On Friday, Oct 4, Emerson Dining Hall played host to the inaugural Wheaton College Athletics Yowell Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The physical display is located in the Haas Athletic Center, where you can find plaques honoring seven former Wheaton athletes, along with tennis coach Lynn Miller, former Executive Director of Athletics Chad Yowell, and the 1983 field hockey team.
The ceremony began with greetings from President Ronald A. Crutcher, Alumnae/i Association President Jane Martin ’74, and Director of Athletics and Recreation John Sutyak ’00. Each inductee was welcomed to the stage, sharing stories that led to their induction, beginning with the 1983 women’s field hockey team.
Head Coach Debi Field ’70 led the women to the first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in Wheaton College history. Along the way, these Lyons earned a 12-2 record and managed a postseason win.
Men and women’s tennis coach Lynn Miller was the first individual honored for the hard work she has contributed to the Wheaton athletic program over the last 33 years. She believes she has been able to stay at Wheaton for so long because of the amazing student-athletes she has worked with, but cites the upcoming years as being her last.
One of the pioneers of Wheaton athletics, Judith Alper Smith ’57, was honored for her work in tennis as well. Still playing in the women’s 75 and over tournaments, Smith shared her future goals in tennis.
“I’m hoping to get a top national ranking when I’m 80. The top four women in the United States get to play to represent the U.S. in international competition, so I’m going to go for it!”
Deborah Simourian Jamgochian ’76 won many golf tournaments in her time at Wheaton, despite the school not having a golf team. Jamgochian shared the story of when she searching for a college to go to at the ceremony.
“My father had always told me that I would attend the school with the best education, not the best golf program”. Wheaton provided the ideal education while allowing Jamgochian to find success on the links against some of the most competitive opponents across the country.
Ann Zarchen Knoblock ’81 was a two-sport athlete at Wheaton, becoming the first Wheaton basketball player to score 1000 career points while also being a finalist in the Massachusetts Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Tennis Championship that year.
Janet Kelly ’86 was a leader on the 1983 field hockey team, and was inducted into the Yowell Hall of Fame as an individual work on defense, while also holding records for her work in lacrosse.
“When I first got the news that there was a Hall of Fame at Wheaton”, said Kelly, “I thought, an academic Hall of Fame? I’d never be a part of that.”
Kim Sears ’00 also played field hockey at Wheaton, but was better known for being one of the most feared hitters and pitchers in the history of the softball program. Sears talked about the struggle to find a college that would fit her financial needs, but that Wheaton made it possible for her to be the first in her family to attend college.
Chris Denorfia ’02 went further than anyone in the history of Wheaton Athletics, being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2002, and eventually playing professional baseball with the organization. Now an established member of the San Diego Padres starting outfield, Denorfia recognized the incredible work put in by Coach Eric Podbelski to mold his baseball career.
“I just hope that everyone here is as proud of this program and of this coach as I was honored to be a part of it…I would not be here without you”.
Perhaps the most dominate athlete in the history of Wheaton athletics, Amber James ’04 was a 17-time NCAA National Champion and 24-time All-American with the track and field team, and was named the greatest female athlete in the 25-year history of indoor track and field.
The final inductee of the evening was Chad Yowell, the former executive director of athletics, and the founding father of men’s athletics at Wheaton as the college went coeducational when Yowell started in 1988. He closed out the night with high praise for the inaugural class, and advice for everyone.
“Do not forget your history. You have an amazing history, both as a women’s college, and as a co-ed institution. Don’t forget your history.”