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December 9, 2008

Five more inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

By: Jimmy Robertson

Dr. James Robertson

Dr. James I. Robertson is a well-respected history professor, an authority on the Civil War, and in all, a rather shrewd gentleman. He also displays a keen fondness for telling jokes during his public speaking engagements, and in particular, the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame banquet.

When he received his letter informing him that he was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he thought the joke was on him.

“I did, I thought Jim Weaver [Tech’s AD] had mistakenly sent it,” Robertson said. “I just assumed it was a wrong address, so I called Jim and told him to tell his secretary that she had sent it [the letter] to the wrong address. He assured me that it was supposed to go to me. I was shocked.”

Robertson was one of five individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame in a banquet held Nov. 21 on the Tech campus, joining former track standout Katie Ollendick, former soccer star Eric McClellan, former baseball pitcher Jim Beard and former football player Eugene Chung. The new inductees bring the total number enshrined to 141.

Robertson receives national attention as a Civil War historian, but he also has a long history of helping the Virginia Tech athletics department. He served as Tech’s Faculty Chairman of Athletics and President of the Virginia Tech Athletic Association from 1979-1991. He also chaired the search committees that selected Dutch Baughman and Dave Braine as athletic directors, and Frank Beamer as head football coach.

“We interviewed some big names for the [head football] job,” Robertson said. “But we wanted someone who would stick around and provide some stability. We wanted someone solid who would grow with us and we would grow with him. We stayed with him during some tough years early and it’s paid off.”

During his tenure as Tech’s faculty representative, Robertson also served two terms as President of the Metro Conference and was a longtime member of the conference’s Executive Committee. In 1989, he received the Metro Joint Committee Award for “invaluable contributions” to the league.

After Tech was placed on NCAA probation for rules violations during the mid-1980s, Robertson chaired the Blueprint Committee on Virginia Tech athletics that established new guidelines for Hokie varsity sports. Those guidelines still remain in place.

“I remember flying to Austin, Texas, and meeting before the NCAA committee on infractions – and knowing we were guilty,” Robertson said. “That was the worst day of my life.

“But when you hit rock bottom, you can only come up. That’s what we did.”
Robertson, who was also an ACC football official for 16 years and worked nine bowl games, retired from athletics in 1991. He continues to teach his Civil War Era class at Tech, the largest of its kind in the nation.
Here’s a look at the rest of the inductees:

Katie Ollendick

Ollendick took a rather unique path toward greatness at Tech.
She enrolled at UVa first.

“I wasn’t really being recruited and I was out there marketing myself,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well it’s a good school and they were giving me a full scholarship and it wasn’t too far away from home. All those things were appealing.

“But I just didn’t find my niche there. So I transferred and came back to Tech. It all worked out well. I had to sit out a year, but by my fifth year at Tech, I was older, stronger and better. It was a good move for me.”

And a great move for Tech.

During the 1996-97 season, Ollendick won conference indoor and outdoor titles in the high jump. She was named the A-10 Indoor Track & Field Performer of the Year, and went on to compete in the high jump at the 1997 NCAA Indoor Championships.

As a senior, she became the Hokies’ first female track & field athlete to earn indoor and outdoor All-America honors in the same season. She placed 12th overall, and eighth among American-born athletes, to earn All-America honors in the high jump at the 1998 indoor championships. During the spring, she placed eighth in the heptathlon to gain outdoor All-America honors.

“I remember my coaches fooling around with me and telling me that I hadn’t made All-American,” she said when she earned that status for the first time. “Then they told me the truth and that was exciting. I had been hoping for that and had worked for it.”

Ollendick set Tech and Atlantic 10 indoor and outdoor records in the high jump, established new marks in both the heptathlon and pentathlon and was a member of the Hokies’ A-10 record-setting 4x400-meter relay team. Her Tech high jump records still stand.

She matched her excellence in athletics with equally impressive academic accomplishments. She maintained a perfect 4.00 grade-point average on the way to a double major in psychology and exercise science. Ollendick’s efforts earned her first-team GTE Academic All-America recognition in 1997 and ‘98. Following the 1998 outdoor track & field season, she was named the GTE Academic Athlete of the Year for the spring and was one of four student-athletes to receive a postgraduate scholarship from the A-10.

Ollendick went on to earn a master’s in physical therapy from the University of North Carolina following her graduation from Tech. She currently works as a Pediatric Physical Therapist at Duke University Medical Center and is in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UNC. In her spare time, she competes in triathlons.

Eric McClellan

Growing up and playing soccer in Rockville, Md., Eric McClellan knew very little about Virginia Tech. But he played with his club team in the Capital Cup, and it was there where he caught the eye of a Tech graduate assistant named John Dumbleton, who worked under head coach Jerry Cheynet.

Dumbleton persuaded McClellan to come down for a visit, and McClellan and his dad made the trip. That marked the beginning of a tremendous four-year run for one of the best soccer players in Tech’s history.

McClellan ultimately finished his career as Tech’s all-time leader in goals and points scored. As a sophomore, he led the Hokies to the Metro Invitational Tournament title, scoring four goals in the tournament and three in the championship game win over Cincinnati. Then, he earned All-Metro Conference honors his final two seasons at Tech.

“I have a lot of memories of those days,” McClellan said. “But the biggest thing was just having the whole experience with the team and to be able to bond with those guys on those long bus trips. That’s probably the thing that stands out the most.”

McClellan helped lead the Hokies to 10 wins each of his four seasons. He finished his career with 44 goals and 109 points.

He graduated with a degree in business and later came back to Tech to earn his master’s in finance. He played soccer professionally from 1992 until retiring in 2000. McClellan, his wife, Lisa, and three children currently live in Willsonville, Ore., where he works for TransCore, a transportation logistics information technology corporation. He has served as the varsity soccer coach at Tualatin High School for the past seven years.

He still manages to keep up with the Hokies. In fact, in late August, Tech’s soccer team played out in Portland and received a tour of the Nike facilities from McClellan, who also got to take in one of Tech’s two matches out there.

“Obviously, when I played, we didn’t have ACC talent, not like they do now,” McClellan said. “We were more of a blue-collar team, with just a bunch of guys who loved to play. We grinded it out. But we were very successful for the type of talent we had.”

Jim Beard

Jim Beard never went on a date during his time at Tech. He never had the time.

As a non-scholarship athlete, Beard worked at Owens Dining Hall to make enough money to pay his tuition and some of his other expenses. He served in the Corps, and of course, he took classes. He also played a little baseball – and fairly well, too.

“Yes, I got up at 5 and went to bed about 11 at night,” Beard said.

Beard’s pitching exploits earned him induction into the Hall. He won four games as a sophomore and three as a junior. That year, the Fredericksburg, Va., native struck out 16 batters and allowed just four hits and one earned run during a one-run loss to George Washington University that saw the Hokies commit five errors.

As seniors – players couldn’t play as freshmen back in those days – Beard and his classmates, including Leo Burke and Howie Wright, led the Tech baseball program to its first NCAA bid. Tech swept two games in a best two-of-three series with ACC champ Clemson in the NCAA playoffs. In the decisive game against the Tigers, a record crowd of 2,500 fans looked on in Blacksburg as Beard held Clemson to six hits and one ninth-inning run in a 7-1 victory. The Hokies lost the district championship series against Rollins College, but their accomplishment still ranks among the best in school baseball history.

Beard finished the season with a 7-3 record, a 3.54 earned run average and 68 strikeouts in 83.2 innings pitched. His wins, strikeouts and innings pitched were all school records that stood well into the 1970s when the Hokies played twice as many games.

“There are so many things that I remember,” Beard said. “Red Laird [Tech’s coach] was like a second father to me. He helped me out so much – he got me semi-pro jobs in the summer, so that I could make a little money. Ed Motley [Tech’s trainer] kept me pitching. Pitching in Blacksburg, with the weather, wasn’t easy. And Luke Linden [the equipment manager] would give me an extra sweatshirt or two to sleep in to keep me warm.”

Once Beard graduated, he fulfilled a three-year commitment to the Air Force even though he had tryouts with four Major League teams. That commitment turned into a 27-year career that included three tours of duty in Vietnam. He retired in 1981 with a rank of colonel and now runs a farm in Fredericksburg.

Eugene Chung

Chung, who played his high school football at Oakton High School in northern Virginia, moved into the starting lineup at Virginia Tech as a redshirt freshman in 1988. A year later, Chung started every game. He played 638 offensive snaps that season and was voted the Hokies’ most outstanding offensive lineman.

Despite missing a game with a bruised leg, Chung played 643 of 791 plays in 1990, allowing just one quarterback sack. He was voted the team’s best offensive lineman for the second straight year and was selected first-team All-South Independent.

Chung was one of the top linemen in the nation his senior season, earning first-team All-America honors from The Football Writers Association of America. He started all 11 games and allowed just one sack. He was picked 13th in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, becoming the first Virginia Tech offensive player and second Tech football player overall to be selected in the first round of the draft. Chung was also the first Korean-American player to be taken in the first round.

Chung played five seasons in the NFL. He is currently working in the real estate development business in Jacksonville, Fla. For the past four years, Chung has also been working with the Jacksonville Jaguars Personnel Department and serving as president of the National Football League Retired Players Union for north Florida.