CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois Athletic Department announced its 2020 Hall of Fame Class on Tuesday. The 15-member group includes athletes from nine different sports, ranging from 1901 to 2013. Football’s Kevin Hardy and basketball’s Derek Harper are two names that most people will remember fondly, but the call from Josh Whitman was extra special for Champaign native Gia Lewis-Smallwood.
“Today is profound,” the former Olympian said during a FaceTime call on Tuesday. “I was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, that is my hometown and my city so one of the greatest awards you get in a lifetime, in the city that played a huge part is unbelievable. To actually have it happen is amazing.”
Meanwhile current Champaign resident Michelle Bartsch-Hackley didn’t find out about the news until yesterday and it came as quite a surprise to her. The former Illini volleyball standout (2008-11) led the team to the national championship match and was a three-time All-American.
“Actually some of my Illinois teammates, they knew already,” Bartsch-Hackley joked over FaceTime on Tuesday. “I guess they had some connection in the athletic department and someone had told them a few months ago so they have been keeping a secret for a few months. I mean it’s a huge honor. Illinois has some great athletes and I’m speechless a little bit.”
The official Hall of Fame induction is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, at State Farm Center when the incoming class will be honored in an event that is free and open to the public. In a change to the annual Fighting Illini schedule, the induction ceremony will fall on Varsity I Weekend when all former Illini are invited back to campus.
2020 Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Volleyball
Tal Brody, Basketball
Vanessa DiBernardo, Soccer
Moe Gardner, Football
Kevin Hardy, Football
Derek Harper, Basketball
Leo Johnson, Track & Field Coach
Gia Lewis-Smallwood, Track and Field
Ray Nitschke, Football
Bob Richards, Track & Field
Art Schankin, Fencing
Jenna Smith, Basketball
Jake Stahl, Baseball/Football
Adam Tirapelle, Wrestling
Don Tonry, Gymnastics
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Volleyball (2008-11)
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley was one of the most well-rounded stars in Fighting Illini volleyball history. Bartsch-Hackley earned Third-Team All-America honors in 2010 and 2011 and Honorable Mention recognition in 2009. She was also selected to the Volleyball Magazine All-America First-Team in 2011. Bartsch-Hackley was named First-Team All-Region and All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011, was named the AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year while earning a place on the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2008. Bartsch-Hackley has been a U.S. National Team member since 2016 and is currently playing professionally in Istanbul. She helped lead Illinois to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen from 2008-10 and to the national championship match in 2011.
Tal Brody, Basketball (1963-65)
Tal Brody earned international acclaim as Israel’s Mr. Basketball and International Goodwill Ambassador, using basketball to help develop relationships with many nations. He was named First-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten in 1965 after earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1964. Brody was the No. 12 overall pick in the 1965 NBA Draft, but chose to play professionally in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv, helping the national team to the 1977 FIBA European Champions Cup title. He was Second-Team Academic All-American and First-Team Academic All-Big Ten in 1965. Brody scored 1,121 points during his Illini career, still ranking among the Top 50 scorers in UI history. He was the 1967 Israeli Sportsman of the Year and is a member of the Israeli Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1979, Brody became the first sportsman to be awarded the Israel Prize, Israel’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his unique contribution to Israeli society and the State in the field of sports. In 1996, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2011 he was inducted into the U.S. National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Brody currently resides in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Vanessa DiBernardo, Soccer (2010-13)
Vanessa DiBernardo was one of Illinois’ most-heralded soccer players, earning Second-Team All-America recognition in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She twice earned First-Team All-Region in addition to one Second-Team All-Region honor. DiBernardo was the 2014 Big Ten Medal of Honor winner from Illinois. She was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten pick, the 2011 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year and 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the conference in goals and points. DiBernardo was named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List three times and was selected fourth overall in the 2014 NWSL College Draft by the Chicago Red Stars, where she continues to play. She is currently fourth on the UI career goals list with 43, the career assist leader with 22 and third in career points with 108. DiBernardo has represented the U.S. at the under-20 and under-23 level, helping the U.S. to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup championship. She currently resides in Chicago.
Moe Gardner, Football (1987-90)
Morris “Moe” Gardner is arguably the best defensive tackle in Fighting Illini history. He was a two-time consensus All-American defensive star and helped Illinois to three-consecutive bowl games and a share of the 1990 Big Ten Championship. Gardner earned All-Big Ten honors all four seasons, including First-Team recognition his final three years. He was the 1990 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and finished his UI career as the school-record holder with 57 tackles-for-loss. Gardner was a finalist for the 1990 Rotary Lombardi Award and 1989 Outland Trophy while being named to the Illinois All-Century Team in 1990. He played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1991-96 and currently resides in Duluth, Georgia.
Kevin Hardy, Football (1992-95)
Kevin Hardy was a consensus All-American and 1995 Butkus Award as a senior at Illinois. He was named First-Team All-Big Ten in both 1994 and 1995. Hardy was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and played nine years with the Jags, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. In 1994, he teamed with fellow Illini Athletics Hall of Fame members Dana Howard and Simeon Rice, along with future long-time pro John Holecek to form one of college football’s greatest linebacker groups. Hardy finished his Illini career ranked ninth on the all-time UI list with 330 tackles, fourth in sacks with 18, and fourth in tackles for loss with 18. He currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Derek Harper, Basketball (1981-83)
Derek Harper earned Second-Team All-America and First-Team All-Big Ten honors in 1983 after leading the Illini to the NCAA Tournament. Following his outstanding junior season, Harper declared himself eligible for professional basketball and was the No. 11 overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft by Dallas as the first pick in Maverick franchise history, who retired his No. 12 jersey in 2018. During his 16-year NBA career as a point guard, Harper played with the Mavericks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, playing in 1,199 games, scoring 16,006 points and averaging 5.5 assists per game. He was selected to the Illinois All-Century Team in 2005. Harper currently resides in Plano, Texas.
Leo Johnson, Track & Field Coach (1938-65); Football Assistant Coach (1937, 1942-56)
Leo Johnson served as the head track and field coach at Illinois from 1938-65, winning three NCAA championships in 1944, 1946 and 1947, and 17 Big Ten championships, 10 outdoors and seven indoors. His teams also finished as runners-up at the NCAA meets in 1953 and 1954. He is a member of USTFCCCA Hall of Fame, the Drake Relays Hall of Fame and Millikin University Hall of Fame. Johnson’s athletes captured 27 individual NCAA titles and 158 conference firsts during his 28 years at Illinois. He served as the head coach for the U.S. Pan American track team in 1955. In addition, Johnson worked on the Illini football staff for 16 seasons and was known as an outstanding scout for Bob Zuppke and Ray Eliot. He briefly played football for George Halas’s Decatur Staleys in 1920. Johnson died in 1982 at the age of 87.
Gia Lewis-Smallwood, Track & Field (2000-02)
Gia Lewis-Smallwood is the most accomplished field event athlete in Fighting Illini women’s track and field history. Lewis-Smallwood competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the discus and holds the American record in that event with a toss of 226-feet, 11-inches in 2014. She won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American games and finished fifth at the 2013 World Championships. Lewis-Smallwood is a four-time U.S. discus champion, while finishing second in 2010 and third in 2011, and has competed in a total of four World Championship meets. She holds Illinois records for the 20-pound weight throw and discus. Lewis-Smallwood finished fifth in the discus at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Championships to earn All-America status. She currently resides in Alexis, Illinois.
Ray Nitschke, Football (1955-57)
Ray Nitschke was a two-way star for Illinois as a linebacker on defense and fullback on offense, where he led the Illini in rushing with 514 yards in 1957. He followed his Illini career with a 15-year NFL Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers. Known for his strength and toughness, Nitschke was recognized as the NFL’s all-time top linebacker by the NFL in honor of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary and was named First-Team on the NFL 75th Anniversary Team. He was the only linebacker to have made both the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. Nitschke anchored the Packer defense for Vince Lombardi on the way to five NFL Championships and victories in the first two Super Bowl games. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978 and his jersey No. 66 was retired by the Packers in 1983 and. He was named Second-Team All-Big Ten in 1957 and rushed for 998 yards during his Illini career. Nitschke was named to the Illinois All-Century Team in 1990. Nitschke died in 1998 at the age of 61.
Bob Richards, Track & Field (1945-47)
Bob Richards is Illinois’ greatest pole vaulter in school history, while also earning a spot as one of the best U.S. vaulters in the history of the event. He was a three-time Olympic pole vaulter for the U.S. in 1948, 1952 and 1956, winning Gold in ’52 and ’56 after winning a Bronze medal in ’48. Richards also competed as a decathlete in the 1956 Olympics. He was a six-time NCAA champion and won 20 national AAU titles, including 17 in the pole vault and three in decathlon. The most dominant vaulter of his time, as he was ranked as the world’s No. 1 vaulter for eight consecutive years. Richards was the first athlete to appear on the front of the Wheaties cereal box in 1958 and was a national promoter of physical fitness. He is the only two-time male Olympic gold medal winner in the pole vault, and also won gold medals at the 1951 and 1955 Pan American Games, while earning silver in the decathlon at the ’55 Pan American Games. Richards was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 and the U.S. National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975. In 2000, Richards was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy and awarded the Order of Lincoln (state’s highest honor) by the state of Illinois. He won the Helms Foundation Trophy and James E. Sullivan Award in 1951 as the outstanding amateur athlete in America. Richards continues to reside on his ranch near Waco, Texas.
Art Schankin, Fencing (athlete-1956-58 / coach-1973-93)
Art Schankin was the greatest fencer in Fighting Illini history. He was a three-time All-American after tying for fifth nationally in the sabre as a sophomore, finishing third in foil as a junior and swept to the NCAA sabre title as a senior, becoming the first intercollegiate fencer to win a national championship with an unbeaten mark. As the Illini head coach, his teams amassed a dual-meet record of 391-51, including seven Big Ten championships and Top 20 finishes at the NCAA Championships 10 times. Schankin died in 2014 at the age of 87.
Jenna Smith, Basketball (2007-10)
Jenna Smith finished her Fighting Illini career and continues to stand as the program’s all-time leader in scoring with 2,160 points and rebounds with 1,217 boards. She was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2008, 2009 and 2010 while also earning Associated Press honorable-mention All-American recognition. Smith holds several other Illinois scoring records, including career double-doubles with 53 and the most double-doubles in a season with 21 in 2010. During her Illini career, Smith averaged 16.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and was a three-time team MVP. Smith was drafted in second round as the 14th overall choice of the 2010 WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics and spent time with the Indiana Fever. She continues to play professionally in Southern France.
Jake Stahl, Baseball/Football (1899-1903)
Garland “Jake” Stahl was a legendary multi-sport star for Illinois, earning All-America honors as a tackle on the football team in 1901 and establishing himself as a star catcher on the baseball diamond during the 1901-03 seasons. Illinois won the 1903 Big Ten baseball title with a 17-1 overall and 11-1 conference record. He helped lead Illinois to 25 victories on the gridiron during his football career from 1899-1902 while playing under George Huff, Fred Smith and Edgar Holt. Stahl established his legacy on the diamond with a batting average well over .400 his last three seasons. His 400-foot, bases-loaded home run against Michigan on May 9, 1903, off the tree in deep right center field at Illinois Field, remains one of the legendary single plays in Illini baseball history. For decades, the tree was known as “Stahl’s Tree.” He twice batted over .440 as an Illini and his senior-year batting average of .444 stood as the school record for 23 seasons. As a major leaguer, he enjoyed a magnificent eight-year career, highlighted by two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox (1903 as a player and 1912 as the manager) and an American League-leading 10 home runs in 1910. Stahl died in 1922 at the age of 43.
Adam Tirapelle, Wrestling (1998-2001)
Adam Tirapelle helped Illinois finish fifth at the 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championships by taking the individual title at 149 pounds. It was Illinois’s best placing nationally since 1946. Tirapelle earned All-America honors three times and was the 2000 Big Ten Champion at 149 pounds. He holds the school-record with 15 pins in 1999-2000, ranks second on Illinois single-season wins list with 39, second in career wins with 127, is third in career pins with 33 and sixth in all-time win percentage (.858). Tirapelle qualified for the NCAA Championships all four years at Illinois, finishing second in 2000 and third in 1999 in addition to his 2001 title. One of the great leaders for the Illini, he was a three-time team captain and two-time Most Valuable Wrestler. Tirapelle was the 2001 Illinois Dike Eddleman Male Athlete of the Year. He currently resides in Clovis, California.
Don Tonry, Gymnastics (1956-57, 59)
Don Tonry was a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, competing in eight events. He was the NCAA Champion in all-around in 1956 and was the floor exercise champion in 1959. Tonry was a nine-time All-American, with three in the parallel bars, all-around and high bar in 1956, and six in 1959 in the all-around, floor exercise, side horse, high bar, parallel bars and still rings. He was the 1956 Big Ten all-around champion and 1959 floor exercise champion. He won seven AAU titles, winning the all-around, parallel bars, and floor in 1956 and 1962 and the vault in 1958. Tonry competed for the U.S. at three World Championships in 1958, 1962 and 1966, and at the Pan American Games in 1959 and 1963, winning four individual bronze medals and a team gold in 1959. In 1963, he again won team gold, won gold on the parallel bars, and added a silver and two bronze medals. After coaching briefly at West Point, Tonry became coach at Yale in 1962 and stayed there as coach for 43 years. He was inducted as a member of the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1980. Tonry died in 2013 at the age of 77.