TUESDAY, MAY 03, 2011
JU Brings Five Stars into Athletics Hall of Fame
The Jacksonville University Athletics Hall of Fame welcomed five new members into its elite fraternity with an induction ceremony on Saturday, April 30 at the Kinne Center on campus. Joining the pantheon of all-time greats at JU was: Gus Bell (baseball), former head coach Jack Lamabe (baseball), Ernie Fleming (men's basketball), JoAnne Roberts (women's golf) and Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Frances Kinne (special recognition).
The event kicked off with a cocktail hour with heavy hors d'oeuvre at 6 p.m., followed by the ceremony that began at 7 p.m. Each honoree was introduced by someone related to his or her days at JU, be it a former player, coach, teammate, or friend.
Artis Gilmore ’71, told the crowd about his friend, Ernie Fleming ‘72, and how the two of them came to play together at JU after Fleming wrote a letter to the JU coaches. Fleming suffered a stroke some years ago and was unable to make the event, so his children accepted the honor on his behalf.
His son, Ernest Fleming, Jr., told the crowd about how his dad told him stories about actually “running to class because he wanted to graduate so badly.” His daughter, Erica Bartley, recalled that he taught them “that basketball was important, but he believed getting an education was more important.”
Former women’s golf coach, John Randall, introduced golfer JoAnne (Roberts) Steele ‘93. Remembering the first time he saw Steele, he said, “I saw her come out of this bunker with a great shot and go on to win the tournament.”
He also told the crowd how she “became a miracle four years ago.” Steele suffered hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and needed a heart replacement. Now a golf coach herself at the University of Montana, she was fortunate enough to receive one and is healthy today.
Steele called herself a “duck out of water,” as she talked of moving to the beaches of Florida from Montana. She acknowledged that an honor like this is a culmination of elements.
“This honor is a result of all the little events that add up to where we are today,” she said. “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, but propel you to where you are.”
Baseball coach Jack Lamabe was introduced by his first recruit for JU, former player and then colleague of Lamabe, Don Suriano ’76. Lamabe passed away in 2007, so his son, John and widow, Janice, accepted the honor on his behalf.
“He loved his players so much and made such an impact that I hear from his players to this day,” she said. “He’d be so proud to see how far JU’s Dolphins have come today.”
Gus Bell ’71 was introduced by a former teammate, Joe Schlegel ’68. He mentioned how having an earned run average of 2.0 was a good thing, but that having a grade point average 2.0 was not and that he and Bell both pushed that, then Bell explained further when he got up to accept his honor.
“The Bell Curve was named after me,” Bell joked.
President Kerry Romesburg introduced Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne. He said she writes more recommendation letters than any he’s known because she knows students so well and she remembers all of them.
“She is an amazing friend, most of all an educator and a mother to thousands,” Romesburg said. “If you’re a friend of Fran Kinne, she is a friend for life.”
Telling the crowd of the many ways she has worked for JU in athletics and the entire community, he said she is the only chancellor of this University.
“She is undefeated in the Ironman for Chancellors,” he said. “She is undefeated in the Long Drive, as well as the Slam Dunk competition.”
In referring to the iconic image of her smiling face as she cut down the net with the team at the 1986 Sun Belt Championship, she told the story of how she got up there, referring to former basketball player Willie McDuffie, who was in the audience.
“I remember they were holding me up by my knees, and Willie was saying, ‘Watch her skirt, watch her skirt!’ while all this was going on around us.”
She talked about the New York Yankees coming to play the baseball team. She was sitting by George Steinbrenner as the Dolphins were beating them in the fourth inning. “George leaned over to me and he said, ‘This was not part of the agreement!’”
In closing, she talked about how she measures the success of any school and how JU measures up on that scale.
“The way I measure any school is by what students are doing after graduation,” she explained. “JU has done a remarkable job, so I want to thank you. You’ve changed my life. JU is my life and I’m proud to be a member of this Hall of Fame.”
A recap of the newest Hall of Fame members’ achievements:
JoAnne Roberts (Steele)
Dr. Francis Kinne