NJIT took time over the weekend to honor its athletics past while also announcing plans to enhance its athletics future.
Reflecting on past excellence, NJIT added five alumni to the Athletics Hall of Fame, while also recognizing a professor for his support of NJIT athletics at the annual induction dinner held on campus this past Saturday night.
Looking ahead, officials unveiled the Highlanders Athletics Campaign, a $5-million effort to ensure future excellence for NJIT athletics, as part of the evening's ceremonies.
The five new NJIT Hall of Fame inductees are: David (Dave) Crimmins (class of 1952), men's fencing; Katherine (Kathy) Eng (1993), women's volleyball; Herb M. Iris (1951), benefactor; Robert Taetzsch (1952), men's fencing; and William Taetzsch (1952), men's fencing. Dr. Reginald PT (Reg) Tomkins, a 30-year member of NJIT's faculty, was the 2007 recipient of the annual Robert Swanson Award.
Crimmins and the Taetzsch brothers were teammates for four years on fencing teams that posted a 30-1 record in dual meets from 1948-1952 at Newark College of Engineering (NJIT's name prior to 1975).
Iris, a 1951 graduate who played varsity basketball for NCE, was a successful businessman who devoted his life to philanthropy, including support of his alma mater. Eng, a national leader in service aces in 1991, is one of the finest women's volleyball players in school history. And Tomkins was recognized for his support of NJIT athletics and its student-athletes.
The Highlanders Athletics Campaign will be a major component of the school's athletics future. NJIT aims to attract and support student-athletes who will follow in the footsteps of past success, including the Hall of Fame athletes who became leaders in their professions after graduation.
“The fund-raising campaign is already off to a strong start,” said Charles R. Dees, PhD, president of the NJIT Foundation and vice president of University Advancement. Supporters and friends, working hard behind the scenes, have raised $3.76 million of the $5 million goal.
“We started the campaign to raise funds necessary to upgrade selected athletic facilities and increase funds available for athletic scholarships,” Dees added. “We want to use $3 million to upgrade athletic facilities, $1.5 million for scholarships and $500,000 for program support. Within these three areas opportunities exist for commemorative and honorary naming gifts.”
Upgrading NJIT's athletics program has been a priority of NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch since his arrival on campus in 2002.
“Achieving academic excellence is of primary importance at NJIT for all students,” said Altenkirch, “Students are also encouraged to participate in activities outside the classroom to enrich their collegiate experience. Many of them choose to don a Highlanders uniform and pursue excellence in athletics on the playing fields and courts of NJIT.”
NJIT has a rich history in athletics going back to the 1920s. Among the highlights were back-to-back appearances in the NAIA men's soccer national championship game in 1960 (co-champion) and 1961 (runner-up) under legendary coach Mal Simon.
Baseball and men's basketball have been consistent postseason qualifiers over the past 30 years and men's fencing enjoyed an era of success that extended throughout the long career of the late coach Paul Hausser, who led the team from 1953 until 1985.
NJIT made the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III in 1974, eventually moving up to NCAA Division II in 1997 and then to NCAA Division I.
Men's soccer became NJIT's first championship-eligible Division I member in 2005, followed by women's soccer in 2007. The remaining teams are scheduled to reach full Division I status in 2009-10.
NJIT sponsors 19 varsity intercollegiate teams with over 200 student-athletes competing. Sports offerings for women have grown since NJIT fielded its first women's teams in 1982.
Men's sports are baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field (indoor), track and field (outdoor) and volleyball. Women's sports are basketball, cross country, fencing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field (indoor), track and field (outdoor), and volleyball.
The NJIT Hall of Fame http://njithighlanders.cstv.com/hallfame/njit-hallfame.html, founded in 1986, honors former Highlander athletes, coaches and friends who have distinguished themselves during or upon graduating from NJIT.
Here is a look at the 2007 inductees:
David (Dave) Crimmins (1930-1977) fenced for NJIT in the early 1950s on teams that combined for a 30-1 dual meet record. His personal bout record was 37-25. Raised in Maplewood, Crimmins was vice president of engineering for Thomas and Betts Corporation, Elizabeth, before founding his own product line in 1971. His family established a scholarship fund at NJIT in his memory.
Katherine (Kathy) Eng, who was raised in Belleville, played volleyball for NJIT and led NCAA Division III in services aces in 1991. Eng’s athletic career included earning first-team all-conference honors in three different conferences.
Herb Iris (1930-2006), a Newark native who graduated from Weequahic High School, received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1951and played on the basketball team. Iris, a generous and longtime contributor to Jewish causes, always enthusiastically supported NJIT athletics. In 1959, Iris founded Iris Construction Company. Later, he formed with a childhood friend, the real estate development firm, Dowel Associates.
Robert (Bob) Taetzsch, of Bethlehem, PA, fenced alongside his brother, Bill, and Crimmins. Bob's individual four-year record was 77-13 for the 30-1 Highlanders. Also a Weequahic graduate, he holds both BS and MS degrees from Newark College of Engineering (now NJIT) and a master’s degree from Rutgers University. He worked at Johnson and Johnson from 1968 until his retirement in 1994.
William (Bill) Taetzsch, of West Sand Lake, NY, Robert’s brother, also fenced about the same time and graduated from Weequahic High School. Bill contributed a 77-10 individual record to NCE's 30-1 fencing teams from 1948-52. After service in the military, Bill joined Esso (now Exxon/Mobil) where he worked for 36 years before retiring.
Reginald PT Tomkins, of Belleville, a professor and interim chairperson in the department of chemical engineering at NJIT, received the Robert Swanson Award for his continuing support of the athletic program in his 30 years on the NJIT faculty. Named for the late NJIT professor and athletic director, the Bob Swanson Award is presented to the faculty or staff member who has shown continued support for the Highlander athletics program.
To discuss options for contributing to the Highlanders Athletics Campaign, contact Darlene Lamourt, campaign director, University Advancement, 973-596-3403; firstname.lastname@example.org.