(Photos by Ken Carozza)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 15- Successful athletic teams and athletic heroes are important to every college and university. They serve as a unifying factor among the student body; are an encouragement for increased donations from alumni; are sources of pride to current students and alumni and can be inducements for prospective students to enroll.
Many colleges and universities have created athletic halls of fame to recognize past student-athletes who have excelled in their sports and added respect and interest to the institutions they have attended.
The Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame has been in existence for more than 40 years. The first induction took place during the 1970-71 academic year and included honorees such as Frankie “Fordham Flash” Frisch and Vince Lombardi.
This year’s induction was held at the McGinley Center Ballroom on Fordham’s Bronx campus on January 11, in the late afternoon between the men’s and women’s basketball contests of Fordham and Richmond. Eleven former Rams were honored. One track star, Jack Faith (’68), was previously inducted 34 years ago.
The other 10 former Rams added to the HOF represent a total of six sports programs. Jim Groark (67), Brian Hernon (67) and Don May (68) were teammates of Faith on the remarkable 1967 Two-Mile Relay Team. The foursome broke both the Fordham and Penn Relay marks for their specialty. It was later pointed out that May made the furthest journey, from Alaska, to receive his award.
The baseball and basketball teams each had two representatives on the Class of 2014. Both Tom Davis (08) and Cory Riordan (12) were pitchers. Davis was selected as Pitcher of the Year by the Atlantic-10 in his senior year. He graduated with the Fordham record for starts (50) and innings (339).
Riordan was voted as the Rookie of the Year by the Atlantic-10 in his freshman year when he compiled a 10-4 mark. He completed his career at Fordham with a 21-11 record and 200 strikeouts in 246 innings.
The award for Bryant Dunstan (08), currently playing basketball professionally in Greece, was accepted by his dad. Dunstan compiled stats among the best in the school’s basketball history. He is second in points with 1,832, 54 less than the legendary Ed Conlin, fourth in rebounds with 993 and first in blocks, 246.
Mobolaji Akiode (04) received Fordham’s most prestigious honor for female athletes, the 2003 Claire Hobbs Award as female athlete of the year. She represented her native land, Nigeria, in the Olympic Games. Of even greater importance is her founding Hope 4 Girls, a charity that is dedicated to raising opportunities for African female youths in education and sports.
Ben Dato (08) was the kicker on the football team in his years at Fordham. In his senior year he received the Vincent T. Lombardi Award as male athlete of the year. He amassed the most yards punting at Fordham.
Allison Twarowski (08) was an outstanding batter in her four seasons on a successful softball team. She graduated holding several school batting marks, hits (251), runs (181), doubles (44) and runs batted in (45).
Robert Valdes-Rodriguez (86) three times set school marks for the 100 butterfly and qualified for the NCAA tournament several times. He is currently chairman of the NYAC swim team.
Valdes-Rodriguez articulately gave the response of the Class of 2014. He gave thanks to “the Jesuit university, the coaches and the professors who helped us balance our faith, academics and athletics.”
Athletic Director David Roach began the event by saying to the honorees, “Your achievements and your total lives are a shining example to the current student-athletes.”
The television voice of the New York Yankees, Michael Kay (82), ably served, as he does every year, as the emcee of the ceremony. Kay, on the day of the announcement of the suspension of Alex Rodriguez, joked about Rodriguez having enough time on his hand to enroll at Fordham and perhaps be considered for this HOF next year.
Father Joseph McShane, the Fordham president, officially closed the ceremony with a tribute to the new members of the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame, “Wise men and women of Fordham, we honor you for your wisdom, and your generosity to Fordham. We hold you up as models for our students, role models and sources of inspiration.”