Newest Hall of Fame members reminisce about Grinnell days

September 9, 2021 — As a kid growing up in Grinnell, Dave Adkins heard Hap Moran’s name semi-frequently. His dad knew Moran, a 1926 graduate who was a three-sport standout at Grinnell College. 

Adkins had heard secondhand of Moran’s professional football career, including playing for the New York Giants. 

“I think the Hall of Fame has to be authentic, so I wanted his professional football career confirmed to me, not by hearsay,” says Adkins who worked on the nomination with Hap’s son, Michael Moran. “I wrote a letter with a stamp and sent it to John Mara, owner of the New York Giants. He wrote back a letter with a stamp to confirm it was his grandfather [Tim Mara, Giants founding owner] who signed Hap in 1928.” 

David Adkins stands in front of the Athletic Hall of Fame sketch of Hap Moran ’26
Grinnell native Dave Adkins stands in front of the Athletic Hall of Fame sketch of Hap Moran ’26. Adkins helped gather nomination information about Moran.

Adkins was one of about 75 people who attended the 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony and reception on Saturday morning at Rosenbloom Field. A dinner for the inductees and their families took place that evening. The festivities were originally scheduled for September 2020 but had to be pushed back due to the pandemic. 

Here are the newest members of the Athletic Hall of Fame and the sports they played:

  • Francis Dale “Hap” Moran ’26, football, basketball, and track
  • Gregory D. Evans ’89, cross country and track
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Graf ’01, soccer
  • Nathaniel L. R. Fox ’09, tennis
  • John C. Grotberg ’09, basketball
  • Michael T. Nodzenski ’12, baseball
  • Claire M. Williams ’13, swimming
  • Christine Ajinjeru ’14, track
  • Sarah L. Burnell ’14, cross country and track

“They are all true pioneers, who through their performances as student-athletes, have left an indelible mark on the history of Grinnell College athletics,” said Andy Hamilton ’85, director of athletics and recreation, during the induction ceremony. “Their contributions are groundbreaking, inspiring, and extraordinary. The history of Grinnell College athletics could not be written without their names.”

Evans, a pediatric dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado, says it was strange being back in Grinnell 32 years after graduating. “This feels like big deal for something that I did so long ago, but it’s nice to be part of this group of people.”    

In the 1980s, Evans felt like he was a lone wolf while running distance events, but he now realizes how much his teammates and coaches meant to his success. 

“Will and Evelyn [Freeman] were instrumental in everything I did,” Evans says. “At one point, Will drove me to see a specialist in Chicago, which is the first time I figured out one of my legs is shorter than the other. That’s the kind of dedication and support they provided.”

Evans recalls chatting up then-president George Drake ’56 before track meets. “I still was a young, moody, eccentric kid back then. But the patience these folks had for that many student-athletes year after year was an amazing thing and the essence of Division III sports. What a privilege to be part of that without even giving it half a thought at the time.”

Grinnell Athletic Hall of Fame 2020 inductees
Liz Graf ’01, left, talks with fellow Hall of Famers after each received a medal during the induction ceremony.

Covering women’s soccer for the Scarlet & Black turned out to be a game changer for Andrew Sherburne ’01. Two decades later, he was applauding his wife, Liz Graf, when she received her Hall of Fame medal.

“She was an incredible leader for the team and such a great player,” Sherburne says. “I fell in love with watching her and talking to her after the game. It’s part of the reasons our family exists, so this is a pretty cool thing.”

Graf said it was a surprising to be so far along in life and have the College honor her for something that happed in her past.

“It was a special time and it prepared me for life after college,” she says. “Now, it’s fun to come back and think about what it was like.”

Likewise, Grotberg said there has been nothing but benefits from being a student-athlete at Grinnell. Basketball has come up at every job or medical school interview he’s attended. 

“Anyone who plays a team sport knows that everything you gain from working with a sports team extends beyond the field or court,” he says. “It’s helped me do well within teams in the real world and be a good communicator.” 


Christine Ajinjeru ’14, left, and Sarah Burrell ’14
Classmates and former track teammates Christine Ajinjeru ’14, left, and Sarah Burnell ’14, catch up during the Athletic Hall of Fame reception.

In addition to family members, several former teammates, friends, and current student-athletes were in attendance for the ceremony. Along with her two Grinnell roommates, Natalie Richardson Gentil ’14 and Na Chainkua Reindorf ’14, Tracey Wellington traveled from Knoxville, Tennessee, to support Ajinjeru. 

“We went to grad school together, and I know this was a big part of her life,” Wellington says. “I wanted to be part of it, especially since her family was unable to attend. Every day, I learn something new about Christine.”

The Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame was created in 1995 to recognize the achievements of the College’s most accomplished student-athletes. Saturday marked the eighth induction ceremony. There are now 106 former student-athletes, coaches, and administrators in the Hall of Fame. 

“It’s such an amazing feeling,” Grotberg says about being inducted. “I loved being here as a student and I have loved staying close with everyone, so to have something that solidifies being part of the College forever is a great honor.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

For a closer look at the 2020 individual inductees, view the Hall of Fame announcement or see the complete list of Grinnell athletes, coaches, and administrators who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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