Send this article to a friend Print RSS

NAIA Honors Its Own

April 22, 2013
Article Image

Pictured above is emcee Michael Coleman (left) and Hall of Fame inductee Lowell Pitzer (right)

By Kay Hawes, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

It was time to hear stories of service, dedication and character. It also was time for a family to come together and celebrate those who had made the Association a special place to be. The NAIA honored its annual winners at a luncheon April 22 at the NAIA National Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

“Family is a huge concept in the NAIA,” said Lowell Pitzer, pictured above and one of the Hall of Fame inductees. “I have been blessed and lifted up on the shoulders of many of you here in my NAIA family.”

With the assistance of emcee Michael Coleman, sports director of Kansas City’s CBS-affiliate KCTV5, the NAIA honored its three inductees into the NAIA Hall of Fame for meritorious service, the NAIA’s highest honor. This year’s Hall of Fame class was comprised of Gerald Robert “Bob” Burns, a longtime athletics director and educator at John Brown University (Ark.); Lowell Pitzer, commissioner of the American Midwest Conference as well as a professor and athletics administrator at Missouri Baptist University; and Arthur Wallace “Toby” Williams, a former professor and faculty athletics representative at Trevecca Nazarene University (Tenn.).

Also honored were the winners of the NAIA athletics administration awards. Bob Wilson, athletics director of Vanguard University (Calif.), was named NAIA Athletics Director of the Year. Corey Westra, Commissioner of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), was named the recipient of the Charles Morris Award, granted to an NAIA athletics administrator of the year. Phyllis O’Daniels, longtime chair of the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) Eligibility Committee and faculty athletics representative at Graceland University (Iowa), was named the recipient of the Wally Schwartz Award, which recognizes the NAIA faculty athletics representative of the year.

The honorees also included the NAIA’s national Champions of Character award winners. Rich Aubrey, head women’s basketball coach at Milligan College (Tenn.), was named recipient of the 2013 NAIA Coach of Character Award; and Dave Gregson, head men’s soccer coach at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.), was named recipient of the 2012 NAIA Coach of Character Award.

Janelle Brown, a five-time All-American in indoor and outdoor track and field and a recent graduate of Cornerstone University (Mich.), was named the recipient of the 2012 NAIA Dr. Leroy Walker Award; and Jacob Harrison, a senior baseball captain and CoSIDA Academic All-American at William Woods University (Mo.), was named the recipient of the 2013 NAIA Dr. Leroy Walker Award. The winners of the Walker awards were chosen for their success in athletics and academics and their commitment to the NAIA Champions of Character core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

Quotes from the award winners:
• “We’ve seen horrific examples of poor character decisions in intercollegiate athletics. With Champions of Character, we were asked to work on something that could change the culture of athletics. That was the beginning of the core values of Champions of Character. — Bob Burns, a longtime athletics director and educator at John Brown University (Ark.) and NAIA Hall of Fame Inductee.

• “Athletics is the window through which people view your school. And through the window of athletics we get an opportunity to develop student-athletes who become confident in who they are and who they are going to be.” — Lowell Pitzer, commissioner of the American Midwest Conference and NAIA Hall of Fame Inductee.

• “God and the NAIA have called you to point the way for student-athletes, to help them develop who they are and who they will become. Point them in the most excellent way.”—Toby Williams, a former professor and faculty athletics representative at Trevecca Nazarene University (Tenn.) and NAIA Hall of Fame Inductee.

• “I’m a person who likes acronyms, and I have one for the NAIA. N is for nurturing, A is for all athletes, I is for Intentional, and A is for Authentic. I think the greatest compliment you can receive is for someone to say you are authentic. Thank you to the NAIA for nurturing me to be more authentic.” — Bob Wilson, athletics director of Vanguard University (Calif.), and NAIA Athletics Director of the Year.

• “The NAIA truly is about opportunity. I saw it when I went to that first council meeting. I was embraced, welcomed and encouraged to get involved. I think that’s a challenge for all of us that we must continue to embrace, welcome and encourage others.” — Corey Westra, Commissioner of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), and recipient of the Charles Morris Award, granted to an NAIA athletics administrator of the year.

• “The NAIA offers many opportunities for both student-athletes and administrators to grow, both in life skills and in professional qualities. May we use the opportunities we have to help those we serve.” — Phyllis O’Daniels, former chair of the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) Eligibility Committee and faculty athletics representative at Graceland University (Iowa), and the recipient of the Wally Schwartz Award, which recognizes the NAIA faculty athletics representative of the year.

• “Thank you to my parents, who taught me that you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister...And thank you to God. I hope my life will help show that God works in us, through us and quite often, in spite of us.” — Rich Aubrey, head women’s basketball coach at Milligan College (Tenn.), and recipient of the 2013 NAIA Coach of Character Award.

• “I see a lot of young coaches and they ask for advice. The one piece of advice I would give them is to choose a great boss, and it’s true. I have the best boss in the country. Together we have adopted his slogan of ‘student, person, player,’ and this award is validation that that approach works.” — Dave Gregson, head men’s soccer coach at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.), and  recipient of the 2012 NAIA Coach of Character Award.

• “Because of the NAIA Champions of Character program, I’ve seen leadership emerge in myself and in my teammates. I hope to use the values I’ve learned in intercollegiate athletics as I go forward and seek to fight human trafficking.” — Janelle Brown, a five-time All-American in indoor and outdoor track and field at Cornerstone University (Mich.), and recipient of the 2012 NAIA Dr. Leroy Walker Award.

• “As a student-athlete in the NAIA, I have worked hard to represent the five core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership, both on and off the field… I have faced many challenges in my life, but because of the people around me, I have learned to make the right choices.” — Jacob Harrison, a senior baseball captain and CoSIDA Academic All-American at William Woods University (Mo.), and recipient of the 2013 NAIA Dr. Leroy Walker Award.