WMU News

Inductees chosen for Athletic Hall of Fame's 20th anniversary

Sept. 17, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University will induct six former student-athletes in the 20th anniversary class of its Athletic Hall of Fame.

This year's class raises to 161 the number of former athletes and coaches enshrined. The 2003 class includes: Linda "Louie" Berndt, 1980-83, basketball and softball; R.J. Dunkle, 1982-85, men's tennis; Dennis Holland, 1962-65, track & field; Vicky Musky, 1982-85, basketball and softball; Joel Smeenge, 1986-89, football; and John Vander Wal, 1985-87, baseball. [More information about each inductee may be found below.]

"We had many candidates nominated and six former outstanding athletes were selected," said Bud Donnelly, who chaired the selection committee. "[This year's class has] some of the best athletes who ever played their particular sport at WMU."

Induction ceremonies will take place on Friday, Nov. 14, starting at 7 p.m. in the Fetzer Center. For reservations, contact Irene Bracken in the Athletic Corporate Relations Office at (269) 387-3062.

2003 WMU Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Linda Berndt (pronounced BURNT), a product of Harper Woods (Mich.) Regina High School, lettered four seasons,1980-83, for then-coach Fran Ebert's softball team, twice leading the squad in hitting. During that time WMU won 132 games and advanced to three national tournaments, highlighted by a fifth-place finish at the 1982 NCAA College World Series.

Berndt set a school record for hits in a season (52), since eclipsed, and at the time became just the fourth player in school history to surpass 100 career hits. In 1982, she was named to the Converse All-America First Team.

Berndt also lettered three seasons,1980-82, with the basketball team, playing at the guard and forward positions. Berndt went on to serve six seasons as head softball coach at Marshall (1994-99) and currently is the assistant softball coach at Florida State.

"Linda always put out her top effort and had an excellent attitude," said Ebert, who recently authored a book on the history of women's athletics at WMU. "She was an excellent defensive player and an effective spray hitter at the plate."

R.J. Dunkle, a graduate of Centerville (Ohio) High School, is the all-time win leader in WMU tennis history. He compiled an overall record of 213-51 between 1982-85. He holds Bronco records for career singles wins (105) and doubles victories (108) and teamed with Mike Woody to record 19 consecutive double wins in 1983. Dunkle captured three single titles, including two at the top flight, and a pair of doubles crowns. The left-hander was also named All-MAC on three occasions.

Dunkle will make the lengthy trek from Australia to attend the induction ceremonies. He is currently a tennis pro in South Wales, Australia.

"R.J. came to play everyday. He never once showed up without the right attitude, and it paid off," said former coach Jack Vredevelt, whose teams compiled an 86-24 dual record during Dunkel's four seasons. "R.J. had a tremendous serve and played an attacking game. He had no weaknesses."

Dennis Holland, a product of Redford High School in Detroit, was an accomplished jumper under Hall of Fame coach George Dales, setting or sharing 13 school records between 1962 and 1965. At one time, Holland earned a No. 2 ranking in the world and still holds WMU's outdoor long jump record (26'-2.5") set 27 years ago.

Holland snagged three MAC long jump titles and took third at the 1965 NCAA outdoor meet to earn All-America honors. A retired CEO of two Michigan marinas, Holland is the inventor and patent holder of the swivel handle used in water skiing and resides in Paia, Hawaii.

"Dennis was probably the best all-around track athlete we've had at Western," said Dales. "He had the speed and power to compete in almost any event. He approached the high jump bar straight on as though it was a hurdle."

Vicky Musky, a graduate of Parkside High School in Jackson, Mich., was a point and shooting guard on then-coach Jim Hess' basketball team. She also patrolled outfield on the softball diamond. Musky lettered four seasons with each squad and was a member of the 1984 MAC championship team in softball and the 1985 MAC Tournament Championship in women's basketball.

Musky was an exceptional athlete on the court, earning All-MAC First Team honors in 1984 and setting a school record for points (439) in a season, since broken. Musky currently ranks 10th all-time in WMU scoring with 1,186 points.

"Vicky was a tough and rugged player who wouldn't let anyone push her around, she drove hard to the basket," said Fran Ebert, who coached Musky during the 1981-82 season.

Joel Smeenge came to WMU from Hudsonville (Mich.) High School. He played 10 seasons in the National Football League following a stellar four-year career at WMU (1986-89). A three-time All-MAC selection, Smeenge holds the school record for sacks (34) and tackles for loss (66).

The defensive end was named WMU's Most Valuable Player in 1989 and months later, was chosen in the third round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He went on to play four years in New Orleans and five seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Joel was fast and quick for his size at 260 pounds. He was faster than our running backs," recalled former teammate Paul DeVries, now WMU's Director of Compliance. "Joel was a leader by his actions. He was quiet off the field. The team always came before his individual accomplishments."

John Vander Wal was a teammate of Smeenge at Hudsonville High School and is currently the lone Bronco playing in major league baseball. An outfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers, Vander Wal also has had stops in Montreal, Colorado, San Diego, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the New York Yankees, in that order. While with the Colorado Rockies, Vander Wal set a MLB record for pinch-hits (26) and pinch-hit RBIs in a season.

Vander Wal's accomplishments at WMU have survived the test of time. He ranks third in home runs (23) and RBIs (125) and third in slugging percentage (.561) during a career that spanned three seasons. The outfielder also earned All-MAC First Team recognition in 1986 and 1987.

"John is the best hitter I've ever run across in my time of coaching at WMU," said baseball coach Fred Decker, himself a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame. "He has quick hands and a positive approach to hitting. John is a fearless player who really enjoys playing the game."

Media contact: Daniel Jankowski, 269 387-4138, daniel.jankowski@wmich.edu

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