Baker announces 2012 Hall of Fame class

Story by Sara

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As she sat down at her kitchen table one Saturday afternoon, Baker University alumna Liesel Kirk-Fink had no idea what her 7-year-old son was about to read to her.

A letter addressed from the Baker University Athletic Department congratulated Kirk-Fink on her selection into the Hall of Fame class of 2012.

When her son, who is just learning to read, finished the opening sentence, Kirk-Fink could not help but let her emotions get the best of her.

“I know he didn’t know completely what it meant to be in the hall of fame,” Kirk-Fink said. “But … he was excited for me to be receiving something talking about my running accomplishments and so he understood a little bit of it. But to have my son read that to me was very special.”

Kirk-Fink graduated from Baker in 2002, and during her four years as a Wildcat, she collected 11 cross country and track records, was a two-time All-American cross county runner and an All-American in outdoor track and field.

She will be joined in the Hall of Fame class by head baseball coach Phil Hannon, former head football coach Joe Girardi and four-year football letterman Taylor Gill.

Hannon graduated from Baker in 1986 as a wide receiver for the football team and center fielder for the baseball team. After playing and coaching minor league baseball, Hannon returned to Baker as the head baseball coach in 1999.

Hannon said he has several close friends who are members of the Hall of Fame, so being inducted is a humbling experience for him.

“One of my first initial thoughts is that I truly enjoyed playing football and baseball here. I was a part of some really great teams, and when they said ‘Hey, we would like to induct you in the Hall of Fame,’ I was really proud to know that I was part of some great teams and some great individuals, that to be recognized is truly an honor,” Hannon said.

Hannon said his time at Baker has been a “wonderful” experience.

“It taught me how to grow up as a young man, how to talk to coaches when you had disagreements. It taught me leadership,” Hannon said. “So my experience here has been a great one, and it’s really molded me to hopefully continue to be a good coach.”

Hannon will be inducted alongside Gill, an Honorable Mention All-American who holds the record for most career rushing yards with 3,049. He was also a member of the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship teams in 1979 and 1980.

Girardi, the final inductee, served as the head football coach from 1976 to 1979. During those four seasons, he led the Wildcats to a 25-15-1 record. The team also played in its first postseason game in 1978 under his direction.

Girardi is being inducted following his death, and will be honored along with the rest of the 2012 class at the Hall of Fame induction and awards banquet at 6 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel Convention Center, and during halftime of the homecoming football game Oct. 6.

A Hall of Fame committee, comprised of four current and former faculty members and alumni, go through the submitted nominations and research statistics to help select who will be inducted into the next class.

Director of Athletics Theresa Yetmar said she is excited to be inducting these four athletes and coaches into the Hall of Fame, but said the selection process was difficult.

“It’s a big challenge,” Yetmar said. “We’ve got a lot of history and traditions in athletics, and a lot of success. You really have to try and get a sense of what that era was like and what that means to the current era.”