total offense record. He helped the team to earn its highest ranking and the Lambert Trophy. Dan also earned multiple individual honors including National All-America, as well as Offensive Player of the Year by both Liberty League and ECAC. Each season, he was the team’s Offensive MVP.
  • Inductee Flynn Cochran, who holds a degree in management, is one of the most decorated dual-sport athletes in Rensselaer’s history. Yes, I said two sports: football and baseball. As two-time football captain, primarily as wide receiver, Flynn set records for career receptions and receiving yards. He was a National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame National Scholar-Athlete, and twice a National Academic All-America First Team Selection. On the baseball diamond, Flynn was a multiple All-League and All-Region honoree, while helping the team advance to the NCAA Tournament each season, including an appearance in the NCAA World Series in 2002.

And that brings us to our sixth and final inductee this afternoon. This person is not an alumnus, but a beloved former coach, for whom both Dan and Flynn played:

In the long history of Rensselaer football, Joe King was undoubtedly our most successful coach, in terms of both wins and winning percentage. During his 22-year tenure as head football coach, Joe led the Engineers to two perfect regular seasons, 19 winning seasons, five league championships, four NCAA Playoff appearances, a first-ever trip to the National Semifinals in 2003, and nine ECAC Championship Games, eight of which were victories.

A five-time League Coach of the Year, as well as the East Region Coach of the Year and the Division III National Coach of the Year, Joe coached more than 30 pre-season All-Americas, 20 post-season All-Americas—including our first American Football Coaches Association First Team All-America—as well as many All-Region and All-Conference honorees.

Joe is a Ballston Spa native and graduate of Sienna College with a degree in history, having played football and baseball as an undergraduate. He arrived at Rensselaer in 1981 and spent his first five seasons as assistant coach, followed by three years as associate head coach. He also served as assistant athletic director during the last eight years of his tenure, and was head track & field coach.

Talking about Joe underscores the importance of having the support of family and friends… Joe always stressed the value of family. His wife, Gail, attended all his games, and his sons, Kevin and Joey, worked with the team as well.

So, on behalf of all of us at Rensselaer, I especially want to thank the families, friends, coaches, and teammates of our six extraordinary inductees for their support and guidance through the years. Our honorees could not have done it without you.

We applaud them for their remarkable achievements. They represent the best of Rensselaer, and we truly are proud that they have remained part of our vibrant Rensselaer family.

To them, I say: Thank you for sharing your success with us. Wherever life takes you, I hope you know that you will always be a part of Rensselaer, and Rensselaer a part of you.

Thank you.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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