A Class of Their Own
On Saturday at the Inn at Penn, a new class will enter the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame — and it’s a loaded one. From the two people most responsible to lifting the Penn men’s basketball program to great heights in the 1990s … to a pair of fierce football defenders who won Ivy League Player of the Year honors … to some of the most accomplished track & field athletes Franklin Field has ever seen … to a whole lot more, the 2017 class has a little bit everything.
And I was privileged enough to talk to all of the living inductees for a series of features on PennAthletics.com and the Hall of Fame program. Here’s a closer look at all of them, including links to those profiles, photos courtesy of Penn Athletics, and some other nuggets I gleaned from illuminating interviews:
JEROME ALLEN W’09
Sport: Men’s Basketball
Career highlights: First player in program history to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors two times. … a member of three straight 14-0 Ivy League championship teams … Ended his career as the program’s all-time leader in assists and steals … Played in the NBA followed by a long career overseas.
Claim to fame: Leading Penn to its last win in the NCAA Tournament in 1994 over Nebraska — and then fending off his mother and cousin who ran onto the court to celebrate with him. He also scored 30 points in the NCAA Tournament the following year in a dramatic loss to Alabama.
Greatest influence: Former Penn head coach Fran Dunphy.
Where he is now: After serving as head coach of the Quakers from 2009-15, Allen landed a job as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics — where he often boasts about his alma mater.
Quotable: “Penn has been awesome for me and my family. Everything I’ve received in my life has been a direct result of Penn.”
BRIAN CHAPUT C’04
Sport: Men’s Track & Field
Career highlights: The 2003 NCAA champion in the javelin and the runner-up in 2004 … Holds the Penn and Ivy League records in the javelin … A three-time individual Heps champion (2002-04).
Claim to fame: Overcoming three separate elbow reconstructions to not only win a national championship but finish in the top two in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2004 and 2008.
Greatest influence: His throwing coach, John Taylor.
Where he is now: Works in marketing consulting outside Allentown and has two young daughters
Quotable: “I don’t want to say I came out of nowhere but I surprised myself and some others by winning [the 2003 national title].”
Sport: Men’s Basketball
Career highlights: Won 310 games over 17 seasons at Penn, the most by a coach in Penn men’s basketball history. … Captured 10 Ivy League championships, half of which were perfect 14-0 seasons, and three Big 5 titles … Coached seven Ivy League Players of the Year, three Ivy League Rookies of the Year, and had 41 All-Ivy honorees. … His teams’ 48-game Ivy League winning streak from 1991-92 to 1995-96 is still the longest streak in conference history and the second-longest conference winning streak in NCAA history.
Claim to fame: Although he’s an incredible winner who led the Quakers to the kind of success they’ve yet to recapture since he left, he may be best known for simply being a nice, down-to-earth and genuine man. “How he treated people was pretty eye-opening to me,” said Steve Donahue, Penn’s current coach and a Dunphy protege.
Greatest influence: Former Penn athletic director Paul Rubincam, who hired him and gave him a contract extension after two losing seasons.
Where he is now: The head men’s basketball coach at Temple University since 2006.
Quotable: “The prestige and the position in the city that Penn holds is pretty special. The opportunity to coach at that institution was awesome.”
ROBYN FORTSCH C’87 GEd’88
Sport: Women’s Basketball/Women’s Track & Field
Career highlights: Led the Ivy league in scoring (20.1 ppg) as a senior … Had the first 40-point game in program history (1987 vs. Yale) and her 19 field goals that game remain an Ivy League record … Graduated as the women’s track program’s record holder in javelin, a mark that stood for 16 years … Won two Heps titles in the javelin.
Claim to fame: Overcoming a torn ACL in high school to become a two-sport star in college, even though she had never picked up a javelin before arriving at Penn.
Greatest influence: Former Penn basketball assistant coach Deirdre Kane.
Where she is now: Recently graduated with a master’s in industrial engineering with a concentration in orthotics and prosthetics from Florida State University, and hopes to work in the making of prosthetic limbs.
Quotable: “Penn was kind of my saving grace to continue doing what I really loved doing — which is playing basketball.”
TOM GILMORE C’86
Career highlights: Started on three Ivy championship teams and graduated with an 18-2-1 record in conference play. … Was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 1985, the third defensive player in history to win the award. … Graduated as the program’s all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
Claim to fame: Despite growing up in Philly, he had never even heard of Penn in high school — before using the school as a launching pad to great success both as a player and a coach.
Greatest influence: Former Penn head coach and assistant coach Ed Zubrow.
Where he is now: The head football coach at Holy Cross since 2004 after assistant coaching stops at Penn, Columbia, Dartmouth and Lehigh.
Quotable: “I think I was the luckiest guy in the world. So many things fell into place for me. A lot of unlikely things happened to an inner-city Philly kid who never even heard of the place and didn’t think he would ever play college football. And I wound up starting every game of my career.”
PAT GOODWILLIE W’96
Career highlights: Named 1994 Ivy League Player of the Year, the fourth player to win as a defensive player and first since Gilmore (above) … Played on two straight unbeaten Ivy League championship teams (1993 & 1994) and won his last 21 college games … Was named a first team All-American as a senior and finished his career with over 300 tackles.
Claim to fame: Bottled up Princeton star running back Keith Elias, who had been talking trash about Penn the week leading up to the game, in a famous win over the hated Tigers in 1993.
Greatest influence: Former Penn defensive coordinator Mike Toop, currently the head coach of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Where he is now: An options trader in Chicago.
Quotable: “I think his quote after the game was that I had cement in my shoulder pads. I’ll take that as a backhanded compliment from Keith Elias.”
RUTHLYN GREENFIELD-WEBSTER Nu’92
Sport: Women’s Track & Field
Career highlights: A four-time Heptagonal champion in the triple jump — twice indoors and twice outdoors … Graduated with program records in indoor and outdoor triple jump … Invited to the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Claim to fame: Became a world-class triple jumper at the Masters level, winning several medals in international competitions, including a gold at the 2013 Masters Track and Field World Championships in Brazil.
Greatest influence: Former Penn track coaches Tony Tenisci and Betty Costanza.
Where she is now: A nurse at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Quotable: “I actually tell people, ‘Get off my lawn!’ I’m very possessive about Franklin Field. When you spend so much time there, for year of my life running around the track — and the pit! I don’t care what anyone else tells you, that’s my pit!”
JOSH HALL III W’85
Sport: Men’s Lacrosse
Career highlights: Led Penn to its first two Ivy League titles in 1983 and 1984 with the Quakers going a combined 22-5 in his final two seasons … Named the first Ivy League Player of the Year in program history. … A first-team USILA All-America as a senior and a third-team All-America as a junior.
Claim to fame: Played a prominent role as a key midfielder in the 1983 and 1984 NCAA tournaments.
Greatest influence: Former Penn head coach Tony Seaman.
Where he is now: Runs a private investment firm in Baltimore
Quotable: “Penn was just a phenomenal experience, and it’s been an experience that certainly shaped the future direction of my life.”
BRUCE KONOPKA W’79
Sport: Men’s Lightweight Crew
Career highlights: Led the Quakers to the 1976 Eastern Sprints Title and the semifinals of the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley that summer … Led his boat to 15 straight Cup wins and a pair of IRA medal finishes. … Was the 1984 ECAC Coach of the Year and a member of the U.S. coaching staff at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Claim to fame: Spent 28 years involved with Penn crew as an athlete and coach.
Greatest influence: His family — three siblings and his son have all rowed at Penn.
Where he is now: Alumni director at Episcopal academy.
Quotable: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Penn means the world to me.”
ELISABETH KWAK-HEFFERAN C’04
Career highlights: The 2003 Ivy League Player of the Year and the third player in program history to earn first-team All-Ivy three times …. Won three straight Ivy titles from her sophomore year to her senior year … Remains the program’s all-time leader in kills with 1,298.
Claim to fame: Was a starter from the first match of her freshman year and played a key role in three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
Greatest influence: Former head coach Kerry Carr.
Where she is now: A freelance writer in Montana specializing in the outdoors.
Quotable: “For me, it couldn’t just be about brute strength or jumping over everyone. That’s not what I could do. It was more strategy.”
DONNA MULHERN WOODRUFF C’90 GEd’00
Sport: Field Hockey/Women’s Lacrosse
Career highlights: Led Penn to the 1988 field hockey NCAA final four as a junior … Was named a field hockey All-American as a senior in 1989 … A two-time first-team All-Ivy selection in lacrosse.
Claim to fame: A two-sport star who played in three out of four field hockey NCAA tournaments as a player before later becoming an assistant coach and administrator at Penn.
Greatest influence: Her old teammates at Penn, with whom she’s maintained an unbreakable bond.
Where she is now: Deputy director of athletics at Stony Brook University.
Quotable: “People have asked me why I didn’t go to Harvard [where she was heavily recruited]. I will just say it’s because I went to Penn.”
JOHN OUTLAND ’1900
Career highlights: One of the earliest football stars at Penn, he was captain of the 1898 Quakers … An All-American at tackle in 1897 and an All-American at halfback the following year … Went on to coach football at the University of Kansas (where he began his playing career), Franklin & Marshall, and Washburn.
Claim to fame: He is the namesake of the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best college interior lineman, due to his belief that linemen didn’t get enough credit.
MATT VALENTI C’07
Career highlights: An NCAA champion in 2006 and 2007 in the 133-pound weight class — just the second Penn wrestler to win two national titles … A three-time All-American and the Ivy League Wrestler of the Year in 2007 … Holds the program record for career wins (137).
Claim to fame: Is one of the only “triple threats” at Penn — starring as an athlete, coach and now an administrator.
Greatest influence: His father, who was his first coach and also a college wrestler (even if it was at Princeton). “I’ve always joked that my first steps were literally on a wrestling mat,” he said.
Where he is now: Assistant athletic director at Penn.
Quotable: “It’s pretty simple. I’m a Penn guy through and through. I love this place. I loved my time here as a student-athlete, I loved coaching here, and I’m learning to love being an administrator here as well.”
GENE VENZKE Ed’36
Sport: Men’s Track & Field
Career highlights: Set a world indoor record four times, twice in the mile and twice in the 1,500. … Placed third in the mile at the 1934 NCAA Championships. … Earned All-America honors twice in the indoor mile (1935-36) and once in the outdoor mile (1935).
Claim to fame: Ran the 1,500 at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, winning his heat and placing ninth in the final.
GEORGE WEISS W’65 HON’14
Sport: Lifetime Achievement Award
Career highlights: A member of Penn’s heavyweight rowing team as an upperclassmen before suffering a back injury … Won two gold medals and a bronze in taekwondo while representing the United States at the 2003 World Cup for Martial Arts, qualifying for the 2004 Olympics. … An ardent support and donor of Penn sports, particularly the football program.
Claim to fame: His major gift led to the creation of the Weiss Pavilion, Penn’s state-of-the-art weight room adjacent to Franklin Field.
Where he is now: A money manager who runs his own investment management firm, where several former Penn athletes have worked.
Quotable: “Penn gave me the feeling of a second home. It also afforded me the background to be successful. I was really indebted to Penn. It has been a love affair ever since.”
— Dave Zeitlin C’03