Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame to induct nine alumni

The Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame is proud to announce the selection of nine alumni for induction in 2020:

  • Francis Dale “Hap” Moran ’26
  • Gregory D. Evans ’89
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Graf ’01
  • Nathaniel L. R. Fox ’09
  • John C. Grotberg ’09
  • Michael T. Nodzenski ’12
  • Claire M. Williams ’13
  • Christine Ajinjeru ’14
  • Sarah L. Burnell ’14

The induction ceremony scheduled for September 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic. The inductees will now be honored with a day of celebration on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. A 10 a.m. ceremony on Rosenbloom (Football) Field will start the festivities. A dinner for the inductees and their families is scheduled for that evening.

The celebration of the newest class of Pioneer Hall of Famers will take place during the 2021 Fall Athletics Weekend, which is annually held during Labor Day weekend. 

The Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame was created in 1995 to recognize the achievements of the College’s most accomplished student-athletes. 

Here is a closer look at the 2020 inductees:

Francis Dale “Hap” Moran ’26Francis Dale “Hap” Moran ’26

Francis Dale “Hap” Moran ’26 was a prolific multi-sport athlete at Grinnell before becoming one of the most accomplished professional athletes to ever attend the College. At Grinnell, he starred in both basketball and football where he was known for his incredible speed and versatility. An All-Missouri Valley Conference selection in football, Moran excelled at just about everything from rushing to returning kicks to passing. Along with his favorite receiver and U.S. Olympic gold medalist Morgan Taylor ’26, Moran helped lead the Pioneers to wins over Kansas and Iowa State in their senior seasons. A run against Coe College got Moran mentioned in the Spalding NCAA Record Book of Famous Runs from 1873-1926.

Moran also was an All-Missouri Valley Conference selection in basketball. Additionally, he represented Grinnell in the 16-pound shot put at the Drake Relays, an event he won at the All-West Track Meet in 1921. After Grinnell, Moran signed with the Frankford Yellow Jackets of the National Football League where he immediately earned the starting halfback spot and was the team’s second-leading scorer on their way to being crowned the 1926 NFL Champions. In 1929, Moran signed with the New York Giants where in 1930 he set the NFL record for longest run from scrimmage. It remained an NFL record for nine years and a franchise record for 75 years until it was broken by Tiki Barber in 2005. In 1931, he was the leading scorer for the Giants and selected to the All-Pro team. During his final season in 1933, he set another NFL record, this time for most receiving yards in a single game. Over the course of his career, Moran started at halfback, tailback, wingback, quarterback, defensive back, linebacker, and kicker.

After retiring as a player, he quickly moved to coaching where in 1936 he led the Paterson Panthers to the American Professional Football Association championship. Moran later left football to work for the U.S. Treasury in procurement until 1942 and was involved in several WPA projects. He then joined Western Electric Company until his retirement in 1966. He was also an active member in the Reformed Church of America and ordained as a deacon and elder of the church.

Gregory D. Evans ’89Gregory D. Evans ’89

Gregory D. Evans ’89 left a legacy that is still embodied by Grinnell cross country today. Regarded as one of the finest leaders by example to ever put on a Pioneer uniform, Evans almost single-handedly turned the culture of distance running at Grinnell into the best in the Midwest Conference.

He was one of only three runners in the history of the conference to win the cross country championship three years in a row, and he won the 1,500-meter championship in track and field. As a senior, Evans qualified for the NCAA National Cross Country Championships and finished in 35th place. He was a team captain and MVP in cross country for three years.

In track and field, he held school records for the indoor 1,000 meters and outdoor mile with a time of 4:21.38. Evans was well known across campus not only for his athletic achievements, but for his commitment to service and academics as well. He was a top student and served as Student Government Association president during his time at Grinnell. He was awarded the Morgan Taylor 1921 Award, the David Theophilus ’51 Award, the George B. Critchett 1925 Athletic Service Award and the Richard T. Gilbert ’81 Memorial Scholarship.

Evans graduated with a degree in chemistry before moving to Iowa City to earn a dental degree from the University of Iowa. He then moved to Colorado where he began “Big Grins,” a dental practice for children that became a huge success. He currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, but regularly returns to Grinnell for reunions and cross country weekends. He also served as a GRASP volunteer and was on his class committee for five years. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Stacey, and they have two children in college.

Elizabeth “Liz” Graf ’01Elizabeth “Liz” Graf ’01

Elizabeth “Liz” Graf ’01 enters the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players in the history of the Grinnell women’s soccer program. A two-time Midwest Conference Player of the Year, Graf anchored the Pioneer defense to a league championship in 1999 and a runner-up finish in 2000. During the 1999 championship season, Graf also demonstrated her offensive playmaking ability by setting the conference record at the time with 16 assists and earning a spot on the NSCAA all-region team. She was consistently commended by her coaches, peers, and opposition for her play.

An outstanding leader, Graf was committed to making everyone around her better. She was selected to be a two-year captain, three-time defensive player of the year, and three-time MVP by her teammates. This steady success also was demonstrated by her three first team All-Conference nominations. She concluded her career ranked ninth in total points and second in total assists in Grinnell women’s soccer history. Graf also played basketball for one year where she earned first-year player of the year honors while leading the team in steals.

On top of her many accolades related to performance on the field, Graf also was recognized for her academic prowess at Grinnell. As a biology major, she was a three-time Academic All-Conference recipient and an All-Region Scholar-Athlete in 2000. She graduated as a member of Grinnell’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and was a President’s Medal Finalist.

After graduation, she earned her Master of Physician Assistant Degree from the University of Iowa where she now works as a physician assistant. In the 20 years since graduation, she has continued to be a player, advocate and supporter of women’s soccer. She remains connected to the Grinnell community and regularly attends class and athletic reunions, as well as regional events.

Nathaniel L. R. Fox ’09Nathaniel L. R. Fox ’09

Nathaniel L. R. Fox ’09 was a key figure for Grinnell on the national stage as well as establishing a run of Midwest Conference dominance. He and Hall of Famer Dan LaFountaine ’09 became the first Grinnell doubles team to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Tournament, and then became the Pioneers’ first-ever All-Americans. On the conference level, Grinnell was MWC team champion all four of Fox’s years, and he helped lead the way with singles crowns each year.

He was a consistent standout performer, but what set him apart from the competition was his constant commitment to making himself and everyone around him better. For this, he was well-respected by his teammates and coaches who elected him team captain and team MVP twice. Fox had already established himself as one of the Midwest Conference’s best as an underclassman, but he broke out onto the national stage during his senior year. That season, he finished as a quarterfinalist in the NCAA National Tournament, earned a doubles team ranking of 11th in the nation, and was named an ITA All-American. By the end of that year, Fox ranked among the top 10 in every possible Grinnell College men’s tennis record category including being the all-time leader in career doubles wins with 97.

Outside of athletics, Fox had an impressive academic track record. A psychology major with a concentration in neuroscience, he was a three-time Academic All-Conference honoree and an ITA Academic All-American. More recently, he graduated from medical school at the University of New Mexico and is currently a pediatric emergency medicine resident physician at the University of Arizona. Fox returns to Grinnell whenever possible for reunion weekends. Even after graduation, Fox has continued to make a positive impact on the men’s tennis program as a team chaperone for two spring break trips.

John C. Grotberg ’09John C. Grotberg ’09

John C. Grotberg ’09 is a well-recognized name across school, conference, and national record books. In a program known for its high-scoring performers, Grotberg stands alone as the all-time leading scorer in Grinnell College basketball history with 2,848 points. Not only is this number a whopping 466 points above the second-place figure (also by a Grinnell Hall of Famer), but it is a Midwest Conference record and stands in third place in NCAA Division III history.

Playing alongside current head coach David Arseneault Jr. ’09, Grotberg led the Pioneers to winning seasons in each of his four years. In two of those seasons, he was the national leader in points per game. This scoring success came in large part from his incredible ability to shoot from beyond the arc. Grotberg knocked down 526 threes over the course of his career, a mark which remains the highest for any player in NCAA Division III history. His other awards include Freshman Athlete of the Year in 2006, two All-Region honors, four All-Conference awards, and the David Dunlop ’51 Trophy.

Following graduation, Grotberg enjoyed a professional playing career in Germany and Luxembourg for two years before attending medical school at Yale University. He recently began a pulmonary critical care medicine fellowship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri and returns to campus for basketball affinity weekends while also mentoring current students interested in pursuing medical careers. He and his wife Bethany welcomed a daughter in February 2020.

Michael T. Nodzenski ’12Michael T. Nodzenski ’12

Michael T. Nodzenski ’12 goes down as one of the most recognized student-athletes that Grinnell College baseball has ever seen. Over four years as a catcher for the Pioneers, he was a three-time team MVP, four-time Midwest Conference South Division Player of the Year, three-time All-Region honoree, and the first ABCA/Rawlings All-American in school history. A two-time team captain, Nodzenski also was known to his teammates and coaches as a trusted leader who led by example both at the plate and behind it.

The Pioneers qualified for the MWC Tournament in each of his four years, winning the South Division in three of those years and finishing the regular season with an undefeated conference record in 2011. He graduated as the Pioneer career leader in the 14 different categories including home runs (38), on-base percentage (.483), slugging percentage (.725), doubles (50), and fielding percentage (.991). Remarkably, Nodzenski finished his career as the holder of over 72 percent of the offensive career records kept by Grinnell College. This mark demonstrates his incredible achievements on the diamond, but his commitment to academic excellence was just as impressive.

He graduated with honors in biology and was a member of Grinnell’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. His performance as a student earned him recognition at regional and national levels. He was named to the Academic All-Region Team twice and was an Academic All-American in 2012. Nodzenski went on to receive a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University and is currently a doctoral student in biostatistics at the University of North Carolina. He has remained involved in the Grinnell community after graduation through GRASP volunteering, donations, and regional event attendance.

Claire M. Williams ’13 Claire M. Williams ’13

Claire M. Williams ’13 is one of the most accomplished and inspirational Pioneer athletes ever. A four-year Midwest Conference competitor, she was elected swim team captain for her senior year and voted team most inspirational in 2012. Williams demonstrated an incredible dedication to her sport and served as a role model for her peers, teammates, and coaches throughout her time at Grinnell.

Her career highlights included qualifying for the U.S. Paralympic Trials, where she participated in multiple events in the S9 category including the 200-meter butterfly, 100-meter butterfly, 100-meter backstroke, and 400-meter freestyle. Over the course of her career, she held American records for five different short course yards events in the S9 category: 500 freestyle, 1,000 freestyle, 1,650 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 butterfly. Even more, her 200 butterfly time at the 2012 Paralympic Trials was the best in the world at the time. She was awarded the Grace McIlrath Parker ’11 Award for outstanding athlete in a single sport for her accomplishments in 2013.

Outside of the pool, Williams demonstrated a similar commitment to excellence in her studies. She was a double major in chemistry and French, earned academic all-conference recognition three times, and was a frequent member of the Dean’s List. After graduating with honors in chemistry, Williams worked as a lab assistant at the Illinois State Water Survey and earned a J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She recently joined Stinson LLP in Minneapolis as an associate/attorney. She has continued to swim competitively after leaving Grinnell and remains connected with the College’s community through donations and reunion attendance.

Christine Ajinjeru ’14 Christine Ajinjeru ’14

Christine Ajinjeru ’14 was a consistent standout performer for the Grinnell women’s track and field team. Specializing in the 400-meter run, she dominated Midwest Conference competition almost every year and qualified for NCAA National Championships in both indoor and outdoor competitions during her senior season. In 2012 and 2014, Ajinjeru ran to MWC titles in the outdoor 400-meter run and the indoor sprint medley relay on her way to being named MWC Championships outstanding performer twice. She was a three-time team MVP and MWC Performer of the Week, a testament to the incredible respect that she earned from her teammates, coaches, and opponents in her time at Grinnell.

Ajinjeru is the fastest to ever run the 400 in conference history, as her time of 55.49 seconds in the 2014 outdoor championships remains a MWC record today. She also holds school records in six different events including two outdoor events (400 and 4x400 relay) and four indoor events (400, 4x200, 4x400 and sprint medley). For her incredible accomplishments, she was awarded the Grace McIlrath Parker ’11 Award for outstanding athlete in a single sport. She went on to earn Academic All-Conference honors in indoor and outdoor track from 2011-2014 and USTFCCCA All-Academic honors in 2014.

After graduating from Grinnell with a degree in chemistry, Ajinjeru went on to earn her Ph.D. in energy science and engineering from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ajinjeru is passionate about increasing energy access in developing regions, advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0, as well as efforts to increase the visibility and retention of women of color in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Born and raised in Uganda, Ajinjeru is currently based in Washington D.C. where she works as a consultant for Deloitte in the energy practice.

Sarah L. Burnell ’14Sarah L. Burnell ’14

Sarah L. Burnell ’14 is a prominent figure in the Pioneer record books and the Grinnell community. As a four-year cross country runner and mid-distance specialist in track, Burnell consistently found success at conference and national levels. In cross country, she was a two-time Midwest Conference champion, four-time all-conference honoree, and a two-time participant in the NCAA National Championships.

In track, Burnell was a multi-time conference champion in the 800, mile, 1,500, and 4x400 relay, and she qualified for the Indoor and Outdoor NCAA National Championships in 2014. There, her third-place finish in the indoor mile and fourth-place finish in the outdoor 1,500 earned her All-America honors in both events. It came as no surprise when she was given the Joyce Buck ’56 Award for top athlete in more than one sport that same year. Burnell currently holds Grinnell records in five different events and is among the top four in four others.

She was fortunate to have her family on site for many of her accomplishments. Since she grew up in Grinnell, her parents were able to attend most competitions. On top of these incredible athletic accomplishments, her steady commitment to academics and service made her a true embodiment of a Grinnellian. She earned Academic All-Conference nominations in every season that she participated for Grinnell and was named to the NCAA DIII All-Academic Team twice. Moreover, she was awarded the Honor G Service Award in 2014 and has continued to serve the College’s community as a GRASP volunteer, externship host, donor, and former employee in both admission and conference operations.

Since graduating in 2014, Burnell has continued to make an impact in running communities at Grinnell and beyond. She holds certificates in ASEP coaching and USATF Level 1 track and field coaching, which she has used to pass on her wisdom to younger generations of runners, first as a volunteer coach at Grinnell, then at Otterbein University, an assistant coach at Smith College, and now has returned to Grinnell as the head men’s and women’s cross country coach. These experiences have not come at the expense of her own athletic pursuits, as Burnell has become an avid marathon runner and usually participates in two marathons per year, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon several times and running in it twice.

— by Ted Schultz

For your information:

View the complete list of Grinnell athletes, coaches, and administrators who have been inducted into the Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame.

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