Meet the members of the Decatur Public Schools Hall of Fame's Fall 2018 induction class in this week's edition of Alumni Tuesday!
Please enjoy this transcript from the class' induction ceremony at halftime of the MacArthur-Eisenhower football game on Saturday at Millikin's Lindsay Field!
Terry Cook is a 1984 graduate from Stephen Decatur High School. A three year varsity starter, named All-Turkey Tournament team his junior and senior year, a leading scorer and most valuable player, a 3-time Macon County first team selection and honorable mention All-State.
At Parkland College, Terry started 38 games where he and coach Rease Binger, a Hall of Fame Committee member, won the D2 National Junior College basketball championship. Terry was second in scoring for the team and led in steals and assists. He completed his collegiate career at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri.
Terry is already a two time Hall of Fame inductee: Parkland College and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. Today we congratulate Terry Cook, you are now a Decatur Public Schools Athletic Hall of Famer.
Joe Doolin, graduated from Lakeview High School in 1966. He is already in District 61’s Hall of Fame when the undefeated 1965 Lakeview football team was enshrined as our inaugural class. Joe’s individual performance as the “go-to” running back is why he is being inducted today. He was the captain of the first Decatur prep team with a perfect season and was one of the city’s leading scorers his junior and senior years. Joe was selected as a first team All-Conference player, and was WAND’s and Herald & Review’s All City Team.
Joe went on to play 4 years of football for Millikin University where he played on both sides of the ball and special teams. He was their kick off return and punt return specialist and was team captain in 1970. Joe continued to stay active with high school football, he has been the Public Announcer for the Maroa-Forsyth Trojans for the pat 28 years.
Joe Doolin, congratulations, you are a member of the Decatur Public Schools, Athletic Hall of Fame!
One of the most successful women’s tennis player in Decatur history is Martha Downing. Martha is a 1967 MacArthur graduate and although she did not achieve national rankings as a junior tennis player, it is her accomplishments as an adult player we are honoring her today. Martha played tennis for Stanford University before Title IX (nine) was around and there were no championships to compete for. Martha continued to compete in tennis tournaments as an adult in Northern California as she started a career as a certified Tennis Director where she ranked in the top 3 spots in “open” doubles for 7 straight years. At age 35 she became a senior tennis player and started national competitions where she earned USTA’s Senior Northern California Player of the Year 2 times USPTA Senior Player of the Year 4 times, reached #1 in ranking for singles, doubles and in the world for seniors 60 & over. Martha has represented the USA on 9 international senior tennis teams and is a member of the Sacramento Area Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame.
Welcome back home to Illinois Martha, you are now a Decatur Public Schools Hall of Famer, Congratulations!
Our next athlete is a female graduate from Eisenhower class of 1983. Pat Hamilton was one of four starters her senior year for an Eisenhower basketball squad that finished with an impressive 21-5 record. Pat’s senior year the Panthers won the Capital Conference with a 11-1 record. She lead her team averaging 18.8 points, 5 steals, and 5 assists her last year as a Panther. Pat is a All-City Player of the Year, received All-Capital Conference team accolades and special mention All-state. Pat received a basketball scholarship to Eastern IL University where she set the single game scoring record with 35 points in a game and was All-Conference. As a track & field athlete Pat made her way to state and medaled in the long jump all 3 years she ran track. Pat was deemed Herald & Review’s Track Athlete of the year both her freshman and sophomore years as a Panther. Pat was a participant in Decatur’s Summer track club the Staley Striders where she earned a National Long Jump Champion title. Today we congratulate Pat Hamilton, you are now a Decatur Athletic Hall of Famer!
Herbert TJ Jackson Jr.
TJ Jackson excelled in three sports while at Stephen Decatur High School: football, track and basketball. A 1962 Running Reds’ graduate, TJ is being inducted for his football performance as he led the city in scoring his senior year and was named All-State. TJ was an Herald & Review All-City pick as a junior, scoring nine touchdowns but broke our as a senior with 26 touchdowns and another All-City selection. TJ parlayed his high school success at Northeast Missouri State University, now known as Truman State, where he received a full football scholarship. TJ was co-captain of the team and led the conference in yards per carry. TJ later was inducted into Truman State’s Athletic Hall of Fame and received the Truman State Golden Alumni Award just last year in 2017. TJ has given back to Decatur Public Schools, he was a teacher and coach at Eisenhower High School and also served on the Board of Education for District 61. Congratulations to TJ Jackson, you are a DPS Athletic Hall of Famer.
Reeni McElyea Letizia
Our next female athlete is another 1983 Eisenhower graduate, Reeni McElyea Letizia. Reeni was a stand out Track & Field athlete setting 7 school records, was a state qualifier 2 years for shot disc and relay and has won multiple city and conference championships. Reeni was an AAU Staley Strider national champion for her age group in the javelin event and was a 6 time junior Olympian placer. Reeni earned a track scholarship to Western Illinois University where she lettered in indoor and outdoor track all four of her years there. She still holds the the school record at WIU for Javelin and her Pentathlon was just broken last year. We congratulate Reeni McElyea Letizia, you are now a Decatur Public Schools Athletic Hall of Famer!
Our next athlete is another prominent football player, 2001 Eisenhower graduate Brit Miller. Brit was a 4 year varsity starter as a Panther, earning Herald & Review’s All-Macon County both as a junior and a senior. Brit racked up 1100+ yards rushing and 14 touchdowns as a junior quarterback. His senior year, he split time as a quarterback and running back posting 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Brit was a four year starter at the University of Illinois and led Illinois in tackles, tackles for loss, and tied team lead in sacks. During his collegiate career Brit also was a finalist for the Ronnie Lot Award, was a Rose Bowl participant, and was named First Team All Big Ten Linebacker in 2008. Brit went on to play in the NFL. His rookie season he was a San Francisco 49er and later played for the St. Louis Rams where he was team captain for his final year. Brit is still involved with the sport having served time on coaching staffs at Eisenhower, Mount Zion and is currently at Monticello High School. Congratulations Brit Miller, you are now a Decatur Public Schools Athletic Hall of Famer!
Our first posthumous athlete being inducted today is Decatur High School basketball standout Dale Minick. Dale was a player on the 1936 state basketball championship team and had a second place finish in 1937. Dale contributed to the state title with scoring 29 points and was listed fourth on the all-tournament scoring list. After his brilliant career at Decatur High, Dale went to play at Millikin University where he was part of two straight conference titles, served as the captain of the basketball team and is a member of Millikin’s Hall of Fame. Dale is also one of IHSA’s 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball athletes. Today we celebrate Dale Minick as a DPS Athletic Hall of Famer. [Grandson Brenten Minick nominated his grandfather is unfortunately unable to attend the luncheon. He is going to try to make Saturday’s ceremony.]
Our next athlete is 1979 MacArthur graduate Steve Phillips. Steve was a 3 year varsity basketball and baseball athlete. Steve was awarded MacArthur’s Scholar Athlete in 1979 and in the same year was named Herald & Review’s Baseball Player of the Year going 6-1 on the mound with a 1.86 ERA and then a school record 55 strikeouts in 52 innings. Steve’s strikeout record was untouched until the early 2000s when it was broken. Steve has two conference titles for baseball and later played four years at Northwest Missouri State University where he earned two All-Conference Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association accolades. Later, Steve played for the ADM/Decatur Pride fastpitch softball team earning MVP in the 1985 Midwest regional and 2nd team All-World 1985 ISC World Tournament. Congratulations Steve Phillips, you are now in the Decatur Athletic Hall of Fame.
Representing our youngest athlete of this Hall of Fame class is Dante Ridgeway. Dante was a 2002 MacArthur football graduate who had over 1400 receiving yards and 29 total touchdowns as a general. He holds the school record with 24 career interceptions and was selected for All-Macon County and All-Big 12 conference player, during his junior and senior years. Dante received a full scholarship to Ball State University where he posted 238 career receptions, 3030 yard and 23 total touchdowns, in his three seasons at Ball State where he still holds receiving records. In 2006, Dante was a sixth round draft pick in the NFL by the St. Louis Rams but also saw time with the NY Jets and the New Orleans Saints. Dante ended his career playing Arena Football for the Peoria Pirates but currently is a Teaching Assistant and football coach for his alma mater. Now a Decatur Athletic Hall of Famer is Dante Ridgeway! Congratulations!
COACH: Gary Hunt
Each induction class we honor a coach and today we recognize contributions made by Coach Gary Hunt. Gary graduated from MacArthur High School in 1960 where he was a 3 year letterman in football, baseball and wrestling. He went on to play for Missouri Valley College in 1964 where in continued playing football and baseball. Prior to returning to Decatur, Coach Hunt taught and coached in Missouri for two years and was in Illiopolis, IL for one. In 1967 Coach Hunt began coaching football and wrestling at Lakeview in 1967 until it closed in 1982 when he then transferred to General as a teacher and coach. As a wrestling coach, Coach Hunt compiled a record of 200 wins, was named Decatur’s Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1972, ‘77, ‘81, and ‘82. Coach Hunt was inducted into the IL Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and into Missouri Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame for Football and Baseball. Today, Coach Hunt, you can add Decatur Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame to that list! Congratulations to Coach Gary Hunt.
TEAM: 1962 Eisenhower State Championship Baseball Team