Two of the 12 members of Vanderbilt’s new Athletics Hall of Fame will be inducted posthumously this fall.
That’s one reason Clyde Lee was grinning ear to ear Thursday during a news conference in which he was announced as part of the first class.
Being around to witness his own induction offers extra satisfaction.
“It’s always nice to be remembered,” he said. “Some day when I’m gone, people will know I existed.”
Lee and 11 other former Vanderbilt players, coaches and administrators will be formally inducted on the weekend of Sept. 12-14. The Commodores play host to Rice in a football game Sept. 13.
The Hall of Fame, scheduled to open in the fall of 2009, is part of Vanderbilt’s five-year program to upgrade athletics facilities. The Hall will be located in a newly expanded area of the McGugin Center.
Lee, one of the greatest basketball players in Commodore history, was the only former athlete on hand for Thursday’s news conference.
Lee learned of his induction recently while vacationing in Florida when he received a telephone call from VU Vice Chancellor David Williams.
“There was probably a moment of silence to let it register,” Lee said. “I was very honored to be part of this.”
The 6-foot-10 Lee played 11 seasons in the NBA after a memorable VU career from 1963-66 in which he was twice named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and earned All-America honors in 1966.
He remains Vanderbilt’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,691 points is regarded by many as the best player in school history.
Lee’s induction into the Hall was described by Williams as a “slam dunk.” Picking the rest of the class wasn’t as easy.
A 16-member panel of VU athletics officials, headed by Kevin Colon, a director of sport operations, selected the class of 12 after receiving hundreds of nominations from fans and other sources.
Priority No. 1 for the panel was selecting a class that represented the seriousness of Hall of Fame entry.
“In this class, that was a concern and there were a lot of good people,” Williams said. “There were a lot of people where we said, ‘This is a good person, but I don’t know if they are Hall of Fame quality.’ I felt very strongly that this first group was very critical. There was a lot of discussion back and forth.”
Some worthy candidates didn’t make the cut, including former VU basketball coach Roy Skinner (1961-76) and football player Carl Hinkle, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame after a standout career in the 1930s. Many consider him to be the best football player in school history.
They might merit future consideration. Williams said as many as 12 people will be inducted into the Hall for perhaps the next three years. A new class will be introduced each fall.
Nominees will not be eligible until four years have passed since their final appearance as a Vanderbilt athlete.
In coming years, stars of recent vintage are likely to receive serious consideration, including basketball players Shan Foster and Derrick Byars, football players Jay Cutler, Chris Williams and Earl Bennett and baseball players David Price and Pedro Alvarez.
For Williams, the addition of the Hall of Fame is a victory in and of itself. He always wondered why Vanderbilt didn’t have one before now.
“I found it to be kind of strange,” Williams said. “We’ve had great athletic achievement but no Hall of Fame. This will help us recognize this great achievement going forward.”
VANDERBILT’S HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Chantelle Anderson, women's basketball player from 1999-2003. Two-time All-America pick and the school’s all-time leading scorer. SEC Player of the Year in 2002. No. 2 player picked in 2003 WNBA Draft.
Peggy Harmon Brady, golfer from 1968-72. Daughter, Chris, later became an All-American at Vanderbilt.
John Hall, football player from 1951-54. First Academic All-American in school history. Later became Chairman and CEO of Ashland, Inc., and president of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust.
Ryan Tolbert, track and field star from 1994-98. Won the 1997 NCAA Outdoors 400 meters in 54.54, a record at that time. Holds seven outdoor and three indoor records.
Roy Kramer, athletics director from 1978-90. Later became SEC commissioner and was regarded as one of the most powerful and influential leaders in collegiate athletics.
Clyde Lee, basketball player from 1963-66. Lipscomb High graduate played 11 seasons in the NBA after twice being named SEC Player of the Year at Vanderbilt. All-America pick in 1966.
Dan McGugin, head football coach from 1904-34. Winningest football coach in school history. Elected to National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1951. Died in 1936.
John Rich, football and baseball player from 1945-51. Joined VU Board of Trust in 1988 and has helped oversee the expansion and construction of several key athletics facilities.
Fred Russell, former Nashville Banner writer (1929-98) and VU baseball player (1925-26). Press boxes at Vanderbilt’s football and baseball stadiums are named in his honor. Wrote an estimated 12,000 columns at the Banner, which ceased operation in 1998. Died in 2003.
June Stewart, VU administration from 1973-91. Joined VU’s athletics department as a secretary in 1973 and was promoted to Associate Director of Athletics 20 years later.
Bill Wade, football player from 1949-51. SEC Player of the Year in 1951 as a quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1952 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Led Chicago Bears to 1963 World Championship.
Perry Wallace, basketball player from 1966-1970. Product of Nashville’s Pearl High became the first African-American player in SEC history. Named All-SEC as a senior. Currently law professor at American University.