Varsity Club Hall of Fame inducts class of 2017

Varsity Club Hall of Fame inducts class of 2017
The Northeastern University Varsity Club Hall of Fame Class of 2017 poses with their induction plaques / Photo by Brian Bae

By Calli Remillard, news staff

The Curry Student Center Ballroom was teeming with Northeastern alumni exchanging pleasantries and congratulatory pats on the back as they gathered to celebrate the Northeastern University Varsity Club Hall of Fame Induction Nov. 9.

The Hall of Fame Banquet has been held annually since 1974 to recognize new classes of impactful and exemplary student-athletes, coaches and benefactors. The seven outstanding inductees making up the class of 2017 were track and field champions Ahndraea Allen and Lonnie Hooker, basketball stars Chaisson Allen and Shaleyse Smallwood, swimming and diving head coach Roy Coates, rowing powerhouse Scott Fentress and field hockey legend Debra Sweeney.

Northeastern Varsity Club President Jim O’Shaughnessy gave the opening remarks, taking a moment to honor “Mr. Husky himself,” longtime Northeastern sports information director Jack Grinold, who died this past April.

Matthew McDonald, former assistant athletics director and current assistant vice president for communications, introduced each of the seven inductees, describing their achievements on and off the court, field or track.

“This week is homecoming, so let me just say, welcome home,” McDonald said ahead of his speech.

McDonald praised Northeastern student-athletes for upholding a collective GPA of 3.0 or better for 19 straight semesters since Peter Roby became Athletic Director in 2007.

“This is always one of my favorite nights of the year,” McDonald said. “Northeastern has grown academically and continues to win athletically.”

In Roby’s 10 years in the position, Northeastern has captured seven regular season conference championships, 17 postseason conference championships, two Women’s Beanpots, and eight New England Championships in track and field. The student-athlete cumulative GPA during Roby’s time at Northeastern has also seen a record high, reaching 3.203 during the spring 2016 semester. Roby, who is set to retire in June 2018, congratulated the inductees.

Northeastern Athletics Director Peter Roby applauds the Hall of Fame inductees. / Photo by Brian Bae

“How wonderful it is to hear you talk about your love for Northeastern, your love for your teammates and the memories that you created while you were here, because at the end of the day that’s really what we’ve tried to do here — to help student-athletes create memories and relationships that will last them a lifetime.”

Ahndraea Allen, women’s track and field, class of 2005

Ahndraea Allen still holds two school records at Northeastern, and was an America East Individual Champion 17 times. After her collegiate career, she represented the United States in the 2016 World Masters Championships in Australia and plans to do so again next summer.

Allen attributes most of her success to former women’s track and field head coach Sherman Hart.

“[Hart] had never seen me run, ever, but he gave me a chance and an opportunity,” Allen said. “I remember coming to the track and no one knew who I was, but he called me his ‘secret weapon.”

Allen began running the 400-meter dash, for which she holds both indoor and outdoor school records, and has continued to run in her post-collegiate career.

“I will forever be indebted to him,” Allen said. “You ever hear the term ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? It truly took a village to raise me.”

Chaisson Allen, men’s basketball, class of 2011

Chaisson Allen (right) poses with his plaque and Varsity Club President Jim O’Shaughnessy. / Photo by Brian Bae

Chaisson Allen spent his four years at Northeastern excelling on the defensive end, recording 63 steals in his freshman year, which remains the sixth-highest single season record. In his final season, Allen led the Huskies in points, rebounds and assists and scored 61 three-pointers.

With his name all over the Northeastern record books, Allen went on to play professionally in Europe and now serves as a player development assistant at the University of Miami.

Roy Coates, swimming and diving head coach

Roy Coates was the third swimming and diving coach in Husky program history, and has been at the helm of the team for 25 years. Coates has coached the team to a total of 21 winning seasons, including 11 consecutive seasons since 2006. During the 12 years he has spent in America East, Coates’ team won five consecutive conference titles, 119 conference event titles and 83 all-conference selections. He has also been named Coach of the Year four times.

Coates praised his family as the reason he is able to do his job so well. He took his mother’s advice to accept the job 25 years ago, and since then his wife and children have supported him through the crazy schedule a college coaching job entails.

“I have missed [my daughter’s] birthday because of conference championships every single year of her life. Sixteen years of birthdays,” Coates said. “The good news is, champs have been moved, and I will be there for her 17th birthday.”

Varsity Club President Jim O’Shaughnessy addresses the audience. / Photo by Brian Bae

Scott Fentress, men’s rowing, class of 2000

Former men’s rowing captain Scott Fentress made an immediate impact on his team when he started competing at Northeastern. During his first year, he was part of the championship eight in the Head of the Charles Regatta, which his team followed with an undefeated season that ended in tragedy due to an ineligible rower during the spring of 1996.

Fentress became a gold medalist at the World Championship in Lac d’Aiguebelette, France, in 1997. Fentress’ collegiate career was impeccable, yet he continued his pursuit of success when he joined the United States Navy in 2001, later graduating as “Honor Man” of his U.S. Navy SEALS class. Fentress completed seven combat deployments between 2003-2014.

Fentress recently returned to his old stomping ground, competing with fellow Northeastern Alumni at the 2017 Head of the Charles Regatta, where the team took fifth place.

Lonnie Hooker, men’s track and field, class of 1987

Two-season athlete Lonnie Hooker was a letterwinner from 1984 to 1986 for men’s track and field. In addition to his many achievements on the track, he belonged to the leading ground-gaining offensive unit in the nation for Northeastern football.

A three-time New England Champion in the 55-meter dash and a two-time New England Champion in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, Hooker recorded several top-ten finishes on Northeastern’s all-time performance lists and still holds two school records.

Hooker is now a logistics project manager at the Pentagon, but continues to compete in track and field. He is ranked first nationally among the Masters Track M50 age group for the 60-meter dash, and ninth nationally in the 200-meter dash.

Assistant Vice President for Communications Matthew McDonald praises student-athletes for upholding 3.0 GPA in 19 consecutive semesters. / Photo by Brian Bae

Shaleyse Smallwood, women’s basketball, class of 2008

Shaleyse Smallwood’s 30-minute collegiate debut earned her 12 points and a team high of five steals, instantly making her a powerhouse on the court. By the end of her first season she was named America East Rookie of the Year, in addition to her 13.1-point scoring average.

Smallwood was enshrined to the 1,000-point scoring club on Feb. 18, 2007. Smallwood dominated the record books by the end of her time at Northeastern, including positions on Northeastern’s top-10 charts for points, scoring average, field goals made, three-pointers made and assists.

Smallwood, born and raised in Boston, said she chose Northeastern because her parents loved seeing her play. Though short and sweet, she ended her speech with a sentimentality.

“Huskies on three, one, two, three, Huskies!”

Coordinator of Basketball Advancement Tom Murphy and men’s basketball assistant coach Brian McDonald enjoy the ceremony. / Photo by Brian Bae

Debra Sweeney, field hockey, class of 1993

Debra Sweeney quickly became a sensation at Northeastern, playing in all 22 games of her freshman season, which earned the Huskies a third place national finish. Sweeney was Northeastern’s first ever two-time All-American, earning second and first team honors in 1990 and 1991, respectively, and was also the first Husky to be named a three-time Northeast Regional All-American from 1989 to 1991. She scored her way into the record books during each of her seasons with Northeastern, some of which still hold places in the top-10 charts, including the 25 assists she had during her sophomore season.

After her career at Northeastern, Sweeney was named NCAA Woman of the Year in 1992 for her outstanding athleticism, academic excellence and dedication to community service.

Sweeney reminisced on her childhood in Maine, growing up with mostly boys in her small neighborhood. She had a competitive nature, which came to fruition when her mother coached her Little League softball team.

“My mom was always tough and fair and wanted everyone to have a chance to play,” Sweeney said. “And most of all, she wanted everyone to have fun.”

Through teary eyes, Sweeney explained that her mom had died two weeks ago.

She credited her mother to teaching her good sportsmanship and showing her the drive and desire needed to win.

“Now, 30 years later, being inducted into the Hall of Fame completes my amazing career.”

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