Getting to Gold

2008 Hall of Fame Inducts Nine Athletes

Release: 11/03/2008

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – Coaches, friends, families, professors and staff turned out Sunday night to honor some of Pepperdine’s best at the 2008 Athletics Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony.

After an eight year lapse, the Hall of Fame dinner was resurrected to recognize the outstanding achievements of nine extraordinary athletes who achieved tremendous accomplishments while at Pepperdine and in life thereafter.

The evening started with a welcome by Robert Beaman, Chairman of the Pepperdine Athletics Board, followed by an Invocation by senior volleyball standout Julie Rubenstein.

“Pepperdine athletics has a rich and storied history,” said Dr. John Watson Pepperdine Athletic Director, in his opening remarks. “We have a high degree of excellence and sportsmanship and for a school our size nobody can compete with our athletic success.”

Men’s volleyball coach Marv Dunphy introduced Dain Blanton, the first Hall of Fame inductee.

Blanton talked about how Dunphy had come to his high school in Laguna to recruit him.

“My journey at Pepperdine began and ended with Marv Dunphy,” said 2000 Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball. “We won the 1992 NCAA championship under his direction. I believe he is one of the best volleyball coaches in the world.”

Blanton still holds the Pepperdine record for digs per game (2.30). He graduated in 1994 with a degree in public relations and is the first two-time U.S. male Beach Volleyball Olympian. He currently does sports broadcasting for the Angels, Dodgers, Clippers, UCLA and USC.

1951 graduate and three-year basketball letter winner John Furlong was the second inductee. He entertained the audience with stories from the past at the Vermont campus and drew a standing ovation for his accomplishments.

“They tried to find someone to honor from my class and I was the only one alive,” joked Furlong.

Furlong earned All-American honors as a senior and helped the Waves reach the NAIB Tournament in both 1950 and 1951. He coached varsity basketball at Taft High School for 28 years and has a gymnasium named after him.

“I’m an emotional guy,” said Furlong with his voice cracking. “I waited 57 years for this.”

Women’s Volleyball Olympian Nicole (Sanderson) Hannan traveled all the way from Australia to receive her award.

“Nicole traveled half-way around the world to convince me to pay for her education to play volleyball for the Waves,” said women’s head coach Nina Matthies.

While at Pepperdine Hannan became one of the first players in history to earn All-West Coast Conference first team honors four times. She graduated from Pepperdine in 1997 with a degree in sports medicine. She competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics for her Native Australia and finished fourth in Beach Volleyball.

“I came to Pepperdine from the other side of the world and made new friends, family and teammates,” said Hannan. “Nina always believed in me and taught me to believe in myself.”

1988 NCAA Men’s Individual Tennis Champion Robbie Weiss is the only Pepperdine student-athlete to ever win the singles crown. Weiss was two-time All-American and ranks No. 2 all-time on the Waves list with 83 championship wins. The accomplished tennis player played professionally and was a member of the ATP Tour for seven years.

“This is a special evening...One that I’ll never forget,” said the 2008 ITA Hall of Fame inductee. “ When I was in High school I came out from snowy, cold Chicago to visit Pepperdine and after going through the tunnel and on to Pacific Coast Highway I knew this was the school for me.”

Weiss went on to thank Pepperdine for giving him the chance to complete his degree in 1997 after he left the professional tour.

“I am a Wave for life. I will always love this school and hold fond memories of my time here,” said an emotional Weiss.

Two-time National Player of the Year in NCAA men’s Volleyball, 1999 graduate George Roumain was described by Dunphy as “one of the most decorated men’s volleyball players in Pepperdine history.”

“When I was seven I asked my mom if I could go to surf camp in Malibu,” said the three-time All-American. “We lived in Florida and she told me no, but I knew one day I’d make it to Malibu.”

Roumain told a story about how he was heavily recruited by UCLA, but in his heart he knew that Pepperdine was the place for him. He described Dunphy as “a second dad to me.”

“He’s a big, tough, wonderful human being,” said Dunphy in his introduction.

Men’s golf inductee and professional golfer Jason Gore was unable to attend due to a work related commitment. The 2000 psychology graduate led Pepperdine to the 1996 national championship and was named All-American honorable mention team that year. In his two seasons with the Waves he had 19 top-20 finishes. He went on to play in the 2005 U.S. open and the 2006 PGA Championship. He thanked Pepperdine via video from Florida.

Three-time All-American and 1998 Wimbledon quarterfinalist, Ginger Helgeson-Nielsen was remembered by coach Gualberto Escudero as an athlete who questioned finishing her collegiate career her senior year.

“I told Ginger that it takes drive, dedication, commitment and love for the sport,” said Escudero. “If she hadn’t played her senior year she would never have reached the NCAA quarterfinals and finished her collegiate career ranked No. 4 in the country.”

Helgeson-Nielsen praised Escudero as a coach and mentor and called him the “epitome of consistency and patience.”

“I take pride in being introduced as a Wave Alumni,” said Helgeson-Nielsen.

Helgeson-Nielsen’s professional career included wins over Anna Kournikopva and Monica Seles in doubles and Martina Navratilova, Mary Jo Fernandez and Conchita Martinez in singles.

Men’s Baseball Head Coach Steve Rodriguez praised 1957 Biology graduate Jim Brinton for all he has done for Waves baseball both on and off the field. Brinton played on Pepperdine’s first two baseball teams that advanced to the NCAA District Playoffs in 1955 and 1957.

“We were a bunch of second line prospects, rag-tag scrappers,” said Brinton who has gone on to become a respected urologic surgeon in Orange County, Calif.

Brinton, who was coached by John Scolinos, has served on the Seaver Board of Visitors and Executive Committee, the Athletics Advisors Board and the Hall of Fame Committee for Pepperdine. He endowed the John Scolinos Distinguished Baseball Player Award.

Rodriguez honored Brinton with a surprise when he called freshman Wave Nathan Johnson to the stage.

“I’d like to introduce you to Nathan Johnson who will be the first recipient of the newly established Jim Brinton Baseball Scholarship,” said Rodriguez.

“Pepperdine gave more to me than just baseball,” said Brinton. ‘My life was influenced by both John Scolinos and George Pepperdine.”

The last inductee of the evening was also the third athlete to be introduced by long-time Pepperdine Volleyball Coach Dunphy. 1985 physical education graduate Jeff Stork was a three-time All-American and a gold and bronze medalist in two Olympics.

“I went to Texas to recruit this guy and when he gave me his phone number, I looked at the area code and asked him why it was (213)?” said Dunphy, “It turn out he grew up in Topanga Canyon about a mile from me as the crow flies.”

“Nobody has had a greater impact on my volleyball career than Marv,” said Stork. “I played for him for eight years and coached with him for four.”

In an evening that included the athletes honoring their coaches as much or more than they were honored themselves, everyone agreed that the resurrection of the Hall of Fame was long over due and attendees were already talking about the 2009 ceremony.