2009 Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner
What a Great Night!

by Adam Alexander

Rhode Island College capped a rain-soaked Homecoming 2009 weekend on Oct. 3 by honoring the Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2009 at the annual Athletic Recognition and Hall of Fame Dinner at Donovan Dining Center.

 

The class included James N. Adams (posthumously), William M. Baird, Robert Berlam ’58, Jesus Berrio ’89, Paul Bourget ’69, Michele Fanelli ’04, Kristine (Nicholas) Greene ’90, James McGlynn ’89 and the 1968-69 Men’s Basketball Team.

 

The night started off with Director of Athletics Donald E. Tencher greeting the inductees, their family and friends, “Tonight’s event is one of great celebration as we honor those great men and women who have laid the foundation of our present day success and for the success we strive for in the future.”

 

The 1968-69 men’s basketball team was the first to be inducted into the fledgling Team Hall of Fame, joining the 1979 Baseball Team, which was enshrined a year ago. All the players received mini-basketballs signed by the entire team and coaching staff. Speaking for the inductees was former captain Pete Emond ’69. He said, “On behalf of the 1968-69 team, I want to thank the committee, also Don Tencher and all the members of the athletic department, and to Coach [Bill] Baird. Without his guidance we would not have the team we had at 24-2. People used to say we didn’t play any defense. Coach Baird’s philosophy came from URI, which was if the other team scored 100 and we scored 101-we won.” The last line got a laugh out of the crowd.

 

Next to be inducted was longtime athletic director and men’s basketball coach William M. Baird. “You have no idea how proud I am of the 1968-69 team being inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Baird said in the opening part of his acceptance speech. “They were a great group of guys. My road at Rhode Island College has been very enjoyable.”

 

Former track and cross country star Jesus Berrio ’89 was also enshrined. “I am honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” he started. “I would like to thank Rhode Island College and the athletic department. I would like to also thank my coach at the time Charlie Sweeney. If anyone knew Charlie, you would know he is a quite guy. When I started to run fast, Charlie would get real excited.” He also thanked his mother for letting him know, “It’s only a race.”

 

One of the greatest first basemen in Rhode Island College softball history was the next to be honored as Michele Fanelli ’04 stepped up to the podium. “I would like to thank my mother-she gave her life up for softball.” Fanelli said. “I would like to thank my coaches because, if it was not for them, I would not be where I am today.” She went on to thank teammates and the athletic department for all they have done for her.

 

Next to receive the night’s accolades was track star Kristine (Nicholas) Greene ’90. “Being a member of track and field teams started when I was nine years old at a recreation program in Cranston,” Greene reminisced. “I would play games on Saturday called “jump the brook.” In college terms, you could call it Long Jump 101. Being a jumper was a part of my identity and provided me with a connection with my school. It’s funny. I never thought doing something that was so enjoyable in my youth could come back to me in 20 years to be inducted in the Rhode Island College Hall of Fame.”

 

All-New England third basemen James McGlynn ’89 was the next member of the ‘09 class. “I lived in Connecticut for the last 20 years, so it was nice to show my family around campus,” McGlynn said. “A quick story about my coach. In 1989, I was going to play at Fenway Park [in the N.E. Collegiate All-Star Game] as I crashed my mother car. My coach came and picked me up to drive me to Boston, then drove me home. That’s the kind of people they were,” he added.

 

Three-sport superstar Robert Berlam ’58 was the next to receive the highest honor in Rhode Island College Athletics. A standout in men’s soccer, track and field, he also played men’s basketball. Berlam was honored to receive this distinction. “On the airplane, I wrote down some of my feelings I had about Rhode Island College,” he said One thing all these people [his fellow inductees] have in common that it was not about their accomplishment, but whom they did it with. Then I went up to the Hall of Fame [in The Murray Center] and saw a lot of my teammates. I could not recall all the wins, but I remember who I shared them with.”

 

Next to take center stage was Paul Bourget ’69 who is one of the most generous alumni that the college has ever produced, giving selflessly with his time and treasure, to not only athletics, but the entire institution. “I am not an athlete.” Bourget said. “The picture [referring to his Hall of Fame plaque] showed me with no uniform on and with no number on my back. When I was here at Rhode Island College I had no teams. I did not have any stories, but I am here right now and you are all my team. Go Anchormen,” he added to end his speech.

 

Last, but not least, the late James N. Adams, who spent 21 years at Rhode Island College, serving as an Assistant Athletic Director in addition to his men’s basketball coaching duties, was recognized posthumously. On behalf of Adams, his family was on hand to except this great honor. Adams’ son, James Adams III, accepted the award from RIC President Nancy Carriuolo. “Dad was a heck of a person, but behind every good man there is a good woman,” Adams III said acknowledging his mother Lola, who was also on stage along with his sister Karen and brother Michael. He then went on to read a moving poem “What Makes a Dad?” The family left the stage to a standing ovation with smiles that lit up the room.

 

On a night where the inductees were so thankful for the honor they received, the reality of it all is, we should be thankful to them for all the great memories they have left for us.