THREE NEW MEMBERS SET FOR PIONEER HALL OF FAME INDUCTION-SATURDAY NIGHT
Utica, N.Y. (4/17/2012) – Utica College is set to host its fifth annual Pioneer Hall of Fame & Senior Student-Athlete Recognition ceremony, sponsored by Anaconda Sports, on campus in the Harold T. Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium on Saturday, April 28. The 2012 induction class includes recently retired Director of Athletics Jim Spartano, former Division I men’s basketball star Keith Walker, All-American women’s basketball player Jessica Berry and the College’s first-ever women’s basketball team (1949-50).
Those interested in attending can register online at www.utica.edu/hof or call 315.792.3053.
The Pioneer Hall of Fame was established in 2008 to celebrate the dedicated student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and benefactors whose extraordinary achievements express the values of Utica College in the spirit of competition within a lifelong learning environment.
2012 Induction Class
Jim “Doc” Spartano – Administrator & Coach
Keith Walker ’85 – Men’s Basketball
Jessica Berry ’11 – Women’s Basketball, All-American
First Women’s Basketball Team – 1949-1950
Jim ‘Doc’ Spartano’s Hall of Fame career could not be judged simply by wins and losses. Instead his legacy will carry on through the 1,000′s of student-athletes, coaches and colleagues that he mentored and inspired throughout his 38 year tenure. The phrase “positive experience” was not a term that was taken lightly by Spartano, and through his tireless efforts and student-first approach, he was able to create and maintain a culture of fairness and success that reached far beyond any playing surface. He truly embodied the mission of the department by ensuring that a positive student experience remained paramount at all times and his ability to connect with students, faculty and staff has undoubtedly left an impression on the College that will live on for years to come.
Jim Spartano began his career at Utica College in 1973 and throughout his 38 year career he held positions as Director of Athletics, as well as head coach of the baseball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams. After accepting his position as Director of Athletics in 1982, he guided the UC athletic department from a small Division I program into a vast Division III institution that offers 25 NCAA sponsored sports.
Beginning in the year 2000, Spartano guided the UC athletic program to new heights, including the addition of 13 varsity sports. By the time he retired in December of 2011, he led a department of over 50 staff members and 640 student-athletes.
He spearheaded the expansion of several athletic facilities on campus including the Harold T. Clark Jr. Athletic Center, the Gary M. Kunath Fitness Center, the Harold T. Clark Sr. Team Facility, Charles A. Gaetano Stadium and the College’s Annex at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Throughout the years, he was the proud leader of several NCAA Tournament teams, a vast intramural program, and multiple All-American selections.
As a baseball coach, Spartano believed in speed and tight defense to win games. In 12 years (1977-1989) as the Pioneers skipper he compiled a 198-149 career record. In those 12 years the Pioneers posted just two losing seasons. Three of the teams he coached won the ECAC Upstate Championship and in 1985 he coached the Division I all-stars against the best players from Division II and III at Shea Stadium. Spartano started off at Utica College as the men’s head basketball coach. In seven seasons (1974-1980, 1994-95) he went 85-81 overall. His best season was in 1975-76 when he coached the Pioneers to a 14-8 overall record.
In his undergraduate years, he was an All-Conference baseball player at Oneonta State. During his time as a Red Dragon, he broke the school-record for stolen bases. Playing second base, he finished with an incredible fielding percentage of .990. Upon graduation, Spartano played four years of semi-professional baseball for the Milford Macs. He batted to a .403 average in his best season with Milford.
A spectacular career in athletics has resulted in his induction into the Oneonta State Hall of Fame and the SUNYAC Sports Hall of Fame.
Spartano received his masters degree in Physical Education Administration from Syracuse University in 1977.
Spartano recently returned from his first Winter in Florida and he currently resides in Utica. He is the proud father of two daughters, Adrienne and Rinae.
When Keith Walker ’85 put up a shot Head Coach Larry Costello and the rest of the Pioneers knew that there was a favorable chance the scoreboard was about to register two more points for Utica College’s Division I men’s basketball program. It’s not that Walker took the most shots on the team, it’s that he always played within himself, and because of that he is the only UC basketball player ever to grace the NCAA Division I record books.
As the team’s Most Valuable Player in his senior year, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native single handedly propelled the Pioneers into the national spotlight by leading the entire country in field goal percentage. Walker shot 71.3% (154-for-215) in his senior campaign and to this day he ranks third all-time in the Division I record book. In that same year Walker also netted a game-high 22 points against Syracuse University under the pressure and expectations set by a raucous Carrier Dome crowd. He led the Pioneers to a stunning 69-61 upset victory at home against Canisius and on top of all this, he added a career-best 30 point effort at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Walker, a 6-foot-5 low post threat, was a part of the College’s first-ever Division I recruiting class and his passion, alongside the likes of fellow Pioneer Hall of Famer DJ Carstensenand co-captain Wallace Williams, was to put the Pioneers on the map in the enormous world of Division I basketball. Walker did just that by helping transform the club into a winner in just four short years. During his time at UC he guided the Pioneers to 41 victories including 37 of which came in his final three seasons. In his senior season, the Pioneers won a then-best 15 games, including two victories against eventual postseason teams.
To this day Keith ranks seventh on the College’s all-time list with 500 career rebounds and he is one of 12 players in school-history to score 1,000 or more points in a career. He is also in an elite club of just three Pioneers who scored more than 1,000 points and grabbed 500 rebounds, joining Gordon Taylor ’78 and Mark Carmichael ’90. Included in this impressive basketball resume is a place atop the College’s all-time career field goal percentage list, after shooting 62.8% (429-of-681) from the floor over the course of four seasons (99 games).
In his junior campaign he ranked second on the team, behind Carstenson, with an average of 12.6 points per contest and he also averaged 5.6 rebounds per game. In that same season he propelled the Pioneers to a thrilling 60-58 victory over St. Francis after knocking down a hook shot with just two ticks left on the game clock.
As a senior on the extremely competitive Philadelphia High School basketball scene, Walker led Benjamin Franklin to a city public school championship, while averaging 16.3 points per contest en route to earning All-State accolades.
Keith currently resides in Bear, Delaware with his wife Kimberly and daughters Aja and Ebony, as well as his son Nicholas. He is a counselor and teacher at Glen Mills School where he teaches writing skills to adjudicated youths. He graduated from Utica with a degree in communications.
Jessica Berry ’11 stormed on the Utica College basketball scene in 2007 and from that point forward she began her ascent to the top of the women’s basketball record books through hard work, dedication and unmatched athleticism. The Rome, NY native not only turned the College’s record books upside down, she also solidified herself as one of the best NCAA Division III players in history after becoming just the 11th woman to score over 2,000 points and register more than 1,000 rebounds in a career.
Berry played a major role in lifting the Lady Pioneers to unparalleled success, as they garnered four consecutive Empire 8 Conference Tournament appearances, two Empire 8 Conference titles, and two NCAA Division III Tournament selections. All told, she helped Head Coach Michele Davis and the Pioneers win 72 games.
Following her senior campaign she was named to the prestigious Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division III All-American Team. Just ten players from a pool of 441 teams were selected for what is considered to be the nation’s elite All-American team. In her final year with the Pioneers she gathered five other post-season awards, including the 2011 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III Upstate Player of the Year, D3hoops.com 2nd Team All-American, D3hoops.com East Region Player of the Year, Empire 8 Conference Player of the Year as well as Empire 8 All-Conference First Team recognition. She also earned two of the College’s highest athletic honors after winning the Dick Miller and Kiwanis Student-Athlete awards.
Berry wrapped up her amazing four year career with a school-record 2,111 points and she also grabbed 1,065 rebounds. Berry, who was named one of 11 female finalist for the Jostens Trophy (National Player of the Year), was a two-time Empire 8 Conference Player of the Year and she was also a four-time all-conference first team selection.
In her senior campaign she led the conference and ranked tenth nationally with an average of 21.6 points per game. She also led the conference and ranked 39th nationally with 10.5 rebounds per game. In her junior season she guided UC to a program-best 22-7 overall record, as the Pioneers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Berry, who attended Rome Free Academy, is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Utica College and she remains close to the program as a volunteer assistant for Head Coach Michele Davis.
First Women’s Basketball Team, 1949-1950
The first women’s basketball team consisted of Jean Halladay, Jean Soter, Elsie Shemin-Roth (Captain), Mildred Leepa, Paul Robbins, Jonnie Koch, Iris Davidson, Vivian Bienenfeld, Janet Fahning and Head Coach Hank Scalise.
The inaugural varsity women’s basketball team at Utica College persevered and succeeded in a time when college athletics were reserved strictly for males. In this respect, the 1949-1950 women’s basketball team truly personified the nickname “Pioneers”.
The women’s basketball team, led by Head Coach Frank Scalise and Captain Elsie Shemin-Roth, blazed a trail in women’s athletics and helped to set the stage for the advancement of women in sport, not just here at Utica College, but across the entire country.
After pleading with then-Director of Athletics Henry Varhley, and the College’s administration, the hopeful basketeers successfully achieved the right to form a varsity women’s basketball team in late-October of 1949.
The then-Lady Tangerlines, outfitted in tattered and torn men’s soccer uniforms, took to the court over half a century ago and used an undying effort and enthusiasm to pave the way for women sports at Utica College. The team started off with 11 women, most of whom had never played basketball before. Under the direction and assistance of Coach Scalise, the girls quickly mastered the men’s game, through three practices a week at the local YWCA, and they developed into a viable threat each and every time they took to the court.
On Monday, January 9, 1950 the Tangerlines made their debut against the PLAV girls’ team as a preliminary to the men’s game against Rochester Tech. Shemin-Roth scored the program’s first-ever basket when she knocked down the opening two-pointer with a quick lay-up. The Tangerlines fell behind in the contest but they rallied an offensive drive with two minutes left on the game clock, led by Paula Robbins, who sank a spectacular one-handed shot from the keyhole. She was ably backed up by Mildred Leepa, Jean Halladay and Jean Soter. Despite their spirited effort, they lost their first varsity contest, 34-12.
The Tangerlines notched the College’s first victory in a women’s sport on Saturday, February 11, 1950 when they edged out the Utica School of Commerce, 14-12, on the court at Utica Free Academy. Janet Fahning and Paula Robbins each tallied five points in the victory, while Vivian Bienenfeld accounted for four of the Tangerline tallies. They trailed 4-2 at the half, but perseverance and inspired ball led the ladies to a come from behind victory as they controlled possession for the majority of the second half.
Over the course of their first year of competition the UC women’s team squared off against the likes of the Polish League of American Veterans and Utica Cutlery, as well as the Holland Patent girl’s team.
In the Spring of 1998 the Lady Tangerlines were welcomed back to Utica College to finally receive their long overdue varsity letters during a reunion and awards ceremony on campus.