In the spirit of the 130th year anniversary, Robert Wilson, Head of Athletics and Extended Learning, set his sights on the legacy of athletics at ASF. When he arrived in 2010, he saw little history or evidence of the winning legacy at the school. So, he began a slow progression to do just that under his watch. Banners were raised, trophies displayed and awards hung, but more needed to be done to expand the arch of success beyond 2010. Wilson’s idea was to create a Wall of Fame, “I wanted to create history. I wanted to create some recognition of the best athletes over the years as far back as I could reliably go.”
The man behind the wall set out to reveal the past by sending an initial email of interest asking if students, alumni, Bear Boosters, former employees and coaches, would be willing to participate in a nomination committee for the Wall of Fame. Wilson, not quite knowing what to expect, saw interest grow and he was able to create committees from several decades as early as the 1970’s. “We were limited to the 1970’s because that is where the interest faded. No one earlier than the 1970’s responded,” Wilson shared. Undaunted, he created committees of varying sizes and divided the decades so the committee could narrow their search by focusing on five years each. The heads of the committee led the work to identify those athletes from the time period that were worthy of nomination. Names were then submitted to Wilson and an anonymous committee, where they were vetted to insure those chosen were worthy of placement on the wall. “We identified 100 names of not only athletes but nine coaches and six Bear Boosters too.” Wilson explained. Letters were sent to the selected inductees and a date was set for the induction.
Ricardo Ganem ('83) was instrumental in working to make the ASF Athletics Wall of Fame project happen. Ricardo helped in many ways to bring the Wall to fruition. From the beginning of the project to the induction ceremony, Ricardo was involved in every phase over the past year. Ricardo worked closely with Athletics and Extended Learning first with selections, the building of the Wall and finally with the ceremony itself. Ricardo, an ASF athlete of the year in 1983, was one of the keynote speakers who addressed his colleagues at the ceremony from the 1970s and '80s. Ricardo also served as a member of the dais recognizing every inductee who came to the stage.
On October 20 at 6:00 p.m., ASF bedecked the gymnasium with carpet, elegant seating, flowers, a stage, and tables adorned with ASF bears holding flags, welcomed back those inductees in regal spirit. John Powell, Athletics Coordinator, served as the host/MC of the event and ushered the induction along. Robert Wilson provided opening comments with a quick equivocation to the due diligence assigned to the inductee process but certainly understood that worthy athletes may have been overlooked. Welcoming remarks by Mark Iver Sylte, Executive Director, set the early tone addressing the inductees, “you who embody the traits of an active mind, strong spirit and healthy and competitive body through sports. . . Welcome back to ASF. . .”
The wall according to Wilson was to visualize the athletic legacy here a ASF. Bear Booster Inductee and 1957 graduate Horacio McCoy is a living example of that legacy. McCoy proudly spoke about this night, “I was the senior athlete of the year who played football, soccer, and baseball. This is an important night because we are three generations, and we are very active in athletics.” Much like the Manning legacy in the NFL, McCoy’s two sons would go on to play the exact same position as their father – varsity quarterback. “My favorite football memory was watching Omar (his oldest son) play in the championship game, throwing the winning touchdown.” Like many, McCoy shared his night with his family and friends. His grandson is the fourth generation attending ASF and is currently in the second year.
Another proud inductee was Lynnette Rivera, who currently is the Bear Boosters President and who in 1989 played varsity volleyball and softball. She attended the Pan American Games and the World Championships competing in softball. Her night was even more special as her son Fernando Contreras was recognized for his 2018-19 induction. He will officially be inducted in June upon his graduation. Rivera reflected on athletics, “It has always been very important to me, and now it is a must for them (her children). It is important to learn to be a team member. It is part of an education.” Her own induction, she shared, was eclipsed by her son’s, “I am very proud of his dedication and accomplishments. He is a leader on and off the field.
Coaches were a highlight to the evening as Coach Horacio Contreras, who built the school’s first competitive soccer program in the 1950’s, and Coach Bill Mickle, who served as Athletic Director from 1975-1991, and Tere Rivera, who is currently swim coach and awardee of Coach of the Year 2016-17, all addressed their prospective inductees. With warm ovations from past and current players who under their guidance excelled, failed, persevered, and overcame welcomed their coaches to the stage. Coach Mickle, reflected as he addressed the inductees, “We not only coached you on the fields, but we also shaped your character. Taught you to be ladies and gentlemen, to be accountable for your actions, and to be leaders.” Rivera, the first woman to take the stage in the evening spoke to the significance, “It is an honor to be part of the ASF community and help to develop our students in different ways.” She continued, “My greatest honor as a coach was to take two swimmers to international competitions where they represented the countries of Colombia and Mexico. They both medaled.” All three coaches spoke to the importance of athletics in the overall development of the student. Coach Mickle emphasized the role of athletics, “Sports – Athletics – teaches you how to fail and how to deal with winning. A student athlete understands the balance between academics and athletics. It is that work ethic that makes them successful then and today.” All three coaches were also inductees.
A big part of the athletics program at ASF is the support from the Bear Boosters. The ASF Bear Boosters Club is a volunteer organization made up of parents, teachers and alumni that seeks to build up athletics at ASF. Over the years, six Bear Boosters’ support and contributions garnered them an induction. Horacio J. McCoy, one of the inductees, addressed the importance to his and others commitment over the years to the athletic program, “It is important to show your support for what is being done at ASF and with the athletics program.” He continued, “When you leave here and move on, don’t forget where it began. It started here.”
What continues to shine throughout ASF are the legacy families - those that attend, graduate, and eventually send their own children to the school. Looking through the lens of athletics, this is certainly apparent. It speaks to the quality education, programming, and experiences offered on our campus. The stories of Lynnette Rivera, the 27-year career of Tere Rivera, and the overwhelming attendance at the induction ceremony, all speak to this quality. Moreover, the donations made to make the wall possible further deepen that legacy.
Funding for the Wall by:
Gatorade (Indirect Contribution)
The Pardo Family
John Santa Maria
Anacecilia Pérez Vargas
Ikuk (Seamus and Beatríz Finny)
Flowers by Fantasías Miguel
Also, click here to see the program of the event and the list of the inductees.
Moving forward, The Wall of Fame has 80 more spaces to acknowledge more standout athletes, coaches, and Bear Boosters. Recognition plaques for Coach of the Year and Varsity Team GPA (Grade Point Average) will track future accomplishments. Those students selected in the future will meet the established criteria set currently. All varsity female and male athletes of the year are inducted into the Wall of Fame upon their graduation. Currently three athletes of the year are queued awaiting their official induction upon their graduation: Tomohiro Nozaki, varsity swimmer, 2016-17 awardee, and current grade 9 generation; María De Lluch Maqueo, varsity soccer player, 2017-18 awardee, and current grade 10 generation; and Fernando Conteras, varsity football player, 2018-19 awardee, and current grade 12 generation. Tomo Nozaki summed up the honor, “This is special because all the dedication worked out, and I have been accomplishing many personal goals. Now they are recognizing this in school which is very powerful.” Nozaki was awarded athlete of the year as a grade 7 student.
Robert Wilson’s hard work, perseverance, and vision are now materialized in the Jenkins Foundation Wellness Center (WEC) on the second floor. Spanning 3.29 meters high and 8.9 meters wide, a walnut background hosts the gold plaques emblazoned with a picture of the inductee and accomplishments. In all, 12 inductees from the 1970’s, 18 from the 1980’s, 16 from the1990’s, 17 from the 2000’s, 18 from 2010’s, six Bear Boosters, and eight coaches are all members of an elite group symbolizing what athletics is to ASF. Grouped by decades, marked in history, the ASF Athletics Wall of Fame stands as a testament to the school’s athletic legacy.