Hall of Fame inducts former Huskies

NIU will induct 12 former Huskie greats into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame Friday, Oct. 28 at the Holmes Student Center’s Blackhawk Room as part of the 81st Homecoming weekend festivities.

The reception begins at 6 p.m. and is followed by a 7 p.m. banquet. The 1988 induction ceremonies mark the first time the Huskie women athletes have been installed into the NIU Athletic Hall of Fame at the same time as the male inductees. All 12 inductees will also be honored at halftime of the football game.

Here is a look at the people who each contributed their own style to Huskie athletics:

Mike Burke (1975-79)/Skokie, Ill.—Set a long list of NIU men’s gymnastics firsts—initial national champion, first three-time All-America, first back-to-back NCAA titlist, first freshman All-America and first Huskie with a perfect 10.0 score. Hit 9.85 in NCAA finals to beat U.S. Olympian Kurt Thomas (1979).

Clarence “Boots” Cannon (1916-21)/Shabbona Grove, Ill. (Deceased)—Received varsity letters in football, men’s basketball and baseball. Called “one of the strongest defensive men on the field.” Interrupted collegiate career to serve in World War I.

George Evans, Jr. (1958-62)/DeKalb, Ill.—Two-sport NIU standout and son of Huskie athletic patriarch George “Chick” Evans. Lettered three seasons in men’s basketball at guard and three in baseball at shortstop. Currently ranks No. 38 on the all-time NIU career cage scoring list with 688 points in 55 games.

Don Fortunato (1946-49)/Chicago, Ill.—Strong-armed pro-formation quarterback for coach George “Chick” Evans. Averaged 18.4 yards per completion and completed 66-of-164 passes for 1,214 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. Signed as free agent with Chicago Cardinals (1949).

John LaLonde (1968-71)/Downers Grove, Ill.—Became NIU’s first 2,000-yard career rusher. Scored 15 career TDs and gained 100 yards or more 12 times in 26-game Huskie career. Currently ranks No. 3 on school’s all-time career ground-gaining list (2,227 yards) and No. 3 in career rushing attempts (509).

Bill Minnihan (1946-50)/Sycamore, Ill.—Received four varsity football letters. Played in 40 of 41 games and starred at fullback as a freshman on 8-2-0 IIAC championship team. Won Huskie starts at halfback, fullback, quarterback, center, guard and linebacker.

Jack Pheanis (1950-53, 1957-88)/Chicago Heights, Ill.—Lettered in football at fullback. Led Huskies in rushing (339 yards) as a senior (1952). Rushed for 624 career yards. In 1952, won a letter in golf. Served as assistant coach in football, men’s basketball, men’s swimming and head men’s (1957-60, 1969-88) and women’s (1982-86) golf coach.

Jim Smith (1967-69)/Des Plaines, Ill.—First Huskie cager to be drafted by NBA (ninth round by Los Angeles Lakers in 1969). Ranked 17th among NCAA Division I rebounders as a senior (14.6 rbpg.) and 30th as a junior (14.1 rbpg.). Produced 45 double-figure scoring games in 48-game NIU career. Shares school record for most single-season free throw attempts (234 in 1967-68).

Mike Soli (1972-76)/Marquette, Mich.—First Huskie Division I golf All-America. Named Golf Coaches Association Second-Team All-America as a senior (1975-76) and Honorable Mention All-America as a junior (1974-75). Won back-to-back Mid-American Conference medalist honors (1975, 1976). Won PGA Tour Card at Pinehurst, N.C., (1979).

Janet Wentworth (1979-82)/Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada—Established NIU among nation’s elite badminton schools. First NIU Broderick Award recipient and finalist for Broderick Cup—symbolic of top woman athlete in U.S. (1979). Member of NIU Hall of Fame AIAW National Championship team as a senior (1981-82). Named school’s Woman Athlete of the Year (1979-80).

Doreen Zierer (1979-82)/Hampshire, Ill.—First NIU female basketball player to surpass 1,000 career points (1,712). Named Basketball Weekly Special Mention All-America as a senior (1981-82). Holds 12 school records, including career point average (18.8 ppg.) and single season points (688 in 1981-82). Played professional basketball in Ireland.