Big Rapids, Mich. - Six former standout student-athletes along with a highly-successful coach and administrator join one of the school's most historic teams ever as honorees in the Ferris State University Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2017, which will be enshrined this fall as the prestigious event returns.
Overall, the group of honorees spans five decades and includes representation from nine different varsity athletics programs as they become the university's first class of inductees in six years. The event will return in 2017 with the induction banquet taking place on Friday, Sept. 15, at the University Center on the Ferris State campus. The group will be the 12th class of inductees to be recognized since the formation of the hall of fame in 2000.
Representing the Class of 2017 are: Kathryn Bobbie (Women's Golf, 1999-03), Steve Fountain (Men's Track & Cross Country, 1974-79), Jody "Gifford" Markwart (Softball, 1996-99), Kathy O'Connor (Women's Volleyball & Basketball, 1990-93), Chris Pulliams (Football, 1993-96), Scott Schultz (Men's & Women's Tennis Coach & Administrator, 1982-89) and Monta Ware (Women's Basketball, 1979-83).
In addition, the school's first-ever unbeaten football team from 1968, which was guided by head coach Bob Leach, will become the first-ever team to earn induction into the Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame.
Along with the seven individuals and the first team to earn induction, former Ferris State men's ice hockey standout and three-time Stanley Cup Champion Chris Kunitz of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins also was chosen this year, but has deferred his induction until the end of his professional hockey career when he and his family can attend the special event.
A 14-member Selection Committee comprised of faculty, staff, alumni and community members selected the 2017 inductees in a voting process from more than 60 initial nominees. The seven individuals will become the newest members of a current Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame member group that presently includes 101 previous inductees.
"This is a very distinguished and decorated group of individuals and we're thrilled to induct them in the hall of fame as the event returns this fall," said FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. "It is a tremendous honor to be chosen for induction and we congratulate each inductee and honoree. We look forward to welcoming them back to campus for a Hall of Fame weekend that will be a very special time for these individuals, their families, teammates and fellow Bulldog alums."
Specific details regarding the Hall of Fame Banquet along with ticket and sponsorship opportunities will be announced in the near future.
"We are very excited about this great Hall of Fame Class of 2017 and looking forward to an exceptional event", said Hall of Fame Selection Committee member and current Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame member Bill Scheible. "This is a great group of superstar athletes, an outstanding coach and an entire undefeated football team that will be honored. It will make for a great evening and celebration of some of the outstanding people in Ferris State Athletics history."
The Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted its Charter Class in 2000, was established to honor those student-athletes and coaches who have distinguished themselves in their sport or honorary members who made truly exceptional contributions to athletics.
Those who are inducted must first meet the following nomination criteria - Nominees must be departed from Ferris State University for at least 10 years; Nominees must have earned at least one varsity letter and must have distinguished themselves by exemplary performance in the field of athletics; Secondary consideration is given for the performance of meritorious service in behalf of Ferris State Athletics after leaving FSU, or a singular contribution to FSU's Athletics program, and Nominees must have demonstrated good citizenship and conducted exemplary professional/occupational careers which reflect credit on the individual and Ferris State University.
Following are thumbnail sketches of each new 2017 Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame inductee:
Kathryn Bobbie (Women's Golf, 1999-03) - The only two-time All-American in Ferris State women's golf history, Bobbie concluded her four-year Ferris State career with a seventh-place individual finish (313 score) at the 2003 NCAA Division II National Championships in what represented the third consecutive national tourney appearance of her career. She closed out her FSU career as the school's all-time leader with a career 79.69 stroke average and was the program's record holder for the lowest 36-hole score. Bobbie was named to the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) Division II All-America Second-Team in the 2001-02 season and earned first-team recognition in 2000-01. As a senior, Bobbie was honored as the GLIAC Women's Golf Athlete of the Year for the second time in her career. She was the top individual medalist at the GLIAC Championships three-straight seasons and registered a team-high 10 top 20 finishes as a senior, which included a squad-best seven top five individual efforts. Bobbie paced the Bulldogs with a single-season school-record 78.28 stroke average in 32 total rounds in her final season and also holds the second-best single-season performance mark in FSU history. Bobbie received acclaim for her on-the-course efforts as she was named to the All-GLIAC First Team three consecutive seasons and was chosen as Ferris State Team MVP four times. In the classroom, the two-time GLIAC All-Academic honoree was also twice chosen as a member of the NGCA's All-America Scholar Team.
Steve Fountain (Men's Track & Cross Country, 1974-79) - The Mount Pleasant High School standout became a NAIA All-American during his Bulldog track and field/cross country career and was one of the program's early greats. He picked up All-America accolades with a third-place effort (9:15) in the two-mile run at the 1976 NAIA National Indoor Championships. The four-year Bulldog letterwinner claimed Ferris State's male Student-Athlete of the Year honor in 1977-78. He was also honored as the school's Most Valuable Performer in men's track in 1977. Fountain continues to hold the school record in the indoor 5,000 meters with his time of 14:46.74 recorded at Eastern Michigan in 1976. His outdoor 5,000-meter run time of 14:36.64 in 1977 also still ranks as one of the top two performances in Ferris State history. He also has the school's fourth-fastest indoor 3,000-meter time (8:34.14). Fountain, who competed for longtime head coach Ray Helsing, was named MVP of the men's cross country team as a freshman and earned numerous all-conference and all-district awards during his collegiate career. He earned his bachelor's degree in pharmacy from Ferris State. The Bulldogs had four-straight GLIAC runner-up finishes in outdoor track during his collegiate career.
Jody Gifford (Softball, 1996-99) – Gifford ranks as the softball program's only two-time All-American (1997 & 1999). In addition, she was also a three-time (1997-99) All-Region First-Team selection. Gifford was named to the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Region All-Tournament Team in both 1998 and 1999. She also received All-GLIAC laurels four years (1996-99) and was a three-time (1997-99) first-team pick. Currently, she's one of four FSU players to record at least 200 career hits (277 total). She also posted school career records for batting avg. (.373), base hits (277), RBIs (193), games played (243), triples (19) and home runs (31) during her memorable career. Gifford set single-season records at FSU for base hits (81-1998), RBI's (67-1998), home runs (10-1998), total bases (138-1998), slugging pct. (.697-1998) and most runs scored (61-1998). The standout played a key role in Ferris State's school record third-place showing at the 1998 NCAA Championships Tournament and also led FSU to an NCAA Championships appearance in 1999 to go with two NCAA Great Lakes Regional titles under head coach Keri Becker. Gifford earned third team All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) in 1997 along with second-team laurels in her senior campaign in 1999. Twice she was also named to the GLIAC All-Academic Team. The Bay City native helped the Bulldogs win 40 games or more in each of her final three seasons in a Bulldog uniform, including a school-record 46 wins as a senior. FSU was twice the GLIAC runner-up in her career and twice reached the NCAA Tournament.
Kathy O'Connor (Women's Volleyball & Basketball, 1990-93) - A 1993 Second-Team All-America selection and a two-time All-GLIAC pick (1993 first team), O'Connor was one of Ferris State's top volleyball standouts in the early 1990's. The two-time (1992 & 1993) All-Region honoree was also FSU's 1993 Most Valuable Player Award recipient. Presently, she ranks second on the school's career leaders list in kills (1,707), third in total blocks (487) and block assists (397), tied for fourth in block solos (90), fifth in service aces (171) and digs (1,368), and 11th in attack percentage (.261). She's one of eight players in the program's 1,000 club (kills/digs) with 1,707 career kills and 1,368 career digs as a collegiate student-athlete. The Bulldogs won 104 total matches over her four seasons in a FSU uniform, including 36 during her freshman campaign. FSU also made a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and won the GLIAC in 1990 along with back-to-back league runner-up finishes the following two seasons under head coach Jill Hirschinger. FSU twice reached the NCAA Regional Final during her memorable playing career. She compiled a team-leading 602 kills during her senior campaign and also led FSU in attack percentage each of her final two years, hitting nearly .300 as a senior. The front row standout also led the Bulldogs in blocks twice during her FSU career. She's one of only five players in Bulldog history to twice claim All-America honors. O'Connor also competed in women's basketball and totaled 148 points and 176 rebounds for the Bulldogs during the 1993-94 season.
Chris Pulliams (Football, 1993-96) – One of the top football performers and running backs in school history, Pulliams currently ranks sixth on the school's all-time career rushing chart with 2,743 yards and 35 TD's in his career. He is also among the top 20 performers in total offense and all-purpose yardage. He claimed All-America honors in 1995 and was a two-time All-GLIAC tailback. He received the 1996 GLIAC McAvoy Leadership Award. Pulliams ran for a career-high 1,729 yards and 23 scores during the 1995 season, which ranks as the most yards in a single-campaign by a FSU tailback in school history. His performance helped the Bulldogs post a 12-1 overall record en route to the school's first NCAA Division II National Semifinal appearance. His 25 total touchdowns during the '95 season also represents a school all-time best. For his performance during the 1995 season, Pulliams attained first-team All-America honors from C.M. Frank and was a second-team Football Gazette choice along with a third-team Associated Press honoree. He also claimed all-conference and all-region honors during the memorable campaign. Pulliams was a First Team MIFC All-Academic choice in 1996 with a 3.29 GPA in Business Education.
Scott Schultz (Men's & Women's Tennis Coach and Administrator, 1982-89) - Schultz began Ferris State's tennis dynasty in the 1980's along with the Professional Tennis Management program. As head coach, he led the men's tennis team to six of 13-straight GLIAC titles and remains the program's all-time victory leader with 99 career wins. He claimed Ferris' first four league crowns on the women's side and a 162-consecutive match league winning streak began under his direction. In addition, FSU's then record 77-match league win streak on the men's side started under his watch. Overall, he posted a 59-13 (.820) women's mark over six seasons and was chosen as the GLIAC's Women's Tennis Coach of the Year four times and earned the same distinction on the men's side three times in his distinguished career. Schultz later moved into an administrative capacity at Ferris State overseeing the university's auxiliary enterprise business units before moving on to become managing director for recreational tennis at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in 2003. Schultz founded Ferris State's PTM program, the nation's first bachelor degree program in tennis. He served as the program's Director from 1987 to 1998 and then as a full professor for PTM in the University's College of Business from 1998 to 2003. Schultz also served as associate vice president for administration and finance at Ferris State. Schultz was a four-year scholarship tennis player at Western Michigan University, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He also earned a master's degree in Career and Technical Education from Ferris State.
Monta Ware (Women's Basketball, 79-83) - One of the early greats in the Ferris State women's basketball program, Ware is the school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,573 career points. She also ranks fifth in career rebounds with 684 boards during her four-year playing career. Ware was a first-team All-GLIAC honoree in 1983 and chosen as the squad's Most Valuable Player Award recipient four consecutive seasons during her memorable and distinguished playing career. The 5-5 standout guard set or tied 13 school records as a Bulldog player while playing on the collegiate level and led the squad in scoring all four years she played at Ferris State. In addition, she became the school's first four-time all-conference honoree for the Bulldogs. As a senior, she averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists while ranking among the nation's top 15 scoring leaders under then head coach Pat Dolan. Ware also served as a team captain and was an AIAW Division II All-State pick during her collegiate career.
1968 Unbeaten Football Team
The 1968 Bulldog Football team, which was guided by then second-year head coach Bob Leach, holds the distinction of being the program's first ever squad to record an undefeated season with a 7-0-1 overall record and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018. The Bulldogs started out the memorable campaign with a tie in their season opener before reeling off seven consecutive victories, including a hard-fought 29-28 win over NCAA Division I Illinois State in the season finale (11/9/68). They currently remain the only team in school history to finish an entire campaign unbeaten. The undefeated season capped a remarkable turnaround as the Bulldogs finished 0-7-1 the year before in 1967. Members of the 1968 football team later established a scholarship endowment to benefit future Ferris State gridiron student-athletes and were instrumental in helping raise funds to bring back the Victory Bell at Top Taggart Field. The 1968 team was captained by Jack Spencer and Ron Harke and included standouts such as the late Larry Marfechuk, Mike Zayti and Big Rapids' own Al Beamer. Along with Leach, the coaching staff featured notable names like Walt Piggott, Jack Hinkle and Roger Elford.