History gathered at Hall of Fame

By Eric Burt

Representatives from several eras of NIU history gathered Friday night to reminisce, shake hands and exchange stories of the past. But most importantly, they gathered to accept induction into the NIU Athletic Hall of Fame. The Seventh Hall of Fame Banquet was held Friday evening at the Blackhawk Room of the Holmes Student Center.

The 12 inductees were Clarence Cannon (class of 1921) who was represented by his son, Walter; Toimi Jarvi (class of 1942) who was represented by his son, Steve; Don Fortunado (class of 1949); Bill Minnihan (class of 1950); George Evans, Jr. (class of 1963); Jack Pheanis (class of 1953); John LaLonde (class of 1971); Jim Smith (class of 1970); Mike Burke (class of 1979); Mick Soli (class of 1976); Janet Wentworth (class of 1982); and Doreen Zierer (class of 1982).

Mike Burke, three-time All-America in gymnastics and member of the Hall of Fame selection committee, was excited to be back. “It is really nice to be back on campus,” Burke said. “I try to get back once a year. I’m really enjoying myself.”

Jim Smith, the first NIU basketball player to be drafted by the NBA (ninth rond by Los Angeles Lakers in 1969), was also glad to be at NIU. “I had too many good times to not come back occasionally,” Smith said.

Jack Pheanis, NIU’s men’s golf coach, was pumped up. “I told O’Dell (NIU athletic director Gerald) I was ready to play tomorrow against Ball State,” Pheanis said. “He didn’t say anything.

“This is really fun seeing old friends. I haven’t seen Mick (inductee Soli) since he played for me in 1976.”

Mick Soli had similar sentiments. “I’m very happy for Coach (Pheanis),” Soli said. “He has been associated with the school a lot longer than I have. He deserves the award more.”

Soli was the first Huskie Division I golf All-America and three-time MVP. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m very excited to be here,” Soli said.

A pre-meal moment of silence was held in remembrance of Reino Nori, NIU’s “Flyin‘ Finn” who passed away three weeks ago. Nori was a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 1978, and he is the only man in NIU history to earn 17 varsity letters. Nori’s wife was present at the banquet.