WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. – Felician College President Dr. Anne M. Prisco presented for induction four former standout student-athletes into the Felician College Athletics Hall of Fame at the group's third annual banquet and induction ceremony last Friday night at The Fiesta.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Prisco provided the nearly 100 Felician faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends in attendance with an update on the many improvements happening on the College's Rutherford campus, including the impending construction of an Athletics and Recreation Center. She then shared with the gathering a quote from former New York Knick and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley: "Sports are a metaphor for overcoming obstacles and achieving against great odds. Athletes, in times of difficulty, can be important role models."
Women's basketball standout Tysell Bozeman, a native of Riverside, Calif., was inducted in absentia. Felician director of athletics Ben DiNallo Jr., Bozeman's coach with the Golden Falcons from 2001-03, told the story of how he was apparently the most aggressive Division II coach to respond to Bozeman's e-mails when she was looking to transfer from the University of Arizona without losing a year of playing eligibility.
Bozeman, Felician's all-time leader in scoring and steals, was a 2002 honorable-mention NAIA All-American and the 2003 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Player of the Year. She now resides in Tucson, Ariz. Mike Mueller '00, DiNallo's assistant on Bozeman's teams, accepted the award on her behalf.
Next on the dais was Paul Chegwidden '08, who was raised in Hamburg and lives in Millburn. Chegwidden, the 2007 CACC Men's Cross-Country Runner of the Year, was a member of four CACC championship teams. After being presented by his college coach, John Brennan, Chegwidden sent out many thank-yous in an emotional acceptance speech.
"As an athlete, you're not always victorious," he said. "I certainly failed quite a few times throughout my athletic career. But my parents always gave me that encouragement to keep going forward. You can't get anywhere without a support system, and I am grateful for my entire family who showed up tonight."
DiNallo, who also once coached women's soccer at Felician, returned to the podium to introduce Valerie Esposito '03 of Clifton. A four-year starter in both soccer and softball, Esposito earned all-CACC honors in both sports. She still sits third on the soccer team's all-time scoring list with 71 points (26 goals, 19 assists).
Esposito, whose younger sister, Kristy Esposito, was once a Felician teammate, spent part of her remarks addressing the many former Golden Falcons from both sports that attended the banquet. "I started at Felician with one sister, and I left with a dozen," she said. "I'm truly thankful for the memories, for the chance to play with each of you, and, most importantly, for the friendships we made that will last a lifetime."
Mike Rooth '07 of Bayville, a baseball standout from 2003-06, was the final inductee of the evening. Rooth was the Felician baseball program's first NCAA all-region player, first four-time All-CACC honoree, and first player to reach 200 career hits. He is still the only Golden Falcon student-athlete in any sport to have his number retired. Rooth was presented by Mark Mentone, Felician sports information director and chair of the Athletics Hall of Fame Committee.
"I'd like to thank Felician College for allowing me to continue my baseball career, and for giving me a first-rate education at the same time," Rooth concluded. "The direction of Felician College is trending way up. It's awesome to look back, and I'm proud to have been a part of it."
Earlier this month, Felician began its 20th season of varsity intercollegiate athletics.