Three former athletes and one team were inducted into the Occidental Athletics Hall of Fame Friday, Oct. 13. The Athletics department honored the inductees, football player Andy Collins ’07, track athlete Steve Haas ’63, basketball player Blair Slattery ’94 and the 1982 women’s tennis team, with a dinner ceremony on Bill Henry Track in Jack Kemp Stadium.
The night consisted of a social hour where former teammates reunited and conversed with current faculty and Athletics staff, followed by dinner which was accompanied by words from the keynote speaker, Occidental trustee Eric Moore ’83. As dinner continued, Dean of Students Rob Flot presented each inductee with their awards. A video broadcasting highlights of their career and interviews from their former coaches and teammates preceded the announcement of each inductee.
Dean Flot reflected on the evening’s festivities.
“As a new person to the college, and of course new to Oxy Athletics as well, it was an honor for me to be involved with the Hall of Fame induction program. It gave me a chance to learn about some of the important history of the college, and reaffirmed for me that Oxy is a very special place,” Flot said via email.
Flot also said how fun it was for him to hear from two members of the ’82 tennis team and get their take on what it was like having former President Barack Obama on campus as a student during their championship run.
During his time at Occidental, Steve Haas ’63 set multiple school records. Haas’ records came in the 100m, 220m, 440m and 880m during his senior season, the same year in which Occidental won their 18th consecutive SCIAC Championship.
Reflecting on his time at Occidental, Haas praised Professor Ben Culley, former dean of men and statistics professor, who Haas said played a key role in his coming to Occidental and enhanced his experience while here.
Hass went on to further praise Culley for his emphasis on community with students and making sure they felt at home and important.
This continuous act by Culley to show his appreciation for his students influenced Haas, who entered a long career of teaching and coaching after graduating.
“There are not a lot of things more important than people,” Haas said.
Nineteen years after Haas graduated, the ’82 women’s tennis team claimed the first-ever NCAA Division III championship for women’s tennis. The team consisted of 12 All-Americans, according to the tennis coach at the time, kinesiology Professor Lynn Mehl. Led by Jean Marie Sanders ’84, the team took an aggressive approach to their gameplay, leading to their success. In the video made by the athletics department for the ceremony, Sue (Rene) Brazee ’82 reflected on the dynamic between Sanders, her teammate Kathleen McFadden ’82 and herself and how it affected the culture of their championship team.
“Jean Marie, Kathleen and I were three really distinct different personalities — and all three really competitive — and I think that we kind of set the tone for the rest of the team in terms of how good we wanted to be and how competitive we wanted to be,” Brazee said in the video.
A little over a decade later, Blair Slattery emerged as a premier athlete on the basketball court. Though Slattery only played basketball at Occidental for three years, he finished his career with the school scoring and rebounding record. Slattery went on to play five years of professional basketball in Europe where he was part of a national championship run with the Svenborg Basketball Club. Slattery reflected on his time at Occidental both in sports and as a student.
“Oxy is a small school and athletics [are] very bonding for the students. Just as art, politics, science and literature are learning adventures for Oxy students, athletics [are] also a learning tool for the students. I am so grateful for my experience,” Slattery said via email.
Slattery said that he could not pick one memory from Occidental that defined his experience because there were too many from which to choose.
“Every day was an adventure with me and my Oxy friends,” Slattery said.
Collins, the final inductee, in his three years as quarterback for the Tigers, led them to a 27–0 SCIAC record, three SCIAC titles, three postseason appearances and a Division III Elite Eight appearance in 2004. Collins was also the SCIAC’s first three-time Offensive Player of the Year and was chosen by the American Football Coaches Association as the top quarterback in NCAA Division III. He went on to play in the Arena Football league.
Collins died in 2011 due to an apparent heart attack, according to the video. His parents and widow carry on his memory and were unavailable to comment for this story. In the athletic department’s video, Collins’ coach, Dale Widolff shared what he believes Collins’ legacy to be.
“I really think his legacy is the impact he’s had on his teammates and us guys as coaches and just in terms of how to live one’s life with character,” Widolff said.
Note: This article was updated on Oct. 28 to clarify that Collins’ parents and widow were not asked to comment.