HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Herkimer County Community College inducted its inaugural class into the Athletic Hall of Fame Friday as part of the College’s Fall Fest & Alumni Weekend.
The five inductees, who have made extraordinary contributions to the College through intercollegiate athletics, are: Thomas LaPuma, professor emeritus and former athletic director; John W. (Jack) Alofs, retired men’s basketball coach (posthumously awarded to his wife, Marguerite Alofs); Dwight Barnett ’06, men’s soccer; Sharon Gleasman-Howell ’79, multi-sport athlete; and Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie ’87, men’s lacrosse.
HCCC President Ann Marie Murray welcomed honorees and guests to the ceremony. “As I welcome you to this evening’s inaugural induction ceremony of our athletic hall of fame, I am proud of our inductees who exemplify why Herkimer’s athletic program is one of the top junior college programs in the country,” she said, “and pleased to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions through our new Hall of Fame.”
Dr. Matthew Hawes, Dean of Students and Selection Committee Chair, delivered remarks as to the importance of establishing an Athletic Hall of Fame at Herkimer, and the competitiveness of selecting the first inaugural class. Jason Powles, Sports Director, WKTV News Channel 2, served as Master of Ceremonies. In his remarks, Powles said, “As a local sportscaster for the last 15 years, I can attest to the phenomenal athletic program here at Herkimer County Community College. This is truly the ‘Home of the Champions.’ The College has gained the reputation as one of the nation’s most successful junior college athletic programs.” He added, “Not only is Herkimer an athletic powerhouse, but the program also places great emphasis on excellence in the classroom and the community.”
Inductee Thomas LaPuma, Herkimer’s first athletic director, said, “It’s definitely an honor to be inducted into any hall of fame, especially this one. I’ve been so close to the College in so many ways for so many years, and I appreciate Dr. Ann Marie Murray’s support in establishing the hall of fame. I think it’s great for the College, the alumni and athletics. It’s a very positive thing.”
Inductee Sharon Gleasman-Howell ’79, a multi-sport athlete at Herkimer said, “Knowing the quality of student-athletes who have attended HCCC, I am honored to receive this award, especially to be in the first class of recipients. Because of my success here at Herkimer, I was able to receive a dual sport Division I scholarship to go on and compete at the University of Rhode Island.”
Athletic Director Donald Dutcher said “As athletic director here for the past eight years, I am humbled by these great coaches, leaders and athletes who left incredible legacies for our College community.”
At the conclusion of the program, President Murray announced a new Hall of Fame fund established through the Herkimer County College Foundation. The fund was made possible by a donation from alumnus and former lacrosse player Andrew Kaiser ‘83. Kaiser requested that a portion of his donation be used for a purpose to be determined by the inaugural Hall of Fame class. Speaking on behalf of the 2011 class, Dr. Opie said, “Collectively, the inaugural class has dedicated our portion of the donation to support the establishment of the Athletic Hall of Fame. On behalf of the 2011 class, I would like to thank Andy Kaiser for his generosity in establishing this fund and having the creative vision to do it in a way that involves and challenges all of us.”
The 2011 Inductees:
Thomas LaPuma, of Frankfort, is a professor emeritus and served as the College’s first athletic director. He built the foundation for a national championship athletic program, developed the physical education curriculum, fitness center and intramural program, and coached several sports during his tenure. LaPuma retired after 33 years of service to Herkimer County Community College.
John W. (Jack) Alofs was honored posthumously. Alofs taught physical education and was head coach for the Herkimer Generals men’s basketball team for 20 years. He achieved a 72% winning record and won the program’s only national championship in 1991. He was twice named NY State Junior College Coach of the Year, and was inducted into the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame. Alofs published a book in which he shared his coaching techniques and strategies, as well as many coaching stories.
Dwight Barnett ’06, a native of Jamaica, NY, led the 2005 Herkimer Generals men’s soccer team to a national championship and received a multitude of awards, as well as an athletic scholarship to Lynn University. He was the first Herkimer Generals men’s soccer player to be drafted by Major League Soccer.
Sharon Gleasman-Howell ’79, of Ilion, NY excelled as a multi-sport athlete at Herkimer. Howell was a member of the 1978 and 1979 volleyball, basketball and women’s track teams. She helped lead the 1979 women’s track team to a state title and held multiple school records. She was HCCC Female Athlete of the Year in 1979, was named Most Valuable Player and All-American for track, and was one of the College’s first female athletes to receive a Division I scholarship.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie ’87, of Boston, MA, was a two-time All-American defenseman for the 1982 and 1983 Generals Lacrosse teams. Dr. Opie continued his collegiate lacrosse career at Syracuse University where he led the team in two national championship games. He also played professionally for the New York Saints in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and for Team USA’s World Championship team in 1990. Opie earned a Ph.D. from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University and is Professor of History and Foodways at Babson College.
Herkimer County Community College’s athletic program is a Division III member of the National Junior College Athletic Association and has amassed 32 national, 83 regional and 119 conference championships. Herkimer placed second in the 2010-11 National Alliance of Two-Year College Athletic Administrators (NATYCAA) Cup competition. HCCC has placed in the top five of the competition since its inception in 2004