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Induction Ceremony Marks Return of Baron Hall of Fame

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Presenters and recipients (left to right): John Nese ‘60, Hank Kuzma, Terry Kloska, Chris Ledyard, Fr. Terry, Bill Chesson, Gary Vogelsberger ‘65, Bill Alexander ‘54, and Joe Nolan ‘67.
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STEUBENVILLE, OH-After a 27-year hiatus, the Baron Hall of Fame ushered in four new members during a February 8 induction ceremony for four sports legends: Baron basketball coach Hank Kuzma, standout Baron basketball player Gary Vogelsberger, Class of 1965; the former voice of the Barons, Bill Chesson; and former athletic director, the late Bob Kloska, Class of 1958.

Revitalizing the Baron Hall of Fame follows Franciscan University's return last fall to intercollegiate athletics as a provisional member of NCAA Division III.

The festivities began with a social hour that included much high-fiving and exuberant reunions as former players, coaches, and friends mingled and reminisced about moments that thrust the former College of Steubenville into the national spotlight.

"The Bible makes it very plain that when you use the gifts God has given you, he blesses you and gives you more," said University President Father Terence Henry, TOR, at the start of the induction ceremony. "And these athletes, coaches, and supporters are an example of that."

First to be introduced by Bill Alexander '54 was Bill Chesson, the "voice of the Barons" basketball games on WSTV radio for most of the 1960s. A longtime supporter of Baron athletics, Chesson also served Franciscan University as a member of the Board of Advisors and president of the Century Club.

"I simply called the game," said Chesson. "I didn't embellish the way some of the announcers do today. I just tried to describe what the players and coach did."

The first of several emotional peaks occurred next, when current athletic director Chris Ledyard spoke about the late Bob Kloska, baseball coach and athletic director from 1960 to 1972.

Ledyard credited Kloska with starting "a number of intramural sports that are the basis for our thriving intramural sports program, which today involves over 1,000 students participating in 20 sports." He described Kloska as a "jack of all trades" who even "prepared the infield by raking it using his station wagon."

Accepting the award was Kloska's wife, Terry. "I remember when he (Bob) used to take his teams to the Y, to the Knights of Columbus building, to St. John's Arena, anywhere they could practice because of a lack of practice facilities on campus… (Today) you have such beautiful facilities. This is such a beautiful campus," she remarked.

Fellow teammate and friend Joe Nolan '67 introduced basketball standout Gary Vogelsberger '65. He cited Vogelsberger's accomplishments as Small College Player of the Year (Pittsburgh Tri-State Coaches poll), selection to the NAIA District 22 All-Star Team (1962 and 1964), his leadership role on the 1965 team that reached the NCAA Eastern Division playoffs, and his career record of 1,049 points that "would have been much higher had the three-point rule been in effect."

While, "Gary wasn't necessarily the fastest player on the court, wasn't necessarily the player who could jump the highest or rebound the most, he was a winner in the truest sense of the word," said Nolan. "What Gary might have lacked in certain physical skills he made up with great basketball sense, desire, hard work, and a big heart."

In making his first return to the hilltop in 33 years, Vogelsberger told of his good fortune to play for the same high school coach who coached Baron Hall of Fame member Paul Brownlee '56. "I'm like a kid in a candy store, he proclaimed about getting to meet Brownlee and coach Hank Kuzma for the first time that evening. He called both men, "true legends of this University."

Vogelsberger deflected personal recognition to instead give credit for his success on the court to his grade school and high school teammates, coaches, his father, fraternity brothers, teammates Randy Green and other Baron players, even the community of Steubenville. He gave special recognition to downtown shoe salesman Carmen Barbetta, "a special friend to all students, whether or not you scored 20 points the night before."

A "giant among his peers," was how John Nese '60 introduced the final inductee of the evening, his friend and former basketball coach, Hank Kuzma. Kuzma compiled a 95-19 record as coach of the Barons from 1954-1958, a singular accomplishment for a small college team that lacked proper athletic facilities and recruiting prowess.

In 1958 the team earned the title "Number One Small College Basketball Team in the U.S."; from United Press International, while Kuzma was named "Number One Small College Coach of the Year" by the United Press Board of Coaches.

Kuzma left the College that year for similar success coaching high school basketball in Pennsylvania. He returned in 1978 to coach basketball and eventually work in the Alumni and Development Offices. Today he and his wife, Kay, live in Steubenville where he continues to serve as a fundraiser and ambassador for the University.

The audience rose for a standing ovation as Kuzma accepted his award. He kept his remarks simple, though he confessed it was "quite an emotional day" to see so many past and present friends.

After thanking the Hall of Fame Committee for reinstituting the Baron Hall of Fame, he concluded, "Spiritually (being at the University) has been a very great experience for me. Being surrounded by the students and the priests has been as heartwarming and rewarding as coaching the basketball team."

Current athletic director Chris Ledyard brought the ceremony to a close saying, "Athletics has the ability to form us as great human beings. We also know that if we bring in coaches like Hank Kuzma who believe that athletics can be a means for the development of an athlete's mind, body, and spirit, we can rise above the negative aspects of athletics that frequently capture our attention."

During the ceremony, Steubenville Mayor Dominic Mucci gave each inductee a certificate of appreciation and proclaimed May 1, 2008, as Baron Hall of Fame Day in Steubenville. Later that evening, the inductees as well as all former athletes present were recognized during a halftime ceremony at the Baron basketball game against Ohio University Eastern in Finnegan Fieldhouse that the Barons won 68-49.

The Hall of Fame committee, working through the Alumni Relations Office, is already making plans for next year's induction. In the near future a Hall of Fame wall will be completed in Finnegan Fieldhouse as a permanent marker for those honored.

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