Moraine Valley’s intercollegiate sports program officially began in 1976. Forty-two years later, influential athletes, coaches and supporters were inducted into the inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame on Feb. 15.
In creating this Hall, the coaches, players, teams, and supporters of the Moraine Valley sports program over the years received recognition for their contribution to the college. For the last 42 years, Moraine Valley’s athletics program has blossomed into a nationally recognized force complete with numerous thrilling victories, championship seasons, broken records, skilled coaching, talented athletes, and significant supporters. Not only have these people accomplished great feats while at the college, but also outside the sports arena.
The Hall itself is displayed on a touchscreen monitor across from the gym in the Health, Fitness & Recreation Center (Building H). Information on the inductees is displayed as well as Athletics’ history, championships for each of the 12 sports and a number of Moraine Valley sports photos and videos. The inaugural inductees included Ephraim Eaddy, Douglas C. Gehrke, Rosie Geraci, LaVetta Mitchell, and Kay Schneegas, who attended the ceremony with a number of their friends and family.
Eaddy played on the Moraine Valley men’s basketball team from 1996 to 1998. He led his team to a conference championship in 1996 and to the NJCAA Region IV championship game. He earned NJCAA Division II All-American honorable mention and nods to the All-Conference, All-NJCAA Region IV first-team and All-Tournament team and was Skyway Conference Player of the Year. He was a two-time Moraine Valley MVP who left as the college’s all-time assist leader with 578 assists and No. 3 career scorer (1,074) to go with single game records for assists (18) and steals (12). He returned to Moraine Valley in the early 2000s as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team.
Gehrke started at Moraine Valley as an economics instructor in 1972, but briefly helped coach the college’s club hockey team. He was named the first athletic director with assistance from fellow instructor and coach, Kay Schneegas. He supervised the men’s sports and she the women’s teams. Gehrke also was the first men’s basketball coach. His team played their first game that same year with players he found shooting hoops in the gym. Although they finished with a 1-16 record, he catapulted the program on its eventual successful track while bolstering and emphasizing the importance of college athletics, as well as academics, and highlighting the talent on the southside of Chicago.
“I’m very proud of Moraine Valley. Athletics was a small part of the whole picture but I think a necessary part because if you talk to most southsiders, they are very sports orientated people. A lot of kids come here out of high school, and this gives them opportunities to play,” he said.
Geraci was a standout player and head coach at Moraine Valley. She played softball and volleyball from 1982 to 1984. Her sophomore year she was captain of the softball team and co-captain of the volleyball team. She was named to the All-NJCAA Region IV first team and All-Conference team and was MVP for volleyball. In softball, she was MVP and named an All-Conference first team player. She received the Female Athlete of the Year award as well as the prestigious Douglas C. Gehrke award for her service and dedication to athletics. From 1994 to 2000, Geraci was head coach of Moraine Valley’s softball team and led them to four conference championships (1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000) including one undefeated season. Each of those years, she was named Skyway Coach of the Year and led her team to the region final four.
Mitchell was part of the women’s basketball team that won two straight conference championships as well as their first NJCAA Region IV championships in 1988 and 1989. She also competed with her team at the national tournament both seasons. Mitchell was named to the All-Region first team and All-Conference team both years, was All-Conference MVP in 1989 and earned an All-American honorable mention. When she left Moraine Valley, she held a career record as top scorer with 1,051 points that was only broken after the 2016-17 women’s basketball season. She also held the rebound record (379) and the record for most blocked shots in a single game (9). She still holds the Cyclone record for most career steals (271), is tied for most steals in a season (137), is No. 4 for best rebound per game average (12.4) in one season, and is No. 3 for top career rebounder (712). In the early 2000s, she returned as an assistant coach for the women’s team.
“I’m constantly saying good things about Moraine Valley because every time I come here it’s like a big family, it’s a huge welcome,” Mitchell said. “Everything I learned from sports I take that and use that. At work, I still use that team mentality. That all came from here. It’s my foundation and solidified me as a person. Being a part of this inaugural class is awesome; it’s a huge honor.”
Schneegas was not only a natural athlete at a time when women’s participation in sports was an oddity, but she also was a pioneer for women’s athletics at Moraine Valley. She was a physical education instructor at the college starting in 1970, where she taught swimming, archery, cross country skiing, and golf. When the college officially started an intercollegiate athletics program in 1976, Schneegas became the Women’s Athletic Coordinator, assisting Gehrke. She supervised and coached women’s sports, which included softball, volleyball and basketball at Moraine Valley. The women’s teams had few resources, so Schneegas conducted fundraisers for team needs and called other colleges and universities so her players had legitimate competition. She was passionate about Title IX and worked tirelessly to make sporting opportunities available to not only women, but also all students as well.
“By having an Athletics Hall of Fame, it really completes the circle of us starting athletics 40 years ago. Our accomplishments are impressive over that span with amazing athletes, coaches and teams representing Moraine Valley in the state and national spotlight,” said Bill Finn, athletic director. “All of our Class of 2018 inductees are community members who have chosen Moraine Valley to showcase their talents. Having this active Hall of Fame will allow us to remember the past successes each year by honoring exceptional people who have put our college athletics program on the map.”