Sunday, October 20, 2013


It was an evening of honoring at the Hall of Fame Dinner as the Queens College Athletic Department highlighted several women, most of whose history involved playing basketball.

With Darryl Jacobs, Men's Basketball Coach, running the show, each honoree was given an award presented by a spokesperson connected to their QC sports career as we were shown a  music infused slide show of photos and information.  There were three women being honored,  Eileen MacLellan;  Majorie Larney, and  Althea Gwyn, as well as the 1972-73 women's basketball team coached by Lucille Kyvallos.

Like a scene out of  "A League of Their Own", the dinner commenced with a cocktail hour of former athletes meeting their cohorts that dated as far back to the early 1970s and many who haven't set foot on the Queens College campus since they graduated.  Hugs, handshakes, cameras, iphones, cocktails,  hor d'eouvres and a buffet dinner lead the way to both honoring the male and female athletes as well as help raise funds for the Athletic Department to include having Kvyallos' name appear in the gym.

Eileen MacLellan gave a short “thank you” after her introduction.  MacLellan was an all-around athlete competing in basketball, swimming, volleyball and softball.  She was captain of the Queens College volleyball and softball teams, being named MVP of both sports, and ultimately earned the Silver Knight Award, given to the school's top female athlete.  

Marjorie Larney approached the podium saying, “One regret that I have is that I didn’t graduate Queens College, but the knowledge that I got was better than any institution that I did attend.  I was a runner and since there was no Title IX, I joined a track club that ran in Forest Park’s Victory Field. I later met a coach, John Brennan, who told me that he could teach me how to throw a javelin and competing in the Melbourne Olympics”

Larney won the US National Championships in not only the javelin but the discus and shot put,  as well as serving as the youngest javelin thrower ever. In the 1955 and 1959 Pan-American Games, she won silver in the javelin and a bronze in the discus.

Lucille Kyvallos introduced Althea Gwyn speaking about her personal efforts during the time that she coached her. “In 1974 I felt as if a meteor hit Queens College. I was coaching but it was Gail Marquis who recruited her. Althea was a student playing in Amityville. We did not have a budget and there were no dorms at Queens College. Our manager took her in her home. Althea played basketball for Queens College from 1974-1978.

“Althea was known for her scoring and rebounding and led the nation in rebounding for both men and women, collegiate and professional for two years in a row.  She was selected as a Kodak All-American in 1978.”  As Kyvallos spoke about Althea, boasting about her basketball career, it was clear how proud she was of her.

Gwyn shared about playing on several USA national teams and that at the end of her collegiate career, joining the Women's Professional Basketball League as the number one draft pick to represent the New York Stars. 

The highlight of the evening was having Donna Orender present to hand out the NCAA 40th Anniversary Award Team of Distinction to the 1972-73 Women's Basketball Team, the Lady Knights.  Donna, not only played under the coaching of Kyvallos, but is the former President of the WNBA.  Coached by the QC Hall of Famer, Kyvallos, and led on the court by future Olympian, Gail Marquis, the team posted a 22-5 record, averaged a margin of victory of 19.9 points, and advanced to the AIAW Championship and a #2 national ranking.

“I am so honored to do this,” said Orender. “When a team melds, it stirs your inner soul and motivates you in ways you couldn’t fathom until ‘it’ happens. As a coach, the gift of molding young athletes, their minds, their bodies, their spirits; whatever it takes to convince young women that they can draw more out of themselves is a gift that coach Kyvallos gave to Queens College and to all of us who played for her.

“We all remember her booming voice, that excessive whistle, and the short raps of a broomstick. But mostly the gift of getting many to believe in one.  These thirteen young women chose to play basketball when it was not the fashion for women to do.”

The roster included Gail Marquis, Debbie Mason, Cathy Andruzzi, Maggie Hilgenberg, Maryann Jecewiz, Shirley Johnson, Yvette Pierre, Judy Milewski, Barbara Riccardi, Nance Rullo, Judy Spinal, Maureen Steurer, Racheel Wells, Nancy Ross (manager) and Asst. Coach, Connie VanHousen, most of who attended the event.  For all their accomplishments during that season, they were the first women's team ever to be inducted into the New York City Hall of Fame.

James Muyskens, President of QC, made an appearance at the podium congratulating the honorees. Much thanks was given to China Leigh Jude, Asst. VP  and Athletic Director who put the event together. 

The above appeared in the 10/25 issue of the Times Ledger....the rest is my own comment.

The event would have gone a lot less drawn out if it weren't for the men.  They say women talk too much!!!  When the men were being honored, the presenter gabbed for about half an hour talking about his own kudos as well as his sports relationship with the honoree.  Then many of the male honorees would give a drawn out description of his own QC and after QC career.   It was as if the presenter felt that he, himself deserved an award!  Good grief....leave that ego at home, guys!!!!

There was a photographer at the event, Brian Ballweg.  He set it up to have the 1972-73 pose along with Donna Orlender.  I would have gotten the same photo if I was willing to stand up on a chair as he did.

(Front, Left to right going up and back)
Lucille Kyvallos
Donna Chait-Orender (presenter), Maryann Jecewiz, Debbie Mason,
Maggie Hilgenberg, Judy Spina
(Back row-5 across) Cathy Andruzzi, Nancy Rullo, Barbara Riccardi, Gail
Marquis, Yvette Pierre

So I don't omit that men were honored, here is a photo of all of the honorees.

(left to right) Front Row: Lucille Kyvallos (presenter), Marjorie Larney, Eileen MacLellan Back Row: Anthony Migliore, Geoffrey Maloney, Althea Gwynn, Roger Ratner, Joseph Gould

On a personal note I had Lucille Kyvallos as a gym teacher one semester and playing volleyball. 

The article itself has been published in the Times Ledger...edited, of course.

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