Two school record breakers, a conference player of the year, the first-ever women's sports team, and a multi-time hall of famer were this year's inductees into the University of Mount Olive Athletics Hall of Fame. Women's volleyball student-athlete Janice Brown (Ellis), women's basketball student-athlete Twana Jeeter (Johnson), baseball student-athlete Josh Stewart and former athletics director George Whitfield make up the Class of 2014, while the 1977-78 women's basketball team became the second recipient of the Pioneer Award. This year's Hall of Fame class is the first since the school gained university status and was renamed The University of Mount Olive.
"Once again, we have a great group of honorees, representing various aspects of our athletics program," said UMO Director of Athletics and Hall of Fame Committee Chair Jeff Eisen. "We have two outstanding female student-athletes who left their marks in the Trojan record books, a power-hitting baseball student-athlete who performed on the national stage, an athletics administrator who has been recognized by numerous other halls of fame, and a trailblazing women's sports team. We're very excited to be adding this great group into our Hall of Fame."
A transfer student, Janice Brown earned all-conference honors and helped lead Mount Olive to the 1997 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference (CVAC) Women's Volleyball Championship, the lone women's volleyball conference title in school history. Brown was the 1998 CVAC Women's Volleyball Player of the Year as the Trojans reached the title match of the conference tournament for the second straight year. For her career, Brown compiled a .296 hitting percentage in two seasons to go with 3.39 kills and 2.99 digs per set.
"I don't have much to say I just want to thank my family for coming here it was over 29 hours, and it means a lot, " said Brown while receiving her plaque.
Twana Jeeter was at Mount Olive from 1991-92 through 1994-95 and scored 1,218 points, which stood as a school record until 2007. She nearly averaged a double-double for her career with 13.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest. Jeeter's 23 rebounds in a game remains a school single-game record. During her senior year, Jeter was teammates with 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Candy Tefertiller.
"I'm so thankful to God for giving me the ability to play basketball. I want to encourage the young people who think they cannot do anything that you can" said Jeeter.
Josh Stewart earned All-America honors in 2001 after batting .376 with a then-school record 19 home runs to go with 59 runs batted in. Stewart was recognized for his home run prowess by getting to compete in the Home Run Derby at the 2001 College World Series. Stewart is currently tied for the fourth-highest single-season home run total in Trojan history. A transfer student, Stewart helped lead Mount Olive to its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2000. The Trojans won the 2001 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Championship and compiled a 79-26 record in Stewart's two years.
Stewart had a very short comment after he was introduced. "I'm a baseball player, not a speaker so I'm sorry, but I am very thankful."
George Whitfield served as Mount Olive's athletics director from 1990-93, the final years before the school reclassified from NAIA to NCAA Division II. It was during Whitfield's tenure that Mount Olive made its first-ever national finals appearance as a four-year college when the Trojan baseball team advanced to the 1992 NAIA World Series. Whitfield is best recognized for his success as a high school and American Legion baseball coach, compiling a record of 954-286 at all levels. In 2013, the North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA) included Whitfield among its top 100 coaches in NCHSAA history.
Whitfield has been inducted into the NCHSAA Hall of Fame, as well as the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and North Carolina Athletics Directors Hall of Fame. Whitfield has also established his own athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted its 42nd class this past January.
"The good Lord has blessed me over the past 55 years, but none of them had the effect that Mount Olive College had. This institution is one of the best-kept secrets in the country. I didn't stay here long, but it was one of the biggest thrills of my life" said Whitfield during his induction speech.
The 1977-78 women's basketball team was Mount Olive's first women's varsity intercollegiate team. That year's team included two UMO Athletics Hall of Famers, head coach Larry Dean and student-athlete Sarah Leonard. Also on the Trojan roster were Rhonda Amerson, Kelley Farthing, Macon Hopkins, Pat Johnson, Brenda Jones, Sheila Keel, Vickie Shingleton, Twillah Taylor and Rosalind Weeks. Rose Mary Altman was the trainer/manager; Celeste Gaskins was the scorekeeper, and Julia Hairr was the statistician.
Coach Larry Dean spoke on behalf of the team and what an amazing experience it was at Mount Olive.
"Dr. Raper said one thing I will never forget he said we were going to start women's basketball, not because of Title Nine but because it was the right thing to do!"
"These girls were the cornerstone of women's athletics, and they worked hard and were successful".
The women's basketball team becomes the second recipient of the Pioneer Award. The 1965-66 men's basketball team – the longest-running men's sport – won the award last year.
This year's class is the ninth Hall of Fame Class and brings the total number of individual inductees up to 32.
The University of Mount Olive Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place Saturday, November 22, at 3 p.m. at the Lois K. Murphy Regional Center on the UMO campus. The induction ceremony was part of the annual Mount Olive Pickle Classic and Homecoming Weekend.