New Athletic Hall of Fame to honor past, unite present

Coach John Casey, who helped found the Athletics Hall of Fame, poses for a potrait in his office at the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center on Oct 26. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts Athletics Department instated its very own Athletics Hall of Fame this September. The Hall of Fame will honor and celebrate the full history of athletics at Tufts, inducting its first honorees in the spring of 2018. Although it does not yet have a physical space on campus, the hall’s existence is a step toward the unification of the greater Tufts athletics community.

Long in the works, the Athletics Hall of Fame finally came into fruition under the leadership of the Director of Athletics John Morris. According to Baseball Coach and Assistant Director of Athletics John Casey, Morris was the main impetus behind making the hall a reality.

“Like any process, it’s been going on for a long time,” Casey said. “I like to say that things percolate for a while… You get all these wonderful ideas and great things, but it usually takes someone to really grab the bull by the horns and say ‘okay, we’re going.’ John is the guy who’s done all that [for the Hall of Fame].”

When asked who he believed responsible for finally setting the project into motion, meanwhile, Morris named Casey as “a proponent of the idea for years” in an email to the Daily. Morris also mentioned that the project would not have been feasible without the support from coaches, staff, administrators and alumni, as well as the Office of Alumni Relations.

Tufts is now on the same page as many of the NCAA Div. I, II and even many other Div. III universities who boast Athletic Halls of Fame. This group includes multiple fellow NESCAC members, including Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Conn. College.

“With our long and rich tradition of Jumbo athletic excellence,” Morris said. “The time was right to create our own athletics hall of fame here at Tufts.”

While the Hall of Fame now officially exists, the first inductees will not be revealed until the spring. Meanwhile, the question of where and how to erect the physical hall is still up in the air. Casey was satisfied that the project finally came to fruition, even despite the delay before the first inductions. He knew that once in existence, the hall would continue to develop until it reached its full standing as a physical and symbolic point of pride for the university.

“There’s still some details to be ironed out, but I think halls grow as times go,” Casey said. “I think what happens is, like everything else, you get something that’s really good and you’re seeing all the benefits of it, and then you want to continue to make it better and better… I mean, if the biggest problem is that we have to find a place to honor these people and put them up, we’re going to make that happen. It’s just a question of where and how to do it the best way.”

Morris stated that until the physical hall — which will be funded by private fundraising — is erected, the hall will be accessible online.

“We will have a virtual Hall of Fame on our website to honor our inductees,” Morris stated. “Although we have not identified a final location yet, we plan to devote a physical space to the Hall of Fame in the future.”

Casey also recognized that the most important issue in the creation of something as commemorative and symbolic as the Athletics Hall of Fame is the general message, not the minutiae. This clarity of insight came to him during his involvement in creating a Hall of Fame for the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA).

“I think that got delayed so long because people were deciding between a ring and a watch,” Casey said. “I’m going, like, ‘Yeah, but, you know, people just want to be recognized.’”

While putting the project into motion and dealing with the administrative side of things might have been a bit more tedious, Casey claimed that he does not expect the decision making process for the nominations to be difficult or controversial.

“I know we’ve spent a lot of time on the the guidelines for nominating people and the guidelines for the process of how long you had to be out and the categories, so that sort of takes care of that,” Casey said. “I don’t see how we’re going to be wrong, no matter who we put in for the first few [classes] anyways. It’s long overdue.”

Both Morris and Casey described one major purpose of the Hall of Fame as honoring excellent coaches, players and administrators.

“[We want] to honor the many outstanding Jumbos… [who have] distinguished themselves in the field of intercollegiate athletics, brought honor and acclaim to our university, and contributed to the success and advancement of intercollegiate athletics at Tufts,” Morris said.

Casey named track star Vera Stenhouse (A ’91) as an example of someone who deserves more recognition than she currently receives. Stenhouse is already a member of the Div. III Track & Field Athlete Hall of Fame. She was inducted in 2012. However, her feats as a Jumbo — including eight individual NCAA Div. III national championships — are not as widely remembered and appreciated by current Tufts students.

She was the only women’s track athlete that qualified in 1991, and she finished fourth as a team,” Casey recounted. “No one even knows that. I mean, that’s an unbelievable story… [that] you want to make sure gets passed down.”

The other purpose of the hall is to unite and bring pride to the school community as a whole. For Casey, it not only seeks to honor those involved in sports at Tufts; it is a means of celebrating school spirit on a greater level. In that way, inducting an acclaimed honoree to the Athletics Hall of Fame is akin to other honors on campus.

“It’s no different than the sense of pride when you find out that a chemistry professor gets a huge distinguished reward,” he said. “Everyone feels good because it’s a Tufts person … It’s just one community.”

Casey also highlighted the parallels between the hall’s unifying intent and the similar capacity of athletics itself to bring people together.

“It’s no different than going to a game,” he said. “People come to a game, they feel good, [and] they watch the game. They’re excited. And it’s ‘Tufts won,’ not anyone else, not those three guys or those four women won. It’s ‘Tufts won.’ That’s what we’re sort of looking at, too.”