Hall of Fame Weekend
Sept. 9, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University inducted 11 members into its Athletics Hall of Fame prior to Saturday's football game against Bowling Green. On Friday, a ceremony was held in the Smith Center unveiling the plaques of the inductees. On Saturday, the class was officially inducted with a ceremony at the Kellogg Center, and later was introduced at halftime of the football game at Spartan Stadium.
The Class of 2007 includes: Richard Frey (cross country/track & field) from the Pioneer Era; Shirley Cook (basketball/field hockey/track & field), Jim Ellis (football), George Guerre (football) and Dean Look (football/baseball) from the Early Era; Marshall Dill (track & field), Tom Ross (hockey), Scott Skiles (basketball) and Valerie Sterk Kemper (volleyball) from the Contemporary Era; and Grady Peninger (wrestling) and George Perles (football) from the former coach/administrator category.
The MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, located in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1999, and displays key moments in Spartan athletics history as well as plaques of the inductees. The charter class of 30 former Spartan student-athletes, coaches and administrators was inducted in 1992.
Here's a closer look at the Class of 2007 (reprinted from Saturday's Spartan SportsZone Magazine):
Shirley Cook was one of MSU's pioneer female student-athletes, participating in field hockey, basketball and track and field during her time at Michigan State from 1955-58. Cook's love of Michigan State was evident when she founded the Women's Varsity Alumni Club. To endure Cook's legacy at MSU, an endowed scholarship was created in her memory to promote women's athletics. Cook passed away in 1988.
"Shirley's blood ran green," said Cheryl Jenkins, a longtime friend of Cook. "She would have been very honored and excited, and probably pleasantly surprised, by her induction into the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame. She was very humble and didn't give herself credit for her accomplishments; she just did them because she loved Michigan State. MSU meant a lot to her, and everything she did was for her love of the school. She was definitely proud of the things she started, but for her, it was always about Michigan State.
"Shirley loved women's sports and thought women could do a lot more than what they were already involved in at the time. She was independent and knew women could do anything they wanted if they put their mind to it."
Marshall Dill was one of the most talented athletes in the history of the MSU track and field program. The sprinter from Detroit came to East Lansing as one of the top recruits in the nation, and he didn't disappoint.
Dill stormed onto the scene as a freshman in 1972, setting a world record in the 300-yard dash, winning the Big Ten indoor 300-yard dash and Big Ten outdoor 220-yard dash, and running on the Big Ten indoor champion and All-America mile relay team. Dill was a key component on the 1972 track and field team that won the Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships and placed second in the NCAA indoor championships in Detroit.
"Winning the Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships in 1972 was special," Dill said, "and we also only finished one point behind USC at the NCAA Indoor Championships. That was a remarkable track team, with great runners like Herb Washington, Ken Popejoy and Al Henderson."
Dill would go on to become an 11-time Big Ten champion and three-time All-American. He dominated conference competition during his career: he won four-consecutive Big Ten titles in the outdoor 220-yard dash, three straight in the indoor 300-yard dash and two straight in the outdoor 100-yard dash. In 1974, he broke his own world record in the 300-yard dash, running a time of 29.3 seconds, and was a member of the Big Ten indoor champion mile relay team for the second time in his career. At one of track's most prestigious events, the Drake Relays, Dill captured three-straight titles in the 100-yard dash to earn a spot in the Drake Relays Hall of Fame.
Dill is the last Spartan to win an individual NCAA title for the men's track team. In 1973, he won the 220-yard dash at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a time of 20.9 seconds.
"I really enjoyed the competition," said Dill. "As track athletes from the Midwest, the teams from Texas and California perceived us as indoor runners only. As a result, my personal career highlight has to be winning the 220-yard sprint at the 1973 NCAA Championships in Baton Rouge.
"I really enjoyed the camaraderie at Michigan State, not only with all of the other student-athletes but with the entire student body," Dill continued. "I was proud to wear the Green and White every time I stepped on the track, so I could represent the entire Michigan State community."
Jim Ellis was destined for greatness at Michigan State. In his first career game against Oregon State in 1951, he intercepted three passes and returned three punts for 87 yards.
From there, he would become the first Spartan to receive All-America honors in consecutive seasons as he was named to the Chicago Tribune Players All-America Defensive Team as a safety in 1951 and 1952. His six interceptions in 1951 is the eighth most in Michigan State single-season history.
While Ellis was a fierce defender, he was known for his speed on returning kicks. He stills ranks fourth in the Spartan record books with 619 career punt return yards and his 305 punt return yards in 1951 ranks seventh best in a single-season. He closed out his career as MSU's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and punt return yards.
"My favorite thing to do was running back kicks," said Ellis, who returned punts for touchdowns in back-to-back games vs. Penn State (57 yards) and Pittsburgh (54) as a sophomore. "That was probably how I got my reputation. I guess that's what I looked forward to the most."
Ellis said he's most proud of his team's record during his career at Michigan State - a staggering 27-1. He was captain of the 1953 Big Ten Championship team, and sent his head coach, Biggie Munn, out a winner with MSC's 28-20 victory over UCLA in the 1954 Rose Bowl.
"Those teams were so special," Ellis said. "Biggie (Munn) was such a great coach - he would do anything for you. Everyone on the team got along quite well. Some of my closest teammates were Ellis Duckett, Don McAuliffe and Leroy Bolden.
"I would say this is one of the best feelings in my entire life," Ellis continued. "From the first day I stepped on campus, I always loved Michigan State. When the Hall of Fame first came about, I dreamed of being inducted. It really is a dream come true."
Richard Frey's running days at Michigan State got off to a late start. But in running, it's not how you start, but where you finish.
Frey graduated from high school in 1930 but didn't attend Michigan State until 1936. Coming from a large family - he was the 10th of 11 children - Frey was called upon to get a job and stay at home to help raise his younger sister. But that didn't stop him from running. He won several races around Western New York after high school and was eventually noticed by Arthur Bibbins, a former MAC baseball player who was working in Ithaca, N.Y.
At the time, Michigan State was building a cross country power, winning the first of five straight IC4A titles in 1933. Bibbins arranged a meeting at Michigan State, drove Frey to East Lansing, and got Frey a job and into the Sigma Nu fraternity.
Frey's first semester at State was in March 1936, six years after graduating high school. He had dreamed of going to college to run in the East, looking at schools such as Syracuse and Manhattan, but never seriously thought about it until Bibbins came along. Bibbins asked Frey, "Why not run up at Michigan State?"
The rest is history. Frey maintained Michigan State's dominance in cross country, leading the Spartans to their first national title in school history in 1939, and became an ambassador for the school after leaving East Lansing.
Frey won the freshman IC4A cross country title in 1936 and led the team to its fifth-straight IC4A championship in 1937. He earned six varsity letters and became a four-time All-American (two-time cross country and two-time track).
Going into the 1939 season, Frey told The State News he thought it was going to be his best year of his career. But he injured himself early in the season, tearing his Achilles tendon. Frey, captain of the team, recuperated all fall, and came back to run in the 1939 NCAA Championship meet, placing fifth overall (the best on the team) and helping Michigan State win its first national title in any sport.
"My father cared about Michigan State as much as he cared for anything in the world," said Richard's daughter, Barbara Frey (Richard passed away in 2001). "He imparted his passion of Michigan State into me and my family, as three generations went to MSU. When my mother (Alma) heard the news, tears came to her eyes. For him to be included in the Hall of Fame among the select few athletes in the history of Michigan State Athletics is such an honor."
George Guerre's journey to gridiron glory at Michigan State is nothing short of remarkable. After starring at Flint Central in high school, Guerre earned his freshman numerals in 1942, at of all places, the University of Michigan. In 1943, Guerre enlisted in the Army Air Corps, serving from 1943-46 and earning the rank of First Lieutenant. A navigator on B-17 missions during World War II over Italy and Africa, he earned numerous medals during his time of service, including the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and a Unit Citation with two Battle Stars.
Guerre enrolled at Michigan State in the spring of 1946. Entering the fourth game of the 1946 season at Penn State, Guerre was still listed as a backup. Early in the third quarter, Guerre broke through for 52 yards and MSC's first touchdown, sparking the 19-16 comeback win. Known as "Little Dynamite" due to his 5-5, 157-pound frame, Guerre torched the Nittany Lions for 152 yards on 14 carries. His performance was described by one Penn State reporter as the most spectacular one-man show in Beaver Field history.
After his breakthrough game at Penn State in 1946, he recorded five more career 100-yard rushing games, including a single-game best 180 yards against Marquette. He finished the season 13th in the nation in total offense, gaining 1,029 total yards, and was named team MVP. Guerre went on to lead the Spartans in rushing for three-straight seasons and his 6.75 yards per carry is the best rushing average in school history.
Guerre was well on his way to another great year in 1947, gaining 354 yards on 47 carries (7.5 avg.), before suffering an injury midway through the season. He came back as a senior in 1948 to lead the team again with 734 yards rushing while scoring five touchdowns.
"The thing I cherish most about Michigan State are all the teammates and people I met over the years," Guerre said. "Those friendships have lasted a lifetime. I still get together with a number of teammates from those days, including Lynn Chandnois and Sonny Grandelius. We all got to play for a great coach in Biggie Munn. It was an honor to play for him - he was an outstanding coach and an outstanding person. Every one of his players respected him and what he accomplished."
A recruiting trip to see Michigan play Ohio State on Nov. 19, 1955, in the Big House eventually sealed Dean Look's fate as to where he would spend his collegiate playing days. Look attended the game as a Michigan recruit and sat behind the Wolverine bench during the game.
"Michigan punted to Hopalong Cassidy (1955 Heisman Trophy winner), and Cassidy made a great move and scored a touchdown," recalled Look. "During the play, I yelled `Go Hoppy'. I sure got some looks. After that, I figured I would not be going to U of M. The next day, I met with Duffy and told him I was coming to Michigan State."
Look played football under Coach Daugherty and baseball under Coach John Kobs during his playing days at Michigan State. The Lansing native was named the baseball team MVP in 1958 and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after leading the team in six offensive categories.
After playing halfback his first two seasons, Look made the switch to quarterback in 1959. The moved paid off, as Look was the only player in the country to be named to UPI's Backfield of the Week three times. He led the team in total offense with 875 yards, was named team MVP and earned All-America honors.
A first-round pick of the Denver Broncos of the AFL, Look opted to sign a professional baseball contact with the Chicago White Sox and made his major league debut in 1961. After his playing days, Look spent 29 years as an official in the NFL.
"The thing I'm proudest about is that our teams never lost to Michigan or Notre Dame during my career," Look said. "We did tie Michigan my junior year, but that game had one of my most memorable moments, which was running back a touchdown on a punt for 92 yards. Emil Matsos provided the key block, and we still get together and talk about our days at Michigan State. One of the other top moments was beating Michigan, 34-8, my senior year in the Big House. That was extremely enjoyable.
"I also had a lot of fun playing baseball for Coach John Kobs," Look continued. "Kobs was a great coach and we had some excellent teams. Another great reason to play baseball was to get out of spring football practice (laughs). Spring football was all conditioning and getting hit for 20 days, so I would much rather play baseball. The two sports had entirely different atmospheres, but it was a great balance. I think playing baseball in the spring really helped me with football in the fall."
Grady Peninger's name will forever be linked with excellence as he became the first coach in Big Ten history to win seven consecutive conference titles in any sport. Spanning 1966-72, Peninger's wrestling teams dominated the Big Ten, typically known as the best wrestling conference in the nation. His Spartans won it all in 1967, claiming the school's first and only National Championship in wrestling.
During his tenure, MSU was a mainstay on the national scene, placing in the top five at the national meet on six occasions. His wrestlers earned 10 NCAA titles, 40 Big Ten titles and All-America honors 54 times. Peninger was inducted in the U.S. Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1987.
"You know, they say if you recruit enough good kids, it makes you a good coach, and I was lucky to have so many good young men wrestle at MSU," Peninger said. "You work hard all of your life, and then something like this comes along, and it really makes you appreciate it that much more. I can't tell you how proud and thankful I am of this honor.
Even though winning the national title was special for Peninger, he is a true Spartan in the sense that his favorite moment was beating Michigan. "We had some great moments at MSU, but it was toughest to win nationals," recalled Peninger. "To beat all of those quality teams at one event was truly a special feeling. But probably the best feeling was when we beat Michigan in the final dual at home in 1968. We had to win the last match to win the dual, and Jeff Smith pinned former NCAA champion Dave Porter to give us the win (17-14). It was the first time we had beaten Michigan since 1961. I couldn't believe it when it happened."
After the victory over Michigan, Peninger told the Lansing State Journal: "This was better than winning the NCAA championship. It's been a long drought since we beat them the last time."
George Perles led the Spartan football program from 1983-94 and guided the Spartans to two Big Ten titles (1987 and 1990) and seven bowl appearances in his 12 seasons. Three of his teams finished among the nation's Top 25, including the 1987 Big Ten championship team that ranked No. 8 in the final polls. Perles tutored nine first-team All-Americans and three first-team Academic All-Americans.
Prior to coaching at Michigan State, Perles spent 10 years as an assistant coach with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, winning four Super Bowl championships (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979).
"In terms of recognition, this honor is the most meaningful thing to happen to me," said Perles. "It chokes me up to think about being inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame. It's truly something special. In terms of professional acknowledgement, this is everything I could ever have hoped for in life."
Perles said one word describes his most successful team he coached at MSU. "Toughness: that's why the 1987 team became Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions," he remarked. "Don't get me wrong, the 1987 team had some ability, but I coached several more talented teams. Toughness was the trademark of the '87 team. Before games, I used to tell the team to forget about the X's and O's and to forget about winning or losing. I told the players to concentrate on knocking their opponent's block off. I could accept any outcome as long as they were willing to leave everything out on the field. If they played with that toughness, I'd greet them in the locker room with a hug, regardless of the outcome.
"I don't miss the games, but I miss chasing the players around and teaching them life lessons. Those teaching moments came when you had to make them do things that they didn't want to do. At last year's Homecoming game, I received one of the greatest compliments I've ever heard when Andre Rison hugged me and told me that he loved me. Now as a student-athlete, Andre was a challenge-and-a-half, but you know what, he's matured and grown up. Life is tough, but there is so much a student-athlete can learn on the field and in the classroom. If you take those lessons and apply it to life, you'll survive the tough times."
Tom Ross rewrote the record books while playing for Michigan State in the 1970s and 30 years later, they look the same - with his name splashed across the top. In the long and illustrious history of the Spartan hockey program, no player has been as dominant of an offensive force. Ross holds MSU career records with 324 points, 138 points and 186 assists. He set an MSU single-season record with 105 points his senior season, scoring 51 goals with 54 assists. A two-time All-American, Ross was just the second college player to reach the 300-point mark and remains the NCAA record-holder with 72 power-play goals.
"It is certainly a great honor to be selected to join so many wonderful athletes in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame," said Ross. "As I reflect on this honor, I can only think about all of the support I received from my teammates, coaches and family that made everything possible. Hockey is a team sport and I was very fortunate to play with many dedicated, talented and skilled teammates, so I thank them for their camaraderie, friendship and support over the years. Coach (Amo) Bessone was like a father figure, and he afforded me every opportunity to succeed on the ice as well as off the ice. The example he set for us was nothing short of top notch. I especially want to thank my parents and family for their support, as none of this would have been possible without their nurturing and guidance.
"It was always an honor to wear the Green and White Spartan hockey jersey and represent this great University, its alumni and fans. As I get older, I reflect back on my years at MSU and I take great pride in all of the team and individual accomplishments. I also think that my time at MSU went by way too fast, but for me, I have continued to play hockey at various levels and along the way, I meet so many people associated with MSU hockey. In that way, my time to some degree has been extended. I will always feel proud to have played for Coach Bessone and the Spartans. I have met so many great people associated with the University and its hockey program."
Scott Skiles was a scoring machine in his four years playing for the Spartans from 1983-86. When his career was finished, he left East Lansing as the all-time leading scorer with 2,145 points. His senior season, he averaged 27.4 points per game to lead the Big Ten, set an MSU single-season record with 850 total points, was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, and earned All-America honors. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior and garnered Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 1983. Skiles holds the MSU record for most field goals in one game with 20 as he poured in 45 points against Minnesota on Jan. 18, 1986.
"My fondest memories come from my senior year (1985-86) because I had my best individual season and the team enjoyed success," said Skiles, who led the team to a 23-8 record and a Sweet 16 appearance. "It was a great way to cap off my career. I came from a small town (Plymouth) in Indiana, and many people didn't think I could play at the Division I level. I felt like I had a lot to prove. I wound up starting all four years at Michigan State, and I was fortunate to play with a great group of guys. After Magic (Johnson) left, Michigan State was down for a few years, but we were able to put the basketball program back on the national map."
Skiles credits Jud Heathcote for his successful career at Michigan State - and beyond.
"I was fortunate to play for a great coach," said Skiles. "Jud played a major role in my individual development because he was so good working with perimeter players. Jud sent a bunch of guards to the NBA. He understood what it took for a guard to be successful, and he really helped me improve my shot.
"I took a lot of what I learned from Jud into the NBA. He knew how to push players hard while using his sense of humor. I think he got players to reach their full potential because his humor broke the monotony of practice."
Valerie Sterk Kemper
At the center of MSU's leap to the national scene in volleyball in the mid-1990s was Valerie Sterk Kemper. In just two years, Sterk Kemper and the Spartans went from a last-place finish in the Big Ten to the greatest season in school history in 1995 with 34 wins and a berth in the Final Four. She led the Spartans to back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1995 and 1996 as MSU compiled a 60-10 record during her final two seasons in East Lansing.
Sterk Kemper was the first female team sport athlete at MSU to earn First-Team All-America honors twice. She led the nation with an impressive .449 hitting percentage as a senior in 1996 and was also named an Academic All-American. Sterk Kemper accomplished another first when she became the first volleyball player at MSU to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors three times. ` Sterk Kemper's favorite moment during her career was going to the Final Four in 1995.
"Even through all of the memories, the one that stands out for me is when our team beat Hawaii on its home floor in the regional finals to advance to the Final Four," she said. "Hawaii was undefeated and ranked No. 2, and we were definitely a huge underdog. With the time difference, the match was televised late back in East Lansing, and we lost the first two games. A lot of people told me they turned off their TV after that point. But we came back to win in front over their home crowd, more than 10,000 people. What a great feeling. That whole year was really special. It was so exciting to be a part of the program's turnaround. We went from finishing last in the Big Ten my freshman year to winning the conference and going to the Final Four two years later.
"I want to thank my coach, Chuck Erbe, for molding me into the player I became. He believed in me and encouraged me my entire career. I give him a ton of credit and owe a lot of the success I had to him. He had a vision for the team and helped Michigan State become one of the top volleyball programs in the country."