Vice chancellor David Williams stressed how difficult it is to choose inductees for the Vanderbilt University athletic hall of fame, and the scope of the third class, a group of 10 that was revealed Tuesday afternoon, made his point.
A university with an athletics history that dates back more than a century did not create a hall of fame until two years ago. Thus the number of eligible – and deserving candidates – is sizable, to say the least.
This year, Williams and the rest of the 12-member committee ultimately faced with that task settled on a group whose time on campus comprises a span of 110 years, from legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, who first set foot on campus in 1898, to the all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball, Shan Foster who played his final game in 2008.
“It’s a hard process, but it’s a fun process when we get to this point,” Williams said. “… There are many days when we have to end the discussion because we just can’t come to a decision.”
This year’s inductees are:
• Rice – a football and baseball player for the Commodores at the turn of the century (he was captain of the 1901 baseball team), he is largely credited as the impetus for modern sportswriting. The university awards an annual scholarship in his name.
• Foster – the all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball with 2,011 points and the school’s all-time leader in 3-point baskets (367). He also was a recipient of the 2008 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.
• Ernest “Bucky” Curtis – a first-team All-American in football in 1950, he led the country in receiving that fall. He still ranks fifth all-time in touchdown receptions for the Commodores (17).
• Heidi Gillingham Jackson – a first-team All-American women’s basketball in 1993, she holds the SEC record for career blocked shots (131). At 6-foot-10 she brought notoriety to women’s basketball. She also was elected Vanderbilt’s homecoming queen in 1993.
• Chris Groer – a walk-on who enrolled at Vanderbilt on an academic scholarship, he eventually became the first Vanderbilt player of the modern era to earn All-America honors (1996). He went on and won 14 doubles and one singles title as a professional.
• Frank Lorge – a two-time SEC champion in swimming, he was undefeated in dual meets during his four-year career (1969-72). He earned the Stone Stein Memorial Award, given by the Vanderbilt School of Engineering to a graduating student who earned an athletic letter in addition to outstanding academic and extra-mural achievements.
• Ed Martin – an assistant basketball coach for four years (1985-89) and a later a professor, he pioneered the university’s Human and Organizational Development community service program. A former head coach at Tennessee State, his annual big man camp in the summer was attended by numerous NBA greats.
• Jeff Peeples – the all-time leader in wins (29) and earned run average (1.68) for the baseball team, he was a three-time All-SEC pick and the first Vanderbilt baseball All-American (second team, 1973). He also was a four-year letterman in football.
• Ann Hutcheson Price – twice she advanced to the round of 16 (1970 and 71) at the National Women’s Tennis Tournament, and she earned her undergraduate degree in three years. A former chief resident at Vanderbilt University, she currently serves as Associate Dean of Alumni Affairs for Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine.
• Will Wolford – an offensive lineman who started the final 33 games of his career (1982-85), he was a first-team All-SEC honoree in 1985. He became the first VU offensive lineman drafted by the NFL, where he played in three Super Bowls and earned three Pro Bowl invitations.
That group officially will be inducted Sept. 3, the night before the football team opens the season at home against Northwestern. It will bring to 31 the number of people currently in the VU hall of fame.
“This is a very special day for us,” Williams said. “That’s the case anytime you have the opportunity to honor people who should be honored.”