Park University names inaugural Athletics Wall of Honor class

The inaugural class for the Park Athletics Wall of Honor will be formally inducted in a ceremony scheduled for Monday, Oct. 12 at The National Golf Club of Kansas City. The university plans to recognize 14 individuals and two teams. Ten former student-athletes highlight the 2015 class, as well as two coaches and two meritorious contributors to the department. The two teams joining the individual honorees both made NAIA championship matches — the 2014 NAIA national champion and 40-0 women’s volleyball team and the 1994 women’s soccer team, which went 24-3 and finished as national runner up in 1994.

Both coaches inducted led teams to NAIA prominence, including the founding father of Park’s running sports, Don VandeWalle, and former men’s basketball coach and current director of athletics, Claude English.

VandeWalle stood at the helm of 19 NAIA District 16 championships, led 22 All-Americans and made 19 NAIA national championship appearances in eight seasons between the cross country and track programs. English’s contributions to Park go far beyond the basketball court, where he is the Pirates’ all-time winningest coach. He led the 1998 men’s basketball team to the NAIA Fab Four, the team’s only appearance in the national semifinals and won the Charles A. Krigel Award and the Dr. James Naismith-Emil Liston Sportsmanship Award that season.

As Park’s AD, his guidance has led to multiple coaches of the year and staff awards, as well as more than 200 Scholar-Athletes, 11 total national championships, 63 conference titles and more than 100 NAIA All-Americans.

Three individual national champions — Crystal Bethel, Jasmine Sampson and Mikendra Massey — are part of the Pirates’ inaugural class of student-athletes, which also includes three members of the 1994 soccer team: Jennifer Harrell, Leah Snider and Shaun Riggins. Two members of English’s 1998 national semifinal men’s basketball team, Walter Bethea and Beville Taitte, also go on the Wall this year, as well as Aaron Brown, the Pirates’ first-ever NAIA baseball All-American, and Janel Ikeda, a three-sport athlete who was named all-conference in women’s volleyball, women’s basketball and softball in all four seasons at Park.

Finally, two contributors to the institution are in the inaugural class, including Dr. Michael Shafe, the author of the department’s drug and alcohol policy who brought new students to the track and field program through a donation that installed the necessary equipment for pole vaulting at the track complex. Former trustee and 2008 Torchlighter Award winner Virginia McCoy rounds out the class as the individual who spearheaded the effort to bring women’s golf to Park University. Her donation in 2008 made equipment, facilities and additional student-athlete scholarships possible in the program, which was five years old at the time.

McCoy was also the founding president of the Park University Pirate Club, an organization responsible for many student opportunities and facility upgrades in the athletics department.

“We are extremely proud of our inaugural class to the Park Athletics Wall of Honor,” English said. “This group represents all of the values we lift up in our department. They have accomplished many great feats, and in each case, the person you meet is a terrific representative of our university. We are proud to call this our inaugural class.”

The class will be inducted prior to the 2015 Park Golf Scramble, a four-person event that benefits the athletic department.