Felician College Holds Inaugural Athletics Hall Of Fame Induction

Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Bob Symons (l.) with Felician College President Dr. Anne M. Prisco.
Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Bob Symons (l.) with Felician College President Dr. Anne M. Prisco.

MOONACHIE, N.J. – Felician College President Dr. Anne M. Prisco presented for induction Robert D. "Bob" Symons of Verona and the late Dr.  Russel Wiebe into the Felician College Athletics Hall of Fame at the group's inaugural banquet and induction ceremony on Friday night at The Graycliff.

"We have much to celebrate tonight," Dr. Prisco said. "The athletics program has grown so much, and it is very appropriate that we honor two of its pioneers. We're very proud to have begun this (Hall of Fame) tradition, and excited that we are going to be doing this every year."

Symons was Felician's first director of athletics. He began work in the summer of 1993, more than three years before the Golden Falcons' initial intercollegiate event. Symons designed the College's first fitness center, was primarily responsible for naming its athletes the Golden Falcons, and helped the new program gain national affiliation into the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics.

When Felician expanded its intercollegiate offerings to include men's and women's cross-country in fall 2000, Symons became the programs' first head coach. He guided the men's squad to Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference championships in 2000 and 2001, and was named CACC men's Coach of the Year each season.

 "How many people get a chance to build a program from scratch?" Symons said in his acceptance speech. "I am so grateful to (then-Felician President) Sister Theresa Mary Martin for that opportunity. I worked hard to make sure the program was run for the benefit of the student-athletes. It's great to see the legacy live on."

Symons resigned from Felician in the spring of 2002, and for the last 11 years has taught health, physical education and driver education at The Bergen Academies.

(L-R): Dr. Sherida Yoder, Felician College President Dr. Anne M.
Prisco, and Dr. Alfredo Castro with Lynn Wiebe, wife of late
Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Russ Wiebe, and their daughter, Ava,
12. (Angela Daidone)

Wiebe served 12 years over two stints as a Felician assistant men's basketball coach before his untimely death in summer 2009. He worked under five head coaches. At the time of his passing he was also the academic advisor for the athletics department.

However, Wiebe was involved in Golden Falcon athletics from their inception. As a professor of English at Felician, he served on the initial athletics exploratory committee before becoming the school's first Faculty Athletics Representative.

Wiebe was also active on campus outside the athletic realm. He authored the College's first honor code in 1997, and chaired the Student Ethics Task Force. He wrote several scholarly publications and conference papers as well. In between coaching stints at Felician, he was the head girls' basketball coach at Gill St. Bernard's School for two seasons.

 "The young men that Russ gave a push to when they were students were the same men that showed up at his funeral as businessmen, policemen, and teachers," said Lynn Wiebe who accepted the award alongside her daughter, Ava, 12. "Four years ago, we were too in shock to tell that story, but now we are grateful for the opportunity."

Felician Director of Athletics Ben DiNallo Jr. served as the master of ceremonies.

Earlier this month, Felician began its 18th season of varsity intercollegiate athletics.

The Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony was the first event of Felician's rejuvenated Homecoming Weekend. The balance of the Homecoming schedule can be viewed at http://alumni.felician.edu/s/1051/start.aspx?sid=1051&gid=1&pgid=914&cid=1591&ecid=1591&crid=0&calpgid=61&calcid=766.