UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2007

March 3, 2007


Two football standouts, one of the greatest female distance runners in school history, one of the finest scorers/rebounders in Cowboy basketball history, an All-American golfer, a long-time football secretary and the 1968 National Champion ski team comprise the latest class of the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, Selection Committee Chairman Ken Cook announced Saturday.

The dinner and induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame's 15th class is scheduled for Friday, September 7, at the UW Union Ballroom.

The inductees include: Elsie Jo Bonger, the football office secretary who worked for seven different coaching staffs; Brenda Graham Gray, who not only earned All-American honors in cross country, but also holds records in two track events; football greats, Jerry Jester, an outstanding all-purpose player of the 1950's, and Randy Welniak, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in school history; Dave McCleave, one of the finest Cowboy golfers of all time; Dick Sherman, a great basketball player during the 1960's, and the Cowboy ski team which captured the 1968 national championship.

"As is the case every year, we are extremely proud of this class," Cook said. "This group certainly left its mark on the University and the state of Wyoming. We are looking forward to the banquet in September."

A total of 91 individuals and seven teams have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1993. Its plaque display is located on the second floor of the Rochelle Athletics Center.

The Hall of Fame Committee met in January to make its final selections for this year's class. The inductees must fit into one of five categories: student-athlete, coach, team, athletics staff members or special achievement. Special achievement includes individuals who have contributed to the ideal of sports at the University. Each nominee must receive at least 75 percent of the committee's vote to be eligible for induction.

Members of the committee are: Barbara Burke, Ken Cook, chairman, Ron Flack, Stig Hallingbye, Dave Madia, Margie McDonald, Kevin McKinney, Brian Morgen, Lisa Skiles Parady, Mike Schutte and Dave Walsh.

Following is the 2007 Class:

Elsie Jo Bonger

Hometown: Laramie, Wyoming
Football Secretary
Years: 1962-78

Elsie Jo Bonger worked for seven different coaching staffs during her 16 years as secretary in the Wyoming football office. The success of any organization comes from dedication, discipline, hard work and a team-oriented mentality, and Elsie Jo fit the description perfectly. Always a warm smile, a listening ear and a word of encouragement, her attitude was never anything but positive. It didn't matter whether she was dealing with a coaching staff that had just lost a big game, a homesick student-athlete, a fan, a parent, or someone in the athletics department, Elsie Jo was there for them. She was the glue that held the football office together, and kept it running smoothly. To the Cowboy players, Elsie Jo was "mom away from home". So many Cowboys went to her with their problems, and she usually had the solution. When players could not make it home for the holidays, she opened her home for fellowship and hospitality. She was more responsible for keeping young, homesick Cowboys at UW, than any other single person. She also was a source of stability and calm for everyone during coaching transitions. Everyone shared in her kindness, wisdom, guidance, thoughtfulness and unconditional love that was so much a part of her spirit. She was symbolic of "Welcome to Big, Wonderful Wyoming" and all of its love and beauty.

Brenda Graham Gray

Hometown: Glenrock, Wyoming
Sport: Track
Years: 1980-84

Brenda Graham Gray was the "First Lady of Wyoming Cross Country" and one of the most accomplished distance runners in Wyoming track history. A native of Glenrock, she was the first Cowgirl to compete in the NCAA national cross country meet. A four-year letter-winner, she competed in cross country, indoor and outdoor track. She set records in both the 10,000 meters (34:24) and the two mile run (10:40.5), both of which she still owned upon her induction. She was a cross country All-American in 1981. During her sophomore season she was an NCAA national cross country qualifier, and became Wyoming's first female runner to compete at that national event. She was selected to the Track and Field Association All-American team that year. It was during her sophomore season that she first broke the school's 10,000-meter record, a mark she would shatter as a senior. During that senior season, as team captain she was the only Cowgirl to qualify for the 1984 NCAA track meet. She was as accomplished in the classroom as she was on the track. Not only was she a member of the UW Dean's list for three consecutive years, she earned High Country Athletic Conference All-Academic honors for two years. After graduation, this Wyoming product continued to promote the sport of track, and ran in three Olympic Marathon trials.

Jerome "Jerry" Jester

Hometown: Greenwood, South Carolina
Sport: Football
Years: 1953-55

A great two-way player for the Cowboys, this fleet, miniature-sized tailback--he played at 145 pounds-- led the team in rushing during both his sophomore and junior seasons of 1954 and 1955, averaging 6.1 yards and 4.9 respectively. Not only did he lead the team in kick returns during both seasons averaging 27.6 and 25 yards per return, but he also did the punting for Wyoming. Running out of the Phil Dickens single-wing offense, Jester gained 750 yards in 1954, and 696 in 1955. During that sophomore season of `54, he was ranked fourth in the nation in rushing. He and the Cowboys capped the `55 season with an appearance in the Sun Bowl (January 2, 1956) where they defeated Texas Tech, 21-14. He was an All-Skyline performer that season, leading the conference in rushing. Jester was on pace to break Sonny Jones' three-year rushing record of 1,600 yards when he was called into military service and did not have an opportunity to play his senior season. Dickens, who brought Jester with him from Wofford College, called Jester, "the toughest, most wiry back I've ever coached, and one of the best small men in college football". During his career in the Army, Jester played semi-professional football for the Hawaiian Rams, and played in the 1959 Hula All-Star game.

Dave McCleave

Hometown: Ft. Collins, Colorado
Sport: Golf
Years: 1989-92

Dave McCleave was a walk-on for the University of Wyoming golf team in 1989, but went on to become the most accomplished golfer in school history, and the sport's first inductee into the UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. He became the first Cowboy in history to compete in the NCAA Western Regional in 1990. As a senior in 1992, he won three NCAA collegiate tournaments (five during his career), while finishing second and fourth in two others. He led the Cowboys to the 1992 NCAA West Regional, one of his proudest accomplishments. That year he was named to the Golf Coaches Association of America All-American team. He joined such PGA tour professional names as Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Mike Weir and David Duval, on that `92 All-American team. Earlier that senior season, McCleave was selected to the Western Athletic Conference First Team, the first UW player ever to earn such an honor in the WAC. His stroke average for that season was 72.67. Also included among the honors earned by this gifted athlete were a victory in the Colorado State Amateur, and a second-place finish in the state's match play. Both of those events are considered the premier tournaments of Colorado amateur golf, and attract players from throughout the country. McCleave finished his career with unprecedented success, winning more tournaments than any golfer in school history.

Dick Sherman

Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Sport: Basketball
Years: 1963-64-65-66

One of the greatest athletes ever produced by Cheyenne--he was the city's Athlete of the Decade for the 1960's--Dick Sherman was one of Wyoming's best shooting-rebounding combinations in school history. This All-Western Athletic Conference performer teamed with fellow-Hall of Famer Flynn Robinson to become one of the Cowboys' most prolific one-two scoring tandems ever. The team captain in 1966, Sherman led the Cowboys in field-goal percentage for three seasons, and led the WAC in field-goal percentage during his junior season of 1964-65. His name is still listed among Wyoming's Top Ten in scoring average and rebounding average for a season. During his senior season of 1965-66, he averaged 21.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. His 44 points against Rhode Island on December 27, 1965, remains the sixth-best single-game scoring effort in school history. During the 1966 season Sherman and Robinson led the Pokes to a team average of 91 points per game, Wyoming's single-season record for scoring average. A 1966 graduate of UW, Sherman not only was selected as the Most Outstanding Education Major, but was honored as the Most Distinguished Military Graduate for the school's ROTC program. A helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Sherman earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. He produced a distinguished 31-year career in the Army.

Randy Welniak

Hometown: Ord, Nebraska
Sport: Football
Years: 1985-88

Randy Welniak became one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Wyoming history. Told he might never play quarterback again after shoulder surgery, Welniak earned Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in 1988. As a co-captain that season he directed the Cowboys to an 11-2 record, most wins in school history, a WAC title, and a trip to the Holiday Bowl. In Wyoming's biggest victory that season and one of its most amazing ever--a 48-45 win at Air Force--Welniak rallied the Cowboys from a 21-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to outscore the Falcons 31-7. He finished with a school-record 467 yards of total offense. In that game he became only the third quarterback in NCAA history to gain 300 yards passing (359) and 100 yards rushing (108) in a single game. The "Wizard of Ord" was selected as an All-American in `88. He still ranks among Wyoming's Top Ten in career passing yards (3,819) and career rushing touchdowns (17). A two-time Academic All-WAC first-team selection, he was awarded NCAA, Stan Bates (WAC Commissioner) and Patrick Smyth Post-Graduate Scholarships. He was the Admiral Land Award winner as UW's top student-athlete in 1989. Welniak earned his bachelors of science in finance from Wyoming in 1988, and a masters of business administration from UW in 1989. Welniak returned to his alma mater in the mid-1990's as an administrator, first with the Cowboy Joe Club, and then as an Associate Athletics Director.

1968 Ski Team

It was a dream season for the Wyoming ski team. Coached by John Cress, the 1968 Cowboys became the second team in Wyoming history to capture an NCAA Championship--along with the 1943 basketball team--by winning it all at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. When the Cowboys lost the national title the year before by less than one point to perennial power Denver University, at Kingfield, Maine, there was a feeling that the `68 team had a great opportunity to win the title. After finishing third in three meets that season, the Cowboys won the NCAA Regionals at Winter Park, and entered the national meet as one of the favorites. The Cowboys fared very well in the first three events of the meet, slalom, alpine combined (downhill and slalom) and nordic combined (cross country and jumping), and were just four points out of first place heading into the final day, with their strongest event, jumping, coming up. The Pokes rode the flying skis of Peter Robes, Tim Denisson, and Bruce and Dave Jennings to overtake Colorado, Denver and Ft. Lewis College to earn the National Championship. Robes, a freshman, won the jumping event with 221.1 points followed by Denisson who scored 221. Bruce Jennings was fourth and his brother Dave was tenth. Junior Mike Uberauga placed fifth in the slalom and senior Ron Sargent was fifth in the alpine combined. In the nordic combined Dave Jennings was fourth. With the victory Wyoming dethroned Denver which had won seven straight NCAA ski titles and 11 of the previous 14. Junior Erik Piene won the meet's Skimeister Award for the best performance among skiers competing in all four events.

Previous inductees by class:

Class of 1993: Dick Ballinger, (wrestling, 1958-60); Fennis Dembo (men's basketball, 1985-88); Mike Dirks (football, 1965-67); Jerry Hill (football, 1958-60); Glenn J. "Red" Jacoby (athletic director, 1946-73); Jay Novacek (football and track, 1982-84); Kenny Sailors (men's basketball, 1941-46); Everett Shelton (men's basketball coach, 1939-59); Johnny Winterholler (football, baseball, and basketball, 1936-39); 1943 National Champion Basketball Team.

Class of 1994: Paul Carlin (track, 1951-53); George "Duke" Humphrey (president, 1945-64); Everett Lantz (wrestling coach, 1937-65); Flynn Robinson (men's basketball, 1963-65); Mary Shea (volleyball, 1980-83); Bill Strannigan (men's basketball, 1941-42); Ken Sturman (football, 1937-39); Eddie Talboom (football, 1948-50) Bowden Wyatt (football coach, 1947-52); 1950 Gator Bowl football team.

Class of 1995: Jack Aggers (trainer, 1958-84)); Jim Crawford (football, 1954-56); John Corbett (administration, 1915-39); Bob Devaney (football coach, 1957-61); John Kosich (football, baseball, 1946-49); Dewey McConnell (football, 1949-51); Pat Miller-Davis (track and field, 1980-82).

Class of 1996: Larry Birleffi (broadcaster, 1947-86); Charles W. "Tub" Bradley (basketball, 1979-81); Glenn R. "Bud" Daniel (baseball coach, 1951-61, 1963-71); Michele Hoppes Daum (basketball, 1984-87); Jim Kiick (football, 1965-67); Mark Miller (swimming, 1985-88); Milward L. Simpson (football, basketball and baseball, 1917-21)

Class of 1997: Joe Alexander (rodeo, 1968-69); Keith Bloom (basketball, football, baseball, 1947-50); Stig Hallingbye (skiing, 1974-77); Ronda K. Munger (volleyball, 1984-87); Joseph Nzau (track and field, 1977-82); 1967 Sugar Bowl Football Team.

Class of 1998: Curt Gowdy (broadcaster, basketball, tennis, 1940-42); Eric Leckner (basketball, 1985-88); Bob Jingling (baseball, 1952-55); Kathleen Van-Heule Romsa (track and field, 1983-85); Joe Mastrogiovanni (football, baseball, 1953-55)

Class of 1999: Darcy Cudaback-White (volleyball, 1986-89); Paul Roach (football coach, 1987-90); Paul Toscano (football, 1965-67); John Pilch (basketball, 1947-49); Galand Thaxton (football, 1984-87); Tony Windis (basketball, 1957-59).

Class 2000: Jim Brandenburg (basketball coach, 1978-87); Amy Burnett (basketball, 1992-95); Bill Ewing (baseball, 1974-76); Lee Kizzire (football, 1934-36); Larry Nels (football, 1967-69); Curtis and Marian Rochelle (special achievement).

Class of 2001: Nick Bebout (football, 1970-72); Joe Capua (basketball, 1954-56); Ken Cook (special achievement); Mickey Dunn (track and field, 1949-51); Bill Garnett (basketball, 1979-82); Jean Jackson (administration), 1956 Football Team.

Class of 2002: Greg Brock (baseball, 1976-79); Mitch Donahue (football, 1987-90); Christine Fairless (basketball, 1986-89); Margie McDonald (basketball coach, 1975-83); George "Moe" Radovich (basketball, 1950-52); Reginald Slater (basketball, 1989-92).

Class of 2003: Ken Fantetti (football, 1975-78); Norma Hughes Scifres (swimming, 1990-92, 1994); Willard A. "Dutch" Witte (basketball and football coach, 1930-39); John Wodny (cross country/track, 1986-90); Ryan Yarborough (football, 1990-93); Bill Young (Sports Information Director, Assistant Athletics Director, 1960-81); 1959-60 Wrestling Team.

Class of 2004: Reese Andy (wrestling, 1994-96); Leon Clark (basketball, 1963-66); Marcus Harris (football, 1993-96); Bill Levine (football, 1961, 1963-64); Jimmi Jo Martin Ripsam (rodeo, 1988-90); Pat Rabold (football, 1984, 1986-88).

Class of 2005: Ryan Butler (track and field, 1995-96); Phil Dickens (football coach, 1953-56); Joe Dowler (wrestling coach, administrator, 1973-87); Ann Melander (skiing, 1984-85); Theo Ratliff (basketball, 1992-95); Vic Washington (football, 1965-67); 1989 Cowgirl Volleyball Team.

Class of 2006: Ryan Christopherson (football, 1991-94); Jerry DePoyster (football, 1965-67); Stan Dodds (basketball, 1968-70); Robert S. "Bob" Hammond (sportswriter); Milo Komenich (basketball, 1940-43); Stacey Ward Straley (skiing, 1979-84); 1956 Cowboy Baseball Team.