This year’s Florida Tech Sports Hall of Fame class stands out for one simple reason:
Every inductee made history.
From winning national and regional championships, to changing the entire scope of the Panthers’ athletic program, university president Dr. Anthony J. Catanese, golfer Daniela Iacobelli, the 2001-02 women’s basketball team and the 1981-82 women’s varsity four crew team all helped bring recognition to Florida Tech on a national level.
For those accomplishments, they will be inducted on Feb. 28. Here’s a closer look at this year’s class:
Dr. Anthony J. Catanese
Since arriving on campus in July 2002, Dr. Catanese has increased the number of sports programs at Florida Tech from 10 to 22 – two more than the University of Florida currently offers.
The debut of the Panthers’ football team this past season was the crowning achievement.
“I just love sports,” Dr. Catanese said. “I think it’s just such an intrinsic part of the college experience.”
Florida Tech’s success both on the field and in the classroom has helped fulfill the President’s vision that a technological college can have smart students, who can still be outstanding athletes.
To Dr. Catanese, being a Florida Tech Panther is all about pride – pride in your school, pride in where you work and pride in the community in which you live.
“I think it’s really a terrific mascot,” he said. “It really does convey an image of strength and elegance and grace. I love being a Panther.”
The 2007 NCAA Division II Individual National Golf Champion will never forget her time at Florida Tech.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Iacobelli said. “I loved going to a smaller school. All my professors knew my name, and it made learning easier.
“It was so awesome to have professors and staff rooting for me while I was at tournaments. They were all so understanding and helpful. I don’t think I would have had that at a different school.”
Iacobelli, the first national golf champion in Florida Tech history, is now continuing to chase her dream of being a professional golfer.
Winning the national title wasn’t where that goal began, but it certainly helped give her the confidence that anything is possible if you work hard enough.
“It’s always been a life-long dream,” she said. “That week was validation that if I work hard enough, I will be good enough.”
2001–02 Women’s Basketball Team
Delicia (Phillips) Lewis was both surprised and honored to find out she and her teammates were going to be Hall of Famers.
“It’s a great, great feeling,” the former Panthers center said. “I didn’t think this would ever happen, but just knowing that it did, it’s awesome. It’s overwhelming. It’s humbling.”
The Panthers went 26-6, winning the Sunshine State Conference Tournament in the Clemente Center, then going on to win the NCAA Division II South Region, becoming the first Florida Tech women’s team to advance to the Elite Eight.
Among the many memories Phillips remembers from that historic season was when the team gathered in head coach John Reynolds’ hotel room at the Elite Eight for their usual film session.
“He showed the first practice that we had (as freshman),” Lewis said. “He recorded it. I remember sitting there with tears coming down my face because we saw (how much we’d grown).”
1982 Women’s Varsity Four
Laurie Kuestner didn’t plan on rowing when she first came to Florida Tech.
“I was always athletic,” she said. “… It was just something interesting to me (so) I thought I would try it out, and I fell in love with it.”
Not only that, Kuestner was the team captain for what became the first Florida Tech women’s crew to win a national championship at the Dad Vail Regatta and win gold at the Head of the Charles.
The crew, coached by Mike Davenport, consisted of Kuestner, Christine Bredenkamp and Sue (Brown) Waski with Sharon Gallagher and Sharon Trepiccione always challenging to be the fourth rower. JoAnn (Alden) Michalsky was the coxswain.
Among the many things Kuestner said she took from her Florida Tech rowing experience was the realization that hard work and dedication can have a very successful outcome.
It certainly did for Kuestner. She’s now a vascular surgeon.