Four individuals and four teams were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame during K’s alumni awards ceremony this Homecoming. The following Hornets were recognized for their contributions to K’s proud athletic tradition:
Athletic Hall of Fame Individual Awards
Harold Decker ’67
Seven letters in three sports make Harold Decker one of Kalamazoo College’s greatest athletes…and yet they say so little about the fullness of his K experience.
The political science major spent his career service quarter working in the City of Kalamazoo’s Municipal Research Bureau; he studied abroad in Muenster, Germany; for his Senior Individualized Project (SIP), he explored the economic, social and political issues relevant to the proposed 1980 master plan for the redevelopment of downtown Kalamazoo.
He played center for the Hornet basketball team, pitched and played third base for the baseball team, and played offensive tackle, defensive end and kicker for the football team. He excelled in all, but football was his best. In spring of 1967 he was invited to pre-draft workouts by the National Football League and was drafted by the Houston Oilers (today’s Tennessee Titans). He remains the only player in K’s history to be drafted by an NFL team.
Though he trained with the Oilers, that adventure was cut short by a different kind of draft. Decker entered the U.S. Army and served with distinction in Vietnam. His awards for service include, among others, Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal and American Spirit Honor Medal.
After his honorable discharge, Decker earned a law degree from Southwestern Law School. He served as the vice president for litigation and product stewardship for The Upjohn Company, and his law work included private practice, teaching law and an appointment as interim president and CEO of the American National Red Cross. Yet he always found time to work pro bono for people in need and to serve as a mentor for numerous students.
He has been a board member and/or officer for many organizations, including Boys and Girls Club, Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra, American Bar Association, Stulberg International String Competition and, yes, Kalamazoo College.
And the heart of his K story? “In October of 1964,” says Decker, “at the southwest corner of Mandelle Hall, I met Rosemary Tucker ’67.” They married and raised three accomplished daughters. They had been married 48 years in 2016, the year Rosemary died in an equestrian accident.
Decker says, “I came to K with a fervent interest in athletics, but I was an indifferent student. That changed for many reasons: the support of my parents, the fellowship of learning with gifted faculty, administrators, fellow students. Above all, because of the profound influence and affection of Rosemary, I found an interest in learning, self-improvement, classical music, arts and history that has led to a remarkably interesting and happy life.”
Billee Lightvoet Ward ’94
“I chose Kalamazoo College,” says Billee Lightvoet Ward, “for its academic excellence, tennis tradition, and the overall class of the institution and its faculty, many of whom, like Rolla Anderson and George Acker, influenced my life since childhood.”
K provided a tennis reawakening for Lightvoet Ward. “I played national tennis from a young age,” she explains, “and burned out on tournament play early. I still loved to play casually, but it wasn’t until I came to K that I began to love the competitive game again.”
And compete she did. Lightvoet Ward played second singles and first doubles on teams that won the MIAA every year. Her senior-year team finished ninth, nationally, and she and her doubles partner, Jackie Aurelia, finished second in the NCAA national tournament. Lightvoet Ward was named All-American and Academic All-American. In 1994, she became the third Hornet women’s tennis player selected All-MIAA First Team at least three times and ranked fifth in school history for career singles wins. She currently ranks second in school history with a 60-13 career doubles record.
Lightvoet Ward majored in political science and studied abroad in Cáceres, Spain. She wrote a research paper on John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, for her SIP. She received her law degree from DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and began practicing that same year. She has practiced healthcare law since 2002, specializing in FDA and other compliance matters related to the development and testing of medical drugs and devices. She has been named a Leading Lawyer the past four years, recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in Healthcare Law, and has served as a visiting professor at Western Michigan University’s Homer Stryker, M.D., School of Medicine.
Lightvoet Ward has served on many local nonprofit boards including Douglass Community Association, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kalamazoo and the Elizabeth Upjohn Community Healing Center. She is a tireless advocate for child welfare and passionate about the prevention and treatment of child physical and sexual abuse and child neglect.
For 25 years, Lightvoet Ward has volunteered for the USTA Boys 18s and 16s National Tennis Championships played at Stowe Stadium. In recognition of that service, she was awarded the Kalamazoo National Tennis Award (a.k.a. the Green Jacket Award) in 2019.
Adam Norlander ’97
Strasbourg, France, and Lexington, Virginia, are 4,218 miles apart, but not in the mind of Adam Norlander. For Norlander, the two sites are linked as the locales of his fondest K memories.
“Foreign study in Strasbourg opened my mind to different cultures and experiences,” says Norlander, “and remains one of the most significant influences on my life.”
And in Lexington, on the campus of Washington and Lee University, the 1997 Hornet men’s tennis team (of which Norlander was the captain) played in the Division III NCAA Team Championship match.
He matriculated to K from Battle Creek (Michigan) Lakeview High School, drawn to K by two pillars of excellence: “great academics and great tennis,” says Norlander. He earned a major in political science and a minor in sociology. He completed an externship with United States District Court Judge Gerald Rosen ’73. For his SIP, Norlander studied the impact of Title IX on high school and college athletics.
Norlander had quite an impact on Hornet tennis. He played on three MIAA conference champion teams. He was an All-MIAA First Team selection two seasons (1996 and 1997) and was named MIAA Most Valuable Player in 1996. That year he was the MIAA champion in first singles. The following year he was MIAA champion in second singles. Norlander earned NCAA All-American honors in singles in 1996 and 1997. He played on Hornet tennis teams that finished third place in the national tournament in 1995 and 1996, and second place in 1997. In 1996, Norlander was the Division III Fall Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Champion in singles and was also named the Regional and National Player to Watch. The following year he was an NCAA singles semifinalist at the national tournament.
Norlander earned his law degree in 2000 from the Michigan State University Law School, graduating magna cum laude. From 2002 until November 2018 he worked in the Detroit
office of the law firm, Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone, first as an associate attorney and then as an equity partner in the firm’s banking group. Since last November he has been an equity partner in the banking group at the Detroit office of the law firm, Bodman, PLC.
“I met and established lifelong friendships at K,” says Norlander. “I’ll always cherish those.” Above all, the most significant influence on his life arising from his time at K is his wife, Christa (Paisley) Norlander ’97, a former Hornet cross-country runner. They have two daughters (Marin, age 13, and Quinn, age 11) and one son (Grant, age 6).
Susan S. Thoms ’70
Most hall-of-famers are outstanding athletes. Only a few are pioneers who play a key role in founding an entire sports program.
Susan Stuckey Thoms was a prep swimming phenom. As a high schooler, she held numerous state and national age group records in freestyle events and qualified for the 1964 Olympic trials. Yet it was impossible to swim as a Hornet when Kalamazoo College lacked a pool.
That setback was no match for a liberal arts athlete. When Thoms started K, she played field hockey and basketball, and lettered in both. “The pool opened my sophomore year, and I was the first lifeguard,” says Thoms. “When the swim team was formed my senior year, I was three years out of competition and had a few extra pounds from foreign study.” Even so, at the new program’s first state meet, Thoms won the 100 individual medley and finished in the top three in the 50 and 100 freestyle races.
She meant much more to the team (and to the future of women’s swimming at K) than those wins. “Susan was a driving force in the establishment of our program,” says Lyn Maurer, professor of physical education and women’s swim coach, emeritus. “I think of her as our program’s founding mother.” It was therefore fitting that in 1970, Thoms won the Mary Long Burch Award, presented to the outstanding woman scholar/athlete in the senior class.
At K Thoms majored in interdepartmental science. Her career service quarter—at the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education (San Antonio, Texas)—confirmed her desire to go into clinical medicine rather than medical research. She studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany, and completed her SIP in the biochemistry department of Wayne State University Medical School.
After graduating from K, Thoms earned her medical degree at Wayne State and completed her residency training in ophthalmology at Sinai Hospital of Detroit. She was an ophthalmologist in private practice for 17 years, after which she became an associate clinical professor at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. Her 2015 retirement didn’t take, and since 2017 she has worked as an associate clinical professor (and as a standardized patient and clinical teaching assistant) at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker, M.D., School of Medicine.
Throughout her career Thoms has been a volunteer for numerous organizations that support the visually impaired and that work to screen for and prevent visual impairments. She has participated in several international medical missions to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Other civic engagements include Colleagues International in Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Torch Club and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival.
She and classmate David Thoms ’70 married in 1972. They love to travel, have visited many countries and remain hungry to see more.
Athletic Hall of Fame Team Awards
The 1990 Volleyball Team
The 1990 volleyball team’s season got off to a good start by winning the Hornet Invitational for the first time in three attempts. Their hopes and dreams were still alive nearly halfway through the season when they worked themselves to a national ranking and first place in the MIAA. The Hornets were the only undefeated team in the MIAA after they swept Hope for the first time since 1986. The national ranking was the first time ever for the Hornets.
The 1990 season was a breakthrough in a big way. They posted a 30-7 overall record during the regular season and captured their first MIAA championship with an 11-0 league mark. Other highlights of the season included a 17-match win streak and a first appearance in the NCAA postseason playoffs. The Hornets were ranked fourth in the final Division III volleyball poll. Another first in this season was Coach Jeanne Hess being named the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year.
K players honored during the 1990 season included Mei (Zhang) Juknelis ’92 as the league’s MVP, while Rocky (Cibor) Cameron ’92 and Karen (Willms) Murray ’92 received MIAA First-Team honors. Barbie (Oelslager) Hoag ’92 received MIAA Second-Team honors and Kelly O’Reilly ’91 made the honorable mention team.
Team members included: Rochelle (Cibor) Cameron ’92, Jill (Thompson) Chappell ’93, Barbie (Oelslager) Hoag ’92, Mei (Zhang) Juknelis ’92, Karen (Willms) Murray ’92, Kelly O’Reilly ’91, Gretchen (Crumbaugh) Pratt ’93, Deanna Rieden-Carson ’93, Susan Ringler Cerniglia ’93, Amy Schmidt-Stanek ’94, Jennifer (Duff) Stroble ’91, Amy (Dumanois) Walker ’94, Head Coach Jeanne Hess, and Assistant Coach Anne Harrison.
The 1994 Women’s Tennis Team
From 1991 to 1993, K’s women’s tennis team won the MIAA championship, and the teams were by all measures very strong. Yet a talented incoming class for the ’94 season, and early season wins against perennial powerhouse Emory, Division I Ferris State, and a GLCA tournament championship that included a win over ’93 national champion Kenyon brought a new level of success and a new sense of what the team could accomplish.
The ’94 team went on to sweep all of its MIAA matches 9-0 and won all flights but one at the MIAA tourney. After winning the MIAA tournament, the team gathered on the bleachers at Markin Racquet Center. Coach Yvonne Hackenberg delivered the good news: They had received a bid to nationals. That alone felt like an accomplishment, especially as Kalamazoo was hosting the national championships that year. No more listening to Don Flesche announce the play of other teams from their suites in Severn and their doubles in Trowbridge — this year the K women would be included, too.
In the first round of Nationals, K played Williams College. The teams were tied 3-3 after the singles matches, and several hundred fans cheered the team through the three doubles matches on Stowe Stadium’s show courts. While K ended up losing to Williams, the tournament offered a back draw, and into it the K women stormed, first defeating Smith and then avenging an earlier season loss to Luther, earning the team a win of the back draw, and a 9th place finish nationally for the season.
Team members included: Christa Chrovian ’97, Stephanie Decker ’97, Kim Dornbrook-Lavender ’97, Alison Frye ’94, Eve Halderson ’97, Sara (Frier) Kelly ’95, Billee Lightvoet Ward ’94, Stephanie (Smith) Stiles ’95, Jackie (Aurelia) Taylor ’94, Jenifer (Holmes) Ullery ’94, Betsy (Hobbs) Wagner ’94, and Head Coach Yvonne Hackenberg.
The 1997 Men’s Tennis Team
The 1997 men’s tennis team began its season ranked number one in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s pre-season poll for NCAA Division III. Coach Timon Corwin ’86 was beginning his fourth year as head coach and the Hornets had four players listed among the top 50 singles players in NCAA Division III.
An early indication of the Hornets’ intention to win a Division III title was their triumphs over two favored teams during the annual spring training trip south—Illinois Wesleyan University and Gustavus Adolphus College.
As the team headed toward the MIAA tournament, the Hornets had won the GLCA championship and they had not lost to any MIAA or any Division III schools. The team was looking to take the MIAA teams by storm, leading them to the national tournament with confidence. K won all championship matches, amassing 108 points with the second place finisher totaling only 68.5 points.
The Hornets went into the national finals after defeating Redlands University and Williams University. The championship match against Washington College of Maryland (2-4) left the Hornets just shy of the desired national championship. The Hornets finished the season with a 16-9 record, with only one Division III loss. Coach Corwin was named the Division III Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year.
Coach Corwin says, “This was a deep and talented team from top to bottom…We had two national semi-finalists in singles, seniors Pat Noud ’97 and Adam Norlander ’97, and it turned out that we had the best doubles line-up in the country with Noud/Chris Kennelly ’97, Norlander/Dan Harding ’00 and Mike Ivy ’98/Ryan Cummings ’00.”
Team members included: Jason Atkins ’99, John Aurelia ’98, Matthew Berger ’00, Jeremy Cox ’00, Ryan Cummings ’00, Kant Desai ’99, Jeff Ewing ’00, Rich Gasiorski ’97, Dan Harding ’00, Patrick Hurford ’00, Mike Ivy ’98, Chris Kennelly ’97, Kevin Mertz ’00, Ravi Mujumdar ’00, Steve Nasson ’98, Adam Norlander ’97, Patrick Noud ’97, Bret Orr ’97, RJ Rant ’98, John Scribner ’98, Zach Tann ’99, Brian Untch ’00 , Robert Urban ’00, Head Coach Timon Corwin, and Assistant Coach Ryan Kaltenbach.
The 1999 Men’s Tennis Team
The Hornets began their 1999 season with the annual trip south for spring training. Victories over Rollins, Valdosta State and nationally ranked University of the South gave the Hornets confidence as they headed into the GLCA tournament at Stowe Stadium. There, they defeated Denison to win the GLCA championship.
One of the important highlights of the season was winning the MIAA championship. The team won all six singles flights and all three doubles flights. Four team members were selected to the All-MIAA First Team, two players were named to the All-MIAA Second Team and the honor of the MIAA Most Valuable Player was given to Dan Harding ’00.
The Hornets entered the Midwest Regional tournament as the top seed. They defeated DePauw 5-2, then Gustavus Adolphus 5-2. With these wins in their pocket, the Hornets advanced to the Final Four of the Division III National Tennis Championship, where the team earned a second place finish. Kyle Harding ’02 was named the Midwest Rookie of the Year and Coach Timon Corwin ’86 was named Midwest Coach of the Year.
Coach Corwin remembers, “This was a young team with no seniors in the line-up. On paper, I think some schools may have underestimated us. Although green in national experience, the talent level was incredibly high. They played with a fearlessness that overshadowed their inexperience…This squad boasted two of the top doubles teams in the country with Harding/Harding at 1 and Ryan Cummings ’00/Ryan Shockley ’00 at 2, who were the national doubles runners up. In singles, we had athletic and highly skilled players at every position.”
Team members included: Brian Cox ’02, Jeremy Cox ’00, Ryan Cummings ’00, Tobin Ernst ’02, Jeff Ewing ’00, Brian Foley ’02, Dan Harding ’00, Kyle Harding ’02, Brian Hornburg ’02, Jeff Keen ’02, Andrew Minnelli ’01, Casey Molenaar ’02, Bob Pennington ’01, Rod Rahimi ’01, Ryan Shockley ’00, John Thomas ’02, Jeffrey Wolford ’02, Head Coach Timon Corwin and Assistant Coach John Sih.