PCC welcomed a new class of eight inductees, along with the 1938 Pasadena Junior College football team, into the 2015-2016 sports Hall of Fame in the GM building on Sunday.
The new class included Clark Branson, prep national record shot put champion in the high school division, the late Ron Robinson, head coach of the 1967 state champion baseball team, Reggie Brown, PCC’s all-time leading football rusher, Mary Morgan, a two-sport star in volleyball and as an All-American swimmer, Gina Punaro, an All-American softball player, Juan Tobin, a state champion track and field performer, Matt Young, a baseball pitcher southpaw who played 10 years in Major League Baseball, and Harvey Hyde, two-time conference champion head coach.
The 1938 football team, coached by the legendary Tom Mallory that featured PCC’s greatest alumnus Jackie Robinson, is the first team to be inducted in college’s Hall of Fame history.
Superintendent-President Rajen Vurdien welcomed the well over 250 friends, family, students, current and former coaches, and previous inductees who came to celebrate and welcome the newest additions in the spacious Hall of Fame foyer.
“The faces that surround us today include some of the most noted names in all areas of athletic achievement, a compendium of greatness that stands unmatched by any other community college across the state,” Vurdien said. “You make us proud to be Lancers.”
Athletic Director Tony Barbone, a relatively recent addition to PCC but no stranger to inductee ceremonies, commended Hall of Fame committee co-chair Dick Ratliff. Ratliff renovated the Hall of Fame in 2001 after a 35-year dormancy, a place Barbone said gives students hope and inspiration for achievement.
“Our students walk these halls every day, with energy, but they usually stop to look at the people that have been represented behind me,” said Barbone. “Today we have a new group of people that will make them pause, will make them dream, will make them hope and will continue their energy. So we thank you for the things that you’ve accomplished.”
Robert Lewis, head of PCC sports information since 1991, was the Hall of Fame committee co-chair and inductee introduction host for Sunday’s event.
“Gina Punaro (Natividad) and Mary Morgan (Cole) were two inductees that I had the opportunity to promote their performances as Lancers back in the 1990s,” said Robert Lewis, in an email. “All of the inductees from the 1920s to the present have their unique stories, and there are literally hundreds of former PCC athletes who will at some point get their rightful spot in the Hall of Fame.”
Branson, who “set the prep record with an amazing throw of 64 feet, ¾ inches,” according to Lewis in his introduction, was the most humbled.
“I didn’t start out with a great deal of athletic talent,” Branson said. “It’s been a rags to riches story for me.”
Joy and pride was a common theme for the evening, but no one said it better than vivacious inductee Brown, PCC’s all-time leading football rusher, who began with his famous opener, “It’s a great day to be alive!”
Lewis introduced Brown as having “led PCC to two Bowl titles” and “remains PCC’s all time leading rushers at 2,272 yards.”
“I left New Jersey in 1978 with a one-way ticket, $50, and a suitcase and I said ‘I’m not coming back until I make something of myself and become somebody,’” Brown said.
Proud to be an educator and eager to encourage city and community college as a start, Punaro credited PCC as a major influence in the change in her life.
“This college was the place where I feel like I was really transformed,” said Punaro, now a high school teacher.
Young commended his wife, children, family and friends for coming to support him en masse. Celebrating a 35-year wedding anniversary this week, Young singled out his mother during his speech as the other most important woman in his life.
“My mother was my biggest fan,” he said “The one year that I played for the Dodgers in 1987, my mother went to 80 or the 81 homes games we had.”
Coach Hyde, also a PCC alumnus, “transferred out 86 players on scholarship to 4-year universities, most going to NCAA Division I schools,” according to the program bio.
This event was the first Hall of Fame since 2013, but students can be assured that there is plenty of space on that wall for any and all future achievers, and the members of the Hall of Fame Committee are looking forward to that call.