2005 FERRIS STATE ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME CLASS ANNOUNCED
Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame to Induct 11
July 14, 2005
Ten athletes spanning six decades plus a veteran coach are included in the Ferris State University Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2005, which will be inducted this fall.
Chosen as the Class of 2005 are: John Dawe of Whitmore Lake, cross country and track (1973-76); Russell Hildensperger of Grand Blanc, football (1946-50); Tanya Johnson of Round Lake Beach, Ill., women's basketball (1974-78); Sherri Jones of Muskegon, track (1984-88); Jim Knapp of Mount Pleasant, football player/coach (1968-71); Dr. Rhonda (Filius) Little of Waterford, track and volleyball (1980-84); Jesse Mangham of Santa
Barbara, Calif., basketball (1966-72); Randy Merrifield of Warren, hockey (1980-84); Ed Philion of Lorraine, Quebec, football (1990-93); John Sonntag of Big Rapids, football (1969-74); and coach Jim Miller of Big Rapids, wrestling (1981-94). A 17-member Selection Committee of faculty, staff, alumni and community members chose the inductees from among 61 nominees. In addition, the committee also selected longtime volunteer and former university dean Tom Walsh to receive an Athletics Special Service Award.
The 11 inductees will join 55 honorees already enshrined during the sixth annual Induction Banquet on Sept. 23 at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Big Rapids. The Ballroom opens at 6 p.m. (EDT) with a reception in honor of this year's inductees. The dinner runs from 7-8 p.m. (EDT) and the induction program follows until approximately 10 p.m. (EDT). The Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted its Charter Class in 2000, was established to honor those student-athletes and coaches who have distinguished themselves in their sport or honorary members who made truly exceptional contributions to athletics.
For ticket information, please contact the FSU Athletics Department at (231) 591-2860.
Following are thumbnail sketches of each new inductee:
John Dawe A 1976 NAIA Indoor All-America performer with a runner-up finish in the 1,000-yard race at the national meet, Dawe ranks as one of the school's premier track & field athletes. He helped lead FSU to a sixth-place tie at the 1976 NAIA Indoor Championships. Dawe currently is Ferris' 1,000-yard indoor record holder (2:13.24) and presently listed fifth on the indoor 800-meter chart (1:55.04). He claimed Great Lakes Conference indoor titles in both the 880 and 1,000-yard races during the 1976 campaign as the Bulldogs placed third in the inaugural conference indoor meet. Dawe, who earned three varsity track letters at FSU after graduating from Franklin High School in Livonia, helped lead the Bulldog cross country squad to a seventh-place NCAA Division III finish in 1976. In addition to his two conference indoor titles, Dawe placed second in the 880-yard run (1:57.10) and third in the two-mile walk (17:54) at the 1975 league outdoor meet. He claimed the league's outdoor championship and set the first conference record in the two-mile walk (18:16.30) at the 1974 outdoor meet. Dawe also finished 17th overall in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1975 NAIA Outdoor Championships and ran on FSC's mile relay outfit, which claimed first place in the 1976 district outdoor meet. He gained All-District 23 and all-conference indoor track honors during the 1976 season. An all-league cross country performer as a junior (1975), Dawe led FSU to a 5-0 dual meet mark, its fourth-straight league title and an NAIA District 23 runner-up finish. He works as a staff pharmacist and clinical instructor for University of Michigan Health Systems and lives with his wife in Whitmore Lake.
Russell Hildensperger Hildensperger earned four varsity football letters at Ferris from 1946-50 and served as the squad's team captain in both the 1947 and 1948 seasons. He started all but one game during his four year career. The lone exception came when he once suffered an appendix attack. While he did not start that particular contest, he did come back to play the entire second half. He helped Ferris post back-to-back winning seasons in 1946 and 1947 with 4-3-2 and 6-2-1 marks, respectively, under head coach Bob Sherman. The Bulldogs also received a postseason bowl game berth in 1947. Hildensperger tallied three touchdowns for 18 total points in 1946 and then added six TD's for 36 points the following campaign. He began his Ferris career after receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps following a four-year stint. The Wausau, Wis., product was named Most Valuable Player in the 1947 homecoming contest versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee after scoring three touchdowns. He received honorable mention honors on the Michigan Small College All-Star list in 1948 from his end position. Following college, he went on to serve for a year in the Korean War and then became auditor general of the air force at the Areo Products Division of General Motors in Ohio. He also was employed at the Ternstedt Division of General Motors in Flint for 28 years as a supervisor of production material inventories. While in Flint, he coached a Greater Flint Hockey Association youth team in addition to little league baseball. He retired from GM after 30 years and currently lives in Grand Blanc, Mich., along with his wife, Dolores.
Tanya Johnson The 6-2 Johnson was one of the early Bulldog women's basketball greats. She presently remains seventh on both FSU's career rebounding (677) chart and field goal percentage (.489) lists. In addition, she is one of only 20 players in Bulldog history to score 750 or more career points and currently ranks 19th on Ferris' career scoring chart with 780 points. Johnson guided FSU to the school's first three winning seasons from 1974-77, including a 10-6 mark in the 1975-76 campaign. A two-time (1975-76) team Most Valuable Player Award winner, Johnson twice led Ferris in scoring under head coach Monica Folske and continues to hold the school record for career rebounding average (10.7 rpg). Her personal career-high 16.6 points per game scoring average in 1976-77 currently ranks as the fifth-best performance ever by a Bulldog junior class member. The Big Rapids native later played for the Milwaukee Does, New Jersey Gems and Chicago Hustle, all teams in the first women's professional league. Johnson was FSU's MVP and leading scorer each of the first two seasons of the program. She is currently they girls varsity basketball coach and associate athletics director at Loyola Academy College Prep High School in Chicago. Her teams won Illinois Class AA State Championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98 and she coached the Illinois Player of the Year in 1998-99. Johnson recorded her 500th career coaching win in her 22nd season as a prep coach during the 2004-05 season. Only two other female basketball coaches in Illinois state history have reached the 500 win plateau. Johnson led Loyola to a single-season state record for victories with 36 in 1998 and was inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Association Hall of Fame in April 2005. Johnson resides in Round Lake Beach, Ill.
Sherri Jones A three-time NCAA Division II Track & Field All-American, Jones ranks among the school's premier women's track and field athletes of all-time. She attained NCAA-II Indoor All-America kudos with a sixth-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay in 1987. The versatile Jones also attained NCAA-II Outdoor All-America accolades in both 1987 and 1988 by placing seventh and sixth, respectively, at the national meet. Jones, who continues to hold the school's all-time outdoor 400-meter hurdle record (1:00.15), is listed among FSU's top five all-time leaders to date in two indoor and four outdoor events. She also ranks tied for first among the Bulldogs' all-time 600-yard run performers after clocking 1:28.04 in 1986. The West Shore Christian Academy standout earned the school's 1986 outdoor track and field Most Valuable Player honor and was a two-time recipient of Ferris State's indoor MVP award. Her eight individual GLIAC Championships currently is listed tied for fourth on the school's all-time list. Jones, who held more school records (10) following her career than any other previous FSU performer, graduated from Ferris in 1988 with a bachelor of arts degree in social work. She also earned a master's degree in social work from Western Michigan in 1992. Jones later founded the Beach Runners Inner City Track Club in Muskegon, which focuses on self-esteem and academics along with track skills. She presently serves as a social worker for the Muskegon Public School system where she resides along with her daughter.
Jim Knapp Knapp lettered as a varsity reserve member of Ferris State's first-ever undefeated football team (7-0-1) in 1968 under head coach Bob Leach and later made his coaching start as a freshman football coach at Ferris State. The Big Rapids native went on to become an assistant football coach, head track coach and assistant athletic director at Northwood University. Since 1985, he has served as the head men's track and field coach at NCAA Division I Central Michigan where he has been named the Mid-America Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year seven times and led the Chippewas to the 2003 MAC Outdoor Track and Field Championship, which was the school's first-ever. During the 2004-05 season, Knapp helped guide CMU to conference championships in mens cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, which represented the first time in league history the same school had accomplished the feat in the same academic year. He was also honored as the MAC Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year as well as the NCAA Division I Mid-East Region and Great Lakes District Coach of the Year as four of his student-athletes garnered All-America accolades. He earned three GLIAC and NAIA District 23 Coach of the Year Awards while at Northwood and led the Timberwolves to three league championships. He also served as an athletic trainer, equipment manager and women's track and field coach at Northwood. In 1985, he coach NU's first female All-America performer after raising funds to start the program. At CMU, he has coached 37 individual league outdoor champions, 15 indoor champions and eight All-Americans. Since 2001, he has also served on the MAC Coaches Executive Committee at CMU. Knapp graduated from Ferris in 1971 and earned a masters degree from Michigan State in 1972. He resides in Mount Pleasant.
Dr. Rhonda (Filius) Little A Muskegon Mona Shores product, Little made a name for herself as a member of Ferris' women's track and field program. She was the program's first female NCAA-II All-American. In addition to earning NCAA-II Outdoor All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the high jump at the 1983 NCAA-II Championships, she also placed fourth in the event at the 1981 AIAW Outdoor meet to capture All-America kudos. Little was named the squad's Most Valuable Performer Award recipient in 1981 and continues to hold the school's indoor (5-9) and outdoor (5-8) high jump records. Her best effort (5-9) came in a 1981 indoor meet at Central Michigan. She also competed in a variety of other events at various times including the shot put, discus, javelin, pentathlon and long jump. The 6-1 Little was a member of the Ferris women's volleyball program under head coach Kathy DeBoer for one season and named the squad's Most Improved Player in 1981 as Ferris posted a 27-16 overall record. After earning a degree from Ferris, she went on to obtain several degrees from the University of Michigan. A member of the American Board of International Medicine, Little currently resides in Waterford, Mich., along with her husband Dr. James R. Little, M.D. They have two sons.
Jesse Mangham Mangham, a 1972 Ferris graduate, compiled 1,962 points and 724 rebounds during his Bulldog basketball career. He continues to rank second on FSU's all-time career scoring leaders list and is fifth in rebounding. Mangham, who was the Bulldogs' leading scorer three consecutive seasons (1966-69), also ranks among the school's top 10 career leaders in field goals (739) and free throws (484). He averaged a school-record 30 points per game while totaling 660 points as a junior during the 1968-69 campaign. A 1967 honorable mention All-NAIA District 23 honoree, Mangham currently holds the school's single-game scoring record with his 51-point performance versus Adrian (1/30/69). He helped Ferris compile a 12-10 mark in 1968-69 under head coach Jim Wink. Mangham's 660 points in 1968-69 currently is listed second on the Bulldogs' single-season scoring leaders list while his 170 free throws the same season ranks third overall. The Flint Southwestern High School product returned for his senior campaign in 1971-72 after missing two seasons active in the Army. Mangham, a 6-5 forward, not only holds FSU's top junior class scoring average but also ranks first in sophomore scoring (24.7 ppg) and second in freshmen average (17.7 ppg). He totaled 14.8 points per contest in 26 outings as a senior while the Bulldogs posted a 17-9 overall record and advanced to the NAIA District 23 playoffs. The three-time team Most Valuable Player Award recipient was a four-year Bulldog letterwinner. He later became one of the first FSU student-athletes to be drafted by a professional team as the Detroit Pistons selected him in 1972. Mangham, who served as the squad's captain three seasons, twice received the Bulldog of the Year Award. He graduated with a degree in social studies. Mangham presently resides in
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Randy Merrifield Merrifield was a 1983-84 All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association Second-Team pick and a CCHA All-Academic First-Team selection. He presently ranks 10th in FSU career scoring with 151 points on 49 goals and 102 assists in 137 contests. His 102 career assists is seventh highest among the school's all-time leaders. The Harper Woods native set school single-season marks for points with 73 total (20-53-73), which was broken in 2002-03, and assists (53), both of which occurred during the 1983-84 campaign. A 1983-84 team tri-captain, Merrifield led the Bulldogs in scoring that season with 73 points. He was twice named CCHA Player of the Week as a senior and once made Bulldog Athlete of the Month. Merrifield played two years in the East Sweden Ice Hockey League for Bofors of Karlskoga, leading the team in scoring both seasons. He was invited to the Los Angeles Kings' training camp in 1985-86. He co-founded System Solvers, Ltd., a computer software company, in 1986 in Detroit. The firm recently developed a project/process management software solution designed to manage distributed team projects. His firm was cited as one of Michigan's Top 100 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in 1997. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, assists with Leadership Oakland's "Build a Ramp" program and coaches two youth hockey teams. He resides in Warren with his wife, Michele, and two sons.
Ed Philion Philion was a first-team Kodak & Football Gazette All-America pick as a senior in 1993 after leading FSU to a 9-1-2 mark and the school's second consecutive playoff appearance under head coach Keith Otterbein. The three-time All-Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference honoree registered 335 tackles and 29 sacks during his FSU playing career before beginning his current professional career, which began in 1994. The 1991 and 1993 FSU Most Valuable Player Award recipient presently ranks tied for ninth among the school's all-time tackle leaders and is third in career sacks. He posted a school and personal career-high 14 sacks in 1992 as Ferris recorded a 10-3 overall record. Philion continues to hold school records for fumble recoveries in a game (3) and career tackles for loss (56). The 6-3, 285-pound Philion has played the last seven seasons for the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes after having been traded by the Calgary Stampeders in June 1999. The two-time CFL East Division All-Star helped Montreal win the CFL's Grey Cup Championship in 2002. An 11th overall first-round pick in the 1994 CFL Draft, Philion played for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1998 National Football League preseason before being released in August of 1998. The defensive tackle led the Rhein Fire to the inaugural NFL Europe World Bowl title in '98 and was an all-league selection. Philion, who was out of football in 1997, played in 1996 for the Carolina Panthers after having been claimed on waivers from Buffalo. He re-signed with Buffalo before the '96 season after originally inking a contract with the Bills in 1994. In addition to his ongoing playing career, the Essex (Ontario) District High School product also works in the water treatment industry. He and his wife, Ann, currently live in Lorraine, Quebec, with their three sons.
John Sonntag Sonntag was a first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Team selection at linebacker during the 1974 campaign. During the 1974 campaign, he compiled a school-record total of 30 tackles in a single-game against Eastern Illinois (10/26). His 18 solo stops in that contest also stands as a school single-game mark to date. Sonntag, who was known for his great lateral pursuit and his nose for the football, led Ferris in total tackles three consecutive seasons. He garnered a personal career-high 166 stops in 1972, which included 98 solo tackles and 68 assists. In 1973, Sonntag registered 130 total tackles, including 78 unassisted efforts and 52 assisted stops. He concluded his career with 92 solo tackles and 31 assists for 123 total tackles as a senior (1974). FSU won its final five games of the campaign to finish 6-4 under head coach Nick Coso in 1972, which was one victory shy of matching the school's record at the time for total wins. Sonntag, who was elected a team captain as a senior, was an All-NAIA District 23 pick three times. The 6-0, 190-pound Ann Arbor native earned four varsity letters at FSU after an outstanding prep career at Pioneer High School. Sonntag, who was a prep gridiron MVP, began his Bulldog career in 1969 and returned for his sophomore season in 1972 after a two-year leave for service in the Army. FSU compiled a 6-4 mark in his freshman campaign (1969) under coach Bob Leach. Sonntag now serves as sheriff of Mecosta County and lives in Big Rapids with his wife, Joyce. The couple has two children.
Jim Miller An FSU graduate, Dr. Miller served as Ferris State's final head wrestling coach from 1984-94 and led the Bulldogs to seven GLIAC Championships. In his 10 seasons, he also guided the Bulldogs to seven top-12 national finishes including a second-place effort in 1989. Both a three-time GLIAC and Mideast Region Coach of the Year, Dr. Miller coached 34 NCAA Division II All-Americans and 16 NCAA-II Academic All-Americans during his head coaching tenure. His 1994 Bulldog squad placed third among Division II's top academic teams. An alternate on the 1988 United States Greco-Roman Olympic Wrestling Team, Miller was a two-time Pan-American and three-time U.S. Olympic Festival medallist as a wrestler. The nine-time U.S. National Open All-American was a two-time national champion. He served as an assistant wrestling coach at Central Michigan from 1994-97 and also was an assistant at Ferris State from 1981-84 before being named the program's head coach. At the international level, he was a coaching staff member for the 1996 Greco-Roman Olympic Team and the head coach of the 1994 Cadet World Championship Team. He also was the national team head coach for the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes and the Michigan Wrestling Club. Dr. Miller graduated from FSU's College of Optometry and earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Central Michigan. He currently serves as an associate professor and clinic chief of sports vision services at Ferris' Michigan College of Optometry. Dr. Miller, who is a frequent public speaker, also has organized and participated in several international vision care missions. A Heidelberg, Germany, native, Dr. Miller graduated from Warren's Fitzgerald High School. He currently lives in Big Rapids along with his wife, Cindy.
Tom Walsh Walsh received FSU Athletics' Pete Peterson Pride Award in 1986 for his service to Bulldog Athletics. He served as an official timekeeper at events for many years and was a member of the Ferris State Athletic Associates. He held the position of Ferris' commencement coordinator from 1972 to 1996 and served as the school's dean of student life during his higher education career. Walsh was a familiar face at Ferris athletic events and an avid sports enthusiast. He served as the timekeeper at a variety of sports, including hockey, basketball, track and swimming. A friend of coaches and student-athletes alike, Walsh was also the dean of men at Ferris State during his tenure.