Dennis Fechter, a former three-sport athlete, may have summed it up best when he adjusted the microphone, looked into the crowd, and simply said, “Wow.”
There was definitely a wow factor in place as Napa Valley College inducted its second annual class — a combination of athletes and coaches — into its Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday night at the Napa Valley Marriott.
Joining Fechter in the 2012 class were Dick Vermeil, Robert Maglione, Stephen Dodd, Ken Tronstad, Howard Jamison and the late Mary “Georgie” Georgiana Lyon. It’s a Who’s Who of superstars and athletic excellence. Lyon, a pioneer of women’s sports who taught and coached at NVC from 1944 to 1978, becomes the school’s first female Hall of Fame inductee.
“How cool is this?” Dodd asked, shortly after being introduced. “To be able to play for the college when I did and to really have fun doing it with a great bunch of guys that I played with, to be honored like this is just incredible.”
The Hall of Fame was created to honor those who have been instrumental in helping build the history and tradition of Napa Valley College. The mission of the Hall of Fame is to recognize individuals for outstanding athletic contribution or participation at the college and to illuminate the athletic tradition at NVC.
“We are honoring seven outstanding inductees who have distinguished themselves and brought honor to Napa Valley College through their accomplishments while at the college, as well as in their personal and professional lives,” said Kevin Luckey, NVC’s dean of physical education and athletics and the Storm’s athletic director.
The seven inductees were honored at a dinner and ceremony, highlighted by the presentation of medals that were attached to a green-and-gold ribbon.
Each member of the class was introduced by Ira C. Smith, sports director at KVON-1440 AM/KVYN-99.3 FM.
“I appreciate the recognition, because my whole career started right here, as a student, as an athlete, then later on as a coach here. It’s a very meaningful honor,” said Vermeil, who, like Fechter, is from Calistoga.
Making this year’s Hall of Fame dinner even more special is that it comes during NVC’s 70th-anniversary year.
“This is very prestigious,” said Maglione, a former Storm softball coach who is California’s all-time winningest community college softball coach. “It’s like coming home and seeing a lot of your family and having your family embrace you back into the house. I will never forget being on that field and doing the things that we accomplished here.”
A closer look at each of the inductees:
The Super Bowl–winning coach attended NVC and played two seasons of football from 1954-1955 and ran track one year before transferring to San Jose State University. One of Vermeil’s stops in a stellar coaching career was at Napa Valley College. He was the head coach for one year, in 1964. He went on to be a very successful college head coach at UCLA.
Vermeil won Super Bowl XXXIV as head coach of the St. Louis Rams and retired with a coaching record of 126-114 with the Philadelphia Eagles, Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. He was twice named as the NFL Coach of the Year and spent 14 years as a college and NFL analyst for CBS and ABC.
“I have fond, fond memories of coaching that football team,” he said of his one year at NVC. “It was fun. We won some games, had a disappointing loss at the end of the year to Santa Rosa. I’ve been able to stay in contact with some of the guys that played.”
In 1977, Fechter was third in the nation in individual passing and seventh in the nation in total offense as NVC’s quarterback. He was the football team’s Most Valuable Player in 1976 and 1977. He received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Montana after walking on.
Fechter was a two-year starter in baseball, earning second-team All-Golden Valley Conference in 1976. Napa took the conference championship in 1977. As a three-sport athlete, he also played basketball, where he was awarded the team’s Defensive Player of the Year and Most Inspirational Player awards.
“It’s definitely an honor, a privilege,” said Fechter, a Napa resident. “What a class of people I’m going in with. I’ve been a huge Dick Vermeil fan for a long, long time. I loved my time at the college.”
After attending Santa Clara University for a year, Dodd chose to go to Napa Valley College. He was successful athletically as a two-way starter for the Chiefs in 1974 as an offensive lineman and linebacker and was named All-Golden Valley Conference.
“These coaches took all of us and molded us into what I consider a really good team,” said Dodd, a resident of Galt (Sacramento County). “I remember certain plays that really made a difference to me. To be able to do that, to have fun in a sport you love, and to come back and get an award like this, to me there is nothing more special.”
Dodd received a scholarship to the University of Richmond and started at linebacker for the Southern Conference champion Spiders.
As coach from 1981-1995, Maglione compiled a record of 456-224 with six conference titles. He was Bay Valley Conference Softball Coach of the Year at NVC six times and state Coach of the Year in 1988.
Maglione left NVC to run a very successful program at Sacramento City College. His overall record at the community college level was 1,177-381. Between NVC and Sacramento City, his teams won 21 conference championships. He was recently inducted into the California Community College Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The American Canyon resident coached Sac City to a state championship in 2004.
“We were out there teaching and coaching and having a good time,” he said of his NVC years. “People weren’t worried about scholarships, they weren’t worried about a lot of other things. The kids just came out and played very hard and enjoyed the game.”
Said Nyrene Clark, who played for Maglione at NVC: “He knows softball. He could take a talented player and make them an exceptional player. Not all coaches have that intrinsic ability — Maglione did.”
Tronstad was named as NVC’s Outstanding Athlete of the Year in 1954 for basketball and track. He was the Golden Valley Conference MVP in basketball as a freshman. He was a record-setting discus thrower on the track team and participated in multiple events.
Tronstad has continued to compete in senior games track and field as an age group All-American. He retired as the owner and president of Slinsen Construction.
“I’m honored to be included with some of the finest head coaches and athletes in the valley,” said Tronstad, a Napa resident.
Jamison played two years of competitive tennis at NVC (1961-1963). He went on to play at Sacramento State, and later was the NVC men’s tennis coach from 1974-1980. He has been a driving force in developing tennis in the Napa Valley and has been a nationally ranked age group tennis player throughout his adult life.
As president of the Napa Valley Tennis Association in 1975-76, Jamison was a leader in the effort to build the Napa Valley Tennis Association’s eight public courts. He makes his home in Folsom.
Mary Georgiana Lyon
The late Mary “Georgie” Lyon was one of the pioneers of the physical education and athletic program at NVC. In the early years of the college, there were no women’s athletic teams. So, she advised the Women’s Athletic Association, which provided competitive athletic opportunities for NVC women against other community colleges.
Lyon’s nephew, John Lyon of San Diego, accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of the family.
“Also being a female in competitive athletic programs myself, I have so much to thank her for, preceding Title IX and paving the way for female athletes,” said Sarah Lyon, the honoree’s great-niece and an elementary school science teacher in Studio City, Calif.