Leadership, Courage & Service Honored at 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame

Content Contributed By Rebecca Hilker ‘16

This year at Gannon University’s annual Athletic Hall of Fame Award Ceremony, held January 23, a young group of Gannon alumni, as well as a former coach and mentor were recognized and honored by the Gannon community.

The six alumni who received awards for excellence as student-athletes and for their leadership post-graduation included:

  • John Boyles ’87, a distinguished baseball player;
  • Kristina Freeman ’10, a member of the women’s NCAA Division II Final Four basketball squad;
  • Asmundur Haraldsson ’00, an international powerhouse on the men’s soccer team;
  • Geoff Husted ’05, a towering threat on the men’s basketball team;
  • Nick Leslie ’04, one of the best catchers and pure hitters on the baseball team during his time;
  • Mike Palermo ’95, an all-star on the football team.

In addition to these inductees, two members of the Gannon athletic community received special recognition and honors.

Eric Witherite ’99 received the Golden Knight Courage Award for showing an extraordinary amount of courage and strength outside his athletic endeavors. Witherite battled Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) with the same tenacity that he battled his opponents on the matt.

Witherite was a three-year starter for the wrestling team. He placed twice in the regional championships and wrestled in both the 167 and 184 lb. weight classes. He was represented at the ceremony by his loving wife Amy, two sons Luke and Hayden, and long-time friend and wrestling teammate Thomas A. Saito `98. Saito read the speech prepared by Witherite that brought tears to many eyes in the room.

Sadly, Witherite lost his battle not long after the ceremony on February 18, but his example will live on through the many lives he touched and the people he inspired.

The courageous battle that Witherite fought inspired the boys of the McDowell High School wrestling program, which he coached for nine seasons. Both the McDowell and Gannon wrestling teams were in attendance of the Hall of Fame ceremony to help honor and represent the impact that Witherite had on their lives. It was a truly inspirational moment for the Gannon Family.

The final inductee into the 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame was The Rev. Monsignor Addison R. Yehl, receiving the Distinguished Service Award.

After serving as an officer in the United States Army during World War II, Yehl was ordained by Archbishop John Mark Gannon in 1951 as he entered the seminary. He served as the head coach of the men’s tennis team from 1953 to 1959, producing five winning campaigns, and was also a chemistry professor until his retirement in 2006.

He was more than a coach and professor on the Gannon campus, though. He interacted with the students at the basketball games and took his chemistry students on trips to events such as Buffalo Sabres games and the U.S. Tennis Open in New York City.

Yehl was a monumental member of the Gannon community, and it is evident that his legacy is intended to carry on. The Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony was held in the ballroom named in his honor, the Yehl Ballroom of the Waldron Campus Center.

The 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame class induction ceremony had moments of celebration, recognition and inspiration throughout the evening. Together the young inductees continue to lead by example, sharing their perseverance, courage, strength and wisdom with their Gannon Family.

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