By Nina Zimmerman
Though not particularly well known for its athletic program, Kenyon has a sports tradition deeply rooted in the history of the College. The Kenyon Athletic Association (KAA) Hall of Fame, which held its 2013 induction ceremony last weekend during the Homecoming festivities, serves as one of the prime promoters of this tradition.
“It’s a method of passing down stories,” said Peter Smith, director of athletics, fitness and recreation. “It’s passing down tradition, it’s passing down what this education and what this athletic experience that we create every year with the students ﾗ passing it down so that they will take that into life with them.”
The KAA distributed two awards and welcomed six new members into its Hall of Fame over the course of the evening.
Former football player David Rose ’81 accepted the Burchell Rowe Award for his devotion and generosity to the entire Kenyon community. Rose hosts alumni at his home in Richmond, Va., and is also active in helping current Kenyon students find internships and jobs. Despite living in Virginia, Smith said Rose can usually be found in Gambier on weekends, supporting the Lords and Ladies.
Shaka Smart ’99 next received the Donald May Award, honoring how the alumnus turned his Kenyon basketball experiences into a successful career. Smart, the head men’s basketball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, could not attend the ceremony. Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff accepted the award on Smart’s behalf.
“I would like to say on Shaka’s behalf that Kenyon remains home to him,” Rutkoff said. “To be honored at home is a wonderful experience.”
The ceremony then proceeded with the six inductees: Shelly Baker Butler ’96 and Ashley Rowatt Karpinos ’03 for women’s swimming, Evan Bliss ’00 for lacrosse, Jerry Ellsworth ’52 for lacrosse and soccer, Jamie Harless ’95 for basketball and Samie Kim Falvey ’96 for field hockey and lacrosse.
Senior Program Advisor and former Head Swimming Coach Jim Steen inducted Baker Butler, who could not attend the ceremony. She is in recovery from a recent medical procedure to fight colon cancer, which was diagnosed in 2009. Steen described Baker Butler, one of the most accomplished relay swimmers in Kenyon history, as “an amazing talent on an outstanding team who made everyone better. She had this larger than life presence about her,” Steen said.
“Considering the fact that I’m fighting cancer, this award means even more to me,” Baker Butler said in an email to her father, Dick Baker ’69, that he read on her behalf. “It’s a welcome and timely reminder that I’m a formidable competitor. ﾅ If ever there’s a program designed to prepare a person for the rigors of fighting cancer, it’s the Kenyon swimming program.”
Bliss was next, inducted by his former teammate Alex Minard ’00 and former roommate David Houston ’00. Bliss, who died suddenly last summer, is the Lords’ lacrosse career leader in goals (140) and holds the single-season records for points (78), goals (59) and goals per game (3.93). In his speech, Houston described Bliss’s induction as “a coping mechanism” for family and friends as they deal with his unexpected death.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s a wonderful memorial to him,” Nancy Bliss, his mother, said.
Ellsworth, the eldest of the inductees, went next, inducted by his friend and former teammate Bill Ririe ’53 P’80. Ellsworth, in conjunction with legendary coach Bill Stiles, played a crucial role in the development of Kenyon lacrosse when the program was in its infancy.
“The prominence of Jerry was the recognition of Jerry by players from top teams around the country,” Ririe said during the ceremony.
Harless followed Ellsworth, inducted by his former teammate Ken Danziger ’94. While playing for legendary basketball coach Bill Brown, who attended the ceremony, Harless scored 1,799 points (fifth all-time for the Lords) and currently leads the Lords in career three-point field goals made (276), steals (197) and steals per game (1.8).
“I’m just really humbled that the College decided to induct me, and I’m privileged to be going in with such a special group of people,” Harless said.
Smith next inducted Falvey, who also could not attend the ceremony. Falvey was a defensive cornerstone for Kenyon field hockey in the 1990s, and earned the program’s second All-American award. “We overlapped by only two years, but she taught me a tenacity and a way as an athlete when I played with her at Kenyon ﾅ that I didn’t know prior,” Sarah Rice ’98, Falvey’s former teammate, said.
The evening concluded with the induction of Rowatt Karpinos by her husband and former teammate Justin Karpinos ’03. Rowatt Karpinos stands out in Kenyon swimming history as the first Division III athlete to win the NCAA Woman of the Year award. She was awarded this prestigious achievement in 2003.
“Shelly Baker [Butler], at a little under six feet, and Ashley Rowatt [Karpinos], at a little over five feet, represent the long and short of the best of Kenyon women’s swimming,” Steen said. “This is truly a community driven by stories. They shape our culture; they elevate our spirit.”