DURHAM, N.H. – With over 175 people in attendance, the University of New Hampshire athletic department inducted seven UNH graduates into the UNH Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday evening at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The 2014 UNH Athletics Hall of Fame class is comprised of David Ball ’06 (football), Dr. Rick Schavone ’71 (swimming and diving), Ryan Leib (men’s soccer) ’94, Nicki Luongo ’99 (women’s ice hockey), Jana (Reardon) Mowers ’97 (gymnastics), Jack Sebastian ‘88 (men’s soccer & men’s lacrosse) and Katey Stone ‘89 (women’s ice hockey & women’s lacrosse).
In addition to the Hall of Fame inductions, the athletic department also bestowed the Joan Leitzel Award to Jean Mitchell, Athletic Facilities/Housekeeping Manager. The Leitzel Award, named in honor of Joan Leitzel, UNH President from 1996–2002, and proud supporter of Athletics, is given to a member of the UNH Athletics community who has enriched the lives of UNH student-athletes through significant service, philanthropy and/or a selfless commitment that has a lasting impact on UNH Athletics.
The concept of “family” was the common theme of the evening, with David Ball indicating that he was able to stand and accept the honor thanks to the “qualities his family instilled within him from day one.” Luongo and Mowers both indicated the important roles that their families played in allowing each of them to achieve their respective goals. Luongo praised the support of her father, specifically as a coach and mentor. Mowers also acknowledged that she was the second member of her family to be inducted to the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame, as her husband Mark ’97, was part of the 2006 class.
Leib and Sebastian both recognized the roles their teammates and coaches played in helping them achieve success and indicated the importance of the relationships they formed that paved the way for them to be able to accomplish so much after UNH. Leib also mentioned the role, then head UNH soccer coach and now Clemson head coach, Mike Noonan, played in recruiting him to Durham. Sebastian discussed how his soccer and lacrosse coach, Ted Garber, also a UNH Athletics Hall of Famer, helped guide him and prepare him for more than just athletic competitions.
Stone, similarly to Sebastian, mentioned how exciting it was to reconnect with UNH and what an incredible time it was for the Athletics Department. The Olympian and Harvard women’s ice hockey head coach reminisced about the first time she was able to beat UNH as a coach and what it meant personally and to her team to beat a program that was as established as the Wildcats in the sport of women’s ice hockey. Stone thanked Russ McCurdy, a 2002 UNH Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, for all his efforts in starting and growing the UNH women’s ice hockey program.
Fellow Olympian, Dr. Schavone, recalled a lesson he learned from his kinesiology professor at UNH, Dr. Kurtzer, which he has shared with the 36 teams he’s coached at Stanford – to teach all to dream to do something with our lives and allow everyone to “dream a dream.”
In announcing Jean Mitchell, football head coach Sean McDonnell said that she was simply “the best at what she does, hands down.” Regardless of the accomplishments by those in the room, McDonnell preached that Mitchell does her job better than any other individual. Director of Athletics Marty Scarano stated that not only has she been committed to her job for the past few decades by providing exceptional service to our coaches and programs, but she also prides herself on serving as a source of support for all our student-athletes and always has their well-being at the forefront of her actions.
Ever the humble soul, Mitchell announced that she was accepting the highest award the UNH Athletics Department has to offer on behalf of the UNH Athletics family – all those who have played and cheered for the Wildcats over the years.
Eric Frede of NESN served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event, which was broadcast live online at www.americaeast.tv.