RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician University president Dr. Anne M. Prisco presented one of the best teams in Golden Falcon history and two former standout student-athletes for induction into the Felician Athletics Hall of Fame at the group's fifth annual banquet and induction ceremony on Thursday, September 28, at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Prisco provided the more than 100 Felician faculty, staff, alumni and friends in attendance with an update on the recent exploits of Golden Falcon athletes on the fields of play, academically, and in the community. Prior to that, she referenced the recent college basketball scandal in the national news, and urged those in attendance, "If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust your judgment and trust your instincts. It's those important values and skills you learn as student-athletes that truly matter in life."
After dinner, former Felician cross-country coach John Brennan kicked off the award presentations by introducing the 2007 men's team that he guided to a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference championship. All seven Golden Falcons entered in the CACC Championship race earned all-conference status. Senior Paul Chegwidden '08 was named league Runner of the Year, freshman Jay Rodgers earned CACC Rookie of the Year status, and Brennan was voted the conference Coach of the Year.
The team chose Alex Wright '09 of Randolph, a Wallkill Valley High of Hamburg graduate and current Maplewood township police officer, to accept the honor on its behalf. Wright was a redshirt junior in the fall of 2007 and ended his career as a four-time all-CACC recipient.
"Cross-country is a lot more than running from Point A to Point B," Wright said. "It is very much a team sport. Many of us were 'bridesmaids' at the high-school level – we were parts of teams that never quite won championships. We came to Felician because we wanted to become part of a team atmosphere."
Next on the dais was Nicole Degenhardt '11, who was raised and still lives in Secaucus. An all-CACC honoree in both volleyball and softball, Degenhardt was the starting setter on the first Felician volleyball team to reach the conference playoffs (2007). She still holds Golden Falcon volleyball records for assists in a match, season, and career.
"I came to Felician for a sense of family," Degenhardt told the assembled throng. "I could not wait for the challenge to help Felician build its growing volleyball program."
Degenhardt was introduced by Felician women's basketball coach Steve Fagan. She played for Fagan as a fifth-year senior in 2010-11, walking on to the Golden Falcons despite not having played basketball since high school.
"My fifth year taught me how to be a better coach," said Degenhardt, entering her third year as the softball coach at Georgian Court University. "I wasn't a starter, but a walk-on who had to earn every bit of playing time I got. I am forever grateful for that experience."
Devon T. Young '11, originally of Monmouth Junction, was the final inductee of the evening. An Academic All-American in men's basketball as a senior, Young is Felician's all-time leading scorer with 1,958 career points. He captained the 2009-10 squad that went 24-7 and won the school's first CACC title in men's basketball. Young was presented by current Golden Falcon head coach Ivan Lewis '04.
"I hope my legacy is more than as a basketball player," said Young, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is a youth care worker for Boys Town New York. "My name is on this award, but I've never been about personal accolades. Nothing I've accomplished has ever been about me. Every time I come back to Felician, it feels like home, and it's beautiful to see the progress the University has made.
Last month, Felician began its 22nd season of varsity intercollegiate athletics.