Lincoln College hosts yet another magical evening with the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

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[November 13, 2017] 


The 2017 Lincoln College Athletic Hall of Fame inductees honored in Friday night’s ceremony were Dan Hemenway, Brianne Nation, Josh Wegrzyn, Bill Piskorski, Tom Zurkammer and Bill Gossett.

Lincoln College inducted the fifth class of members into its Athletic Hall of Fame Friday night and the evening was nothing short of spectacular. Inside the old gym on the historic campus, friends gathered for not only food and drinks, but tons of laughs. The camaraderie among teammates and coaches was rekindled, the craziness was recaptured, and the family bond was reinforced. The evening was truly magical, as the stories and memories live on in the hearts of those who were touched by the Lincoln College experience.

Following opening remarks by President David Gerlach and a delicious dinner buffet put on by the Lincoln College dining staff, the evening kicked into high gear as Allen Pickering took to the podium. “Pick" as he is affectionately called by most everyone, was the emcee of the evening and once again he was on top of his game.

Dan Hemenway and Jake Sexton

The laughter started immediately as Pickering introduced Jake Sexton as the presenter for Dan Hemenway’s award. Sexton was actually Hemenway’s third choice to present, said Pickering, noting that the first two choices fell through.

Sexton took it all in stride and when he reached the podium he acknowledged this year’s inductees to be a “pretty impressive class.” Sexton, a former swimmer for Lincoln College, had Hemenway as a coach and he mentioned the four priorities that Coach Hemenway had throughout his career: Family, Faith, Academics and Swimming & Diving. “Those four priorities never changed,” said Sexton, of the man who coached Lincoln College Swimming and Diving from 1991-2007. Sexton went on to recall how Hemenway had survived a very traumatic car accident in 2007 and how during the recovery period, “Dan accepted the challenge with a strong resolve and with a sense of humor.” Sexton went on to say, “Dan pushed himself like he did his athletes.” Finally, in admiration, Sexton introduced the first 2017 inductee to the crowd by saying, “The lasting impact he’s had on all of us is greater.”

As Coach Hemenway began his speech, he first thanked his mom and dad. “I learned true determination from my own father,” he said. “And my mom said, “No matter what you’re doing in life, have fun. Mom and Dad, love them very much,” said Hemenway. Hemenway also thanked his kids, Daniel and Grace, and their mom, Christina. “She took care of the kids all by herself all of the time,” said Dan of Christina. Hemenway is very proud of his children and noted that Daniel will graduate from Illinois State University in the spring with a degree in Business Marketing and Grace has started college in Georgia. Hemenway also recognized the four assistant coaches that were in attendance. “They made coaching fun,” he said. Hemenway asked the swimmers and divers in the crowd to stand and more than a dozen stood for their beloved coach. “They performed so well at Nationals,” said Hemenway, “It was fun!” Hemenway then recognized Ron and Joyce Schilling and gave them credit for attending Nationals and sitting thru the 23-24 minute mile swim. As he choked up a bit, Hemenway said, “I don’t have the words to really describe what this means to me.” But then his ever-present sense of humor came back to him quickly and he said, “I want to share this with all of you but since it has my name on it, I’m gonna take it home with me.”

Dan's swimmers and divers who had nothing but good things to say about the terrific Coach Hemenway

The crowd erupted in applause as this magical evening kicked off with an excellent recipient.

Pickering stepped up and took credit for hiring Hemenway in 1991 and then called Hemenway back to the podium to introduce Lincoln College’s second inductee of the evening, Brianne Nation.

Brianne Nation and Dan Hemenway

Brianne Nation was a decorated swimmer for Lincoln College and she came to Lincoln from Bartonville. She graduated from Lincoln College in 2004. Nation was supposed to be introduced by her sister, but since she was unable to make it, Hemenway filled in, reading her sister’s speech. Nation and her sister were both swimmers in their youth and as the only two girls on the swim team, they always swam against boys. “Bri did it because she loved swimming and had a passion and the drive for it,” according to her sister. Hemenway also noted Nation’s athleticism along with that passion and drive and said, “If I remember correctly, Bri was the first female national champion of all sports in Lincoln College history.” Many in the crowd shook their heads in agreement.

Swimmers and divers of Lincoln College years past turned out to support both Coach Dan Hemenway, Brianne Nation, and Josh Wegrzyn Friday night.

As Nation took the podium, she said, “I am truly honored to be considered let alone to be inducted. I created so many lifelong bonds here and it was such an amazing experience.”

Nation began to break down in tears as she looked at Hemenway and said, “The best coach I’ve ever had….I learned so much outside of the pool. I’m incredibly honored to share this night with you and all the other inductees.”

Josh Wegrzyn and Keith Tobin

The third inductee of the evening was swimmer Josh Wegrzyn. Wegrzyn was in the Class of 2000 and he was a two-time NJCAA national champion and seven-time All-American at Lincoln College. Keith Tobin introduced Wegrzyn as his teammate who was “like a big brother to me” and said, “Josh is one of the most hardworking people I know. We have remained great friends.” Tobin also recalled the first time he met Wegrzyn, he was wearing a t-shirt that read, “Real men don’t quit.” Tobin never forgot that red t-shirt or that motto.

When Wegrzyn spoke, he immediately acknowledged Coach Hemenway. “I certainly would not be here without Coach Hemenway,” he said. “Thanks to Dan, he lit that fire under me and I got a passion for learning back while I was at Lincoln College.”

Bill Piskorski and Bob Morris

The fourth inductee of the evening was Bill Piskorski, a Lincoln College baseball player from the Class of 1972. He was introduced by his dear friend Bob Morris who called Piskorski a "big city kid outta Peoria Richwoods.” The two men had a 45-year friendship that Morris called, “A relationship that meant the world to both of us.” Morris continued, “My parents always taught me to respect a guy who had character and class and Billy had both those things. We are recognizing Billy tonight because of his baseball skills, but he’s better at three other things in life. Billy is a better husband, father and grandfather than he ever dreamed of being a baseball player. He is an All-American all the time,” said Morris.

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The 2017 Lincoln College Athletic Hall of Fame Class from left to right are Dan Hemenway, Brianne Nation, Josh Wegrzyn, Tom Zurkhammer, Bill Piskorski and Bill Gossett

When Piskorski got up to speak he first mentioned that he had not been back to Lincoln College in 45 years but his two years spent at the school were the “greatest two years of my life.”

Piskorski said he had great teammates, as he nodded over to a table full of baseball players from the early ‘70s. He also recognized some great people in his life, starting with his parents, both deceased. “My mom taught me the love of baseball and always had time to go out in the yard to play baseball.” Piskorski acknowledged his siblings, too, for "always having time to play catch.” He credited his high school coaches for his success also and mentioned his coach at the University of New Mexico, where he went on to play after Lincoln College. As for Lincoln, he said, "My field of dreams was right here at Lincoln College. I had the honor to play for Coach Lindstrom, Coach Pickering and Coach Zurkammer. They made great citizens and great students. They saved my life here at Lincoln College. This is a family. This is like Heaven on Earth here.” Piskorski also noted the important role Paul Beaver played in his time at Lincoln College.

Piskorski thanked his teammates at Lincoln College "who made our ball club so much better.” And he added, “We competed together and won a lot of baseball games here.” Despite his love for the game, he looked at his wife and gratefully said, “My wife of 44 years, Carol, she’s the best teammate I’ve ever had. I am so honored, so humbled and so overwhelmed. It was a privilege to be a Lynx.” ‘Billy P.’ as he was called by his friends, makes his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it looked like he had such a great time in Lincoln on this visit that he will be back.

Coach Chuck Lindstrom is surrounded by members of his 1972 Lincoln College baseball team as they gathered to support "Billy P." Friday evening.

Before Pickering introduced the fifth inductee of the evening, he took a phone call from Warren Lee while at the podium. Laughter from the crowd ensued. It was an inside joke. Lee is apparently known for calling and talking for over an hour, asking about everyone individually, Pickering explained, while the crowd chuckled.

Allen Pickering and Tom Zurkammer

Pickering did have the honor of introducing Tom Zurkammer as the next inductee. No one honestly gets tired of hearing “Pick” talk, except for maybe Zurkammer, so it was appropriate for the situation.

“It is a fact he did not graduate with Abraham Lincoln,” said Pickering very clear and concise of his dear friend and confidant, Zurkammer. Pickering noted that in fact, Zurkammer was born and raised in Lincoln, went to Chester-East Lincoln School, Lincoln Community High School and Lincoln College before heading off to MacMurray. Zurkammer is a member of the Class of 1963 at Lincoln College and he was inducted as both a coach and athlete at Lincoln College. Zurkammer was a basketball and baseball player at Lincoln College. Upon graduating from MacMurray and returning to Lincoln College, Zurkammer coached the men’s basketball team, among other duties throughout his 50-year career here. His accolades at Lincoln College are numerous in the classroom and he currently serves as an adjunct math professor at Lincoln College. Off the court, so to speak, Pickering called Zurkammer the “greatest left-handed shooter I’ve ever seen” saying that he used to “shoot the ball from down in the stairwell” of the old gymnasium.

When Zurkammer finally reached the podium after Pickering’s fantastic introduction, he yelled, “Hey!” and startled everyone. “Pickering has a knack for putting everyone to sleep,” he said dryly. Zurkammer immediately jumped into telling stories about his time with Pickering through the years at Lincoln College. The stories took place from Las Vegas to Louisville, Kentucky to Lincoln, Illinois. While Zurkammer said Pickering gets accused of being a tightwad, he simply calls his friend a “monetarily right wing conservative.” The crowd laughed at everything Zurkammer said and smiled when he said, “The 50 years at Lincoln College have flown by. What a fantastic journey it has been for me.”

Zurkammer also told an inspirational story about a young man who came to Lincoln College to pretty much do everything except study and learn. Zurkammer said the young man had scored very high on his ACT test but was not willing to put the work in at school on a daily basis because he already knew he would go back home and someday be in charge of his father’s company. Zurkammer told him one day in his office, as the young man’s grades were failing, "What you hoped might be, probably could be and with a lot of effort and hard work, would be.” Zurkammer repeated this to the young man on his graduation day from Lincoln College. Years later the man wrote Zurkammer a letter and told him he used that phrase throughout his life when meeting with his vice-presidents and second-level managers.

 Zurkammer has indeed left his mark at Lincoln College throughout his 50 years here and he also deserves credit of the birth of the Lincoln College Athletic Hall of Fame, which now boasts twenty-nine members.

As Zurkammer concluded his speech he said, “This honor tonight is my golden capstone.” He started to tear up. “It truly is a mega-honor for me. When I walk up to that line in my second lifetime, I will say, “Give me 50 more at Lincoln College.”

Jan Bowers and Bill Gossett

Pickering came to the podium one more time. The sixth inductee was “Friend of Athletics” Bill Gossett of Lincoln. Jan Bowers was scheduled to present to Gossett, but she had lost her voice, said Pickering, so the honor of pretending to be Bowers was bestowed on Pickering. Bowers did come to the stage to stand next to Pickering at his request. Bowers’ speech started with “My friendship began with Bill long before I even realized it.” She noted her childhood days of visiting Gossett’s Cleaners of Lincoln. Later in life as a member of the faculty at Lincoln College, Bowers observed Gossett as a Lincoln College Board of Trustee member and she said, “Bill loves everything about this school.” At 94 years old, Bill Gossett took the podium to accept the honor from Bowers and he was sporting his dad’s 1919 letter sweater. “It’s a special night,” said Gossett, referring to getting the sweater out of storage. “I appreciate this,” Gossett spoke of the honor. “When I am on campus I make it a point to stop and visit with our students.” He also said he will often ask students if they have a favorite instructor and often times they say, “Jan Bowers.”

Gossett was a 1943 graduate of Lincoln College. Many have called Gossett a lifelong public servant to Logan County and Lincoln College, and he lives up to that billing. Gossett thanked his wife of 69 years, Jean, as he so proudly stood before the packed gymnasium. Gossett was indebted to his children and his siblings for the roles they played throughout his life. He mentioned his brother Jack’s distinguished military career and told some World War II stories. Gossett received the first athletic award at Lincoln College back in the day. Gossett also emphasized how the staff and teachers at Lincoln College are making a difference. He encouraged the crowd to make a difference as well.

Gossett’s impact on Pickering even made the master of ceremonies proclaim, “I could listen to Bill Gossett talk forever.”

The stories, the memories, and the people all made for another terrific evening at Lincoln College.

Congratulations to the six new inductees of the Lincoln College Athletic Hall of Fame.

[Teena Lowery]

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