CLEVELAND, Tenn. — What could have been a bulky beginning to the Cleveland State Community College Hall of Fame was full but smooth Saturday, beginning with the induction brunch at the Mountain View Inn.
Twenty-five people were part of the inaugural class and 22 of them were present, along with a host of family members, friends and other Cougars supporters, but the event moved crisply with WTVC sports anchor Darrell Patterson as emcee. The presentation of the 25 and highlights of their careers and future achievements lasted last than an hour, after brief welcoming remarks from athletic director and baseball coach Mike Policastro and school president Dr. Carl Hite.
The inductees were presented again between games of the afternoon basketball doubleheader against Chattanooga State.
"I thought it was outstanding," said inductee Jim Cigliano, Cleveland State's first admissions director and longtime athletic director and vice president who now is commissioner of the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association. "This is another way of connecting with those who have been here before."
Cigliano and others talked "for years" about creating a hall of fame even before his retirement from the school in 2005, and the details for the first class were about a year in the works.
"I think this was a good number to start with, and we'll probably have a similar amount next year," he said. "There are so many out there who need to be honored. But in two or three years we'll probably scale down to a smaller group going in every year."
The first class focused on the 1967-79 athletes and coaches but with softball players Rhonda Snow and Kim Gentry from the early 1980s included. The school did not add that sport until 1979.
Liz Hannah Jackson was the first female athlete signed to a Cleveland State scholarship, after ending her sensational Bradley Central High School basketball career in 1974, and she went on to stardom at Middle Tennessee State. But she said she cherishes her time at the community college and really appreciated Saturday's event.
"This is a great honor and a great thing for Cleveland State," said Jackson, whose Lady Cougars teams finished seventh and fourth in the nation. "This is where I had a chance to start my college career, and it is a special place with special people."
Inducted with her were her coach, Hugh Walker, and three basketball Lady Cougars who followed right behind: Zandra Montgomery Morris, Data Caldwell and Dr. Melinda Shell.
Mike Fitzgerald, who starred in basketball and baseball on Cleveland State's first sports teams, was joined from baseball by Mike Moore, Scott Bell, Ted May, Larry Simcox and coach Steve Longley. Dr. Steve Williams and Gene Meadows were joined by coach Joe Crabtree, the school's first athletic staff member, for men's basketball, while Jim Gibson, Dr. Lynn Griffith and Ralph Buckner Jr. were included for tennis and Mike Benson, Tom Maupin and Winston Prince went in for golf.
Robert Kincaid and Norma Davis were inducted for longtime service to the athletic department.