The High School’s Inaugural Hall of Fame Class

“We’re really thrilled about our inaugural class — it’s a great one”
Howard Wood, who played in the N.B.A. and in Spain, was told by Jim Nicoletti and Joe Vas on May 23 that he would be inducted into the high school’s Hall of Fame. Durell Godfrey

   Twelve athletes, two teams, two coaches, and an honorary member make up the first class to be inducted into East Hampton High School’s Hall of Fame at the homecoming football game with Southampton on Sept. 22.
    The announcement was made May 23 by Jim Nicoletti, the president of East Hampton’s Hall of Fame committee, and Joe Vas, the school district’s athletic director, who suggested that such a committee be formed last summer.
    “We’re really thrilled about our inaugural class — it’s a great one,” said Nicoletti, who not long ago retired following a very successful baseball and tennis coaching career at the high school.
    “There were many nominees, from coaches, teammates, family members . . . and many nominees who were worthy but did not get in this year will in time get in. Those who remain on our list will continue to be considered for the next 10 years, along with future nominees. We’re hoping that this will spark an interest in the community.”
    Nominees must have been out of the high school for at least 10 years, “and what they did while here is the chief consideration,” said Nicoletti.
     The inaugural class includes five who were named posthumously: Frank Jewels, a member of the class of 1929; Walter Sheades, a 1930 graduate; Rich Balnis Sr., of the class of 1963, a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, and track) who played football at New Mexico State and did graduate work at Ohio State before opening a physical therapy business and working generously with youth here; Bill McDonald, a 1966 graduate who was a second-team high school all-American in football and who later went on to captain Vanderbilt’s team, and Kendall Madison, a 1991 graduate, a three-sport athlete who won a football scholarship to the University of Connecticut. The high school’s weight room is named in his memory.
    The other athletes to be inducted individually are Leroy DeBoard, Howard Wood, Margaret Dunn, Ed Budd, Kenny Wood, Ross Gload, and Ellamae Gurney.
    DeBoard, a 1951 graduate, was a four-sport athlete here (football, basketball, baseball, and track), and in 1994 was named to the Benedict College football Hall of Fame.
     Howard Wood, a 1977 graduate, led East Hampton to a state basketball championship and later, following a stellar career at the University of Tennessee, played in the National Basketball Association and in Spain’s premier leagues.
    Margaret Dunn, a 1979 graduate, was a four-sport athlete (field hockey, basketball, volleyball, and softball), and for a number years held the single-season scoring record in girls basketball.Ed Budd, a 1983 graduate who went on to UConn, was named to all-county teams here in football, wrestling, and baseball.
    Howard Wood’s younger brother, Kenny, led East Hampton to a state basketball championship in 1989, his senior year, played for the University of Richmond team that upset highly-seeded Syracuse in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament, and went on to a professional career in Spain and South America. He was named to the University of Richmond’s Hall of Fame in February 2011.
    Ross Gload, a 1994 graduate who played soccer, basketball, and baseball, and who was the Carl Yastrzemski Award winner in his senior year, an award given to the best baseball player in Suffolk County, went on to set records at the University of South Florida and to a Major League baseball career with a half-dozen teams, most recently, in 2011, with the Philadelphia Phillies.
    Ellamae Gurney, also a 1994 graduate, was a three-sport athlete (field hockey, basketball, and softball). She played on the 1993 county championship field hockey team, which advanced to the state tournament’s semifinals. At Brown University she played varsity softball.
    The two coaches to be inducted are the 100-year-old Fran Kiernan, who coached football, basketball, and baseball here from 1945 to 1960, after which he served as athletic director for the better part of a decade, and Ed Petrie Sr., who, over a 52-year career, oversaw numerous championship teams and became the winningest public high school boys basketball coach in New York State. A member of the Frank McGuire Foundation Hall of Fame and Suffolk’s Hall of Fame, Petrie was last honored here in January 2011, when the high school’s basketball court was named for him.
    The two teams to be inducted are the undefeated, untied 1952 football team, which Kiernan coached — the only undefeated, untied team in East Hampton football history, which dates to 1923 — and the 1989 state-finalist field hockey team.
    The ’52 football team included, among others, John Tilley, Jim Clark, George Cafiso, Fred Yardley, Bob Yardley, Rich Cooper, Dave Cheney, Fritz Schenck, Charlie Gould, Bob Taylor, Don Bovie, Billy DeBoard, Augie Dragotta, Bob Lynch, Charles Kaiser, Russ Peele, Joseph Brubaker, David Kerstein, and Joe Green.
    On the ’89 field hockey team, its coach, Ellen Cooper, said, were Jen Vish, Megan Barnett, Dawn Da Costa Faro, Meredith Diefendorf, Renee Grau, Michelle Hammer, Paula Hatch, Rebecca Libath, Diana Lys, Shana Menu, Bridget McSweeney, Carolina Vargas, Danielle Ficeto, Nicole Ficeto, and Andrea Wyche.
    “That team was a terrific bunch,” Cooper said. “They gave girls sports here a big boost.”
    The honorary inductee is this writer, who took over The Star’s sports beat in 1979.