Undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees will be conferred during the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Fall 2019 Commencement ceremonies on Friday, Dec. 20.
As part of its Homecoming celebration, 10 former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns will be inducted into the Louisiana Athletics Hall of Fame.
The 2019 class includes eight former student-athletes and two coaches.
Inductees include former student-athletes Jose Alvarez (baseball), Stephanie DeFeo (softball), Priscilla Lima (volleyball), Kathy Morton (softball) and Ivan “Ike” Taylor (football). The men’s tennis doubles team of Bret Garnett and Ashley Rhoney will also enter the Hall of Fame. Also among the inductees are the first father and daughter ever inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Leigh Hennessy Robson (trampoline), and her father, the late Jeff Hennessy, a trampoline coach (lifetime achievement). The late track and field coach Charles Lancon will also be inducted.
The 2019 class will enter the Louisiana Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 1, and will be recognized during halftime of the 2019 Homecoming football game against Texas State on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Cajun Field. The game will begin at 4 p.m.
Alvarez led the Ragin’ Cajuns in wins and strikeouts during his two seasons with the team in 1977 and 1978. He became the first Ragin’ Cajuns pitcher since Ron Guidry to throw a nine-inning, no-hitter when he struck out 10 batters during an 11-0 win over UT Arlington on April 30, 1978. Alvarez was the Southland Conference’s Pitcher of the Year in 1978. He would ultimately earn a spot on the conference’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s. Alvarez played in the Major Leagues for several seasons after being drafted in the eighth round of the 1978 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves.
DeFeo, a member of the Ragin’ Cajuns softball team from 1994-97, was a three-time All-American who played first base and as a designated player. As a freshman, her batting average was .435, and her slugging percentage was .739, a school record. She finished her career as the school record holder in home runs (43), runs batted in (187), walks (94) and slugging percentage (.676). DeFeo is currently head coach at Mercer University.
Garnett and Rhoney are the only All-Americans in the history of Ragin’ Cajuns men’s tennis. They played both singles and doubles. In doubles, the pair was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1987 and No. 2 in 1988. They were members of the Ragin’ Cajuns tennis team that earned a year-end No. 18 ranking in 1988. Garnett was 65-39 in singles; Rhoney was 71-48 in singles. While playing professionally as a doubles team, Garnett and Rhoney reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. They reached the Round of 16 at three other Grand Slam events – the US Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Jeff Hennessy, an associate professor of physical education at the University from 1959 to 1986, was director of the University’s gymnastics and trampoline programs. He was coach of the United States trampolining team from 1964 to 1980. As coach of the U.S. team, he led his squad to nine world titles. Hennessy also coached more trampoline and double mini-trampoline world and national champions than any other person. The athletes he coached were awarded 26 world championships, and numerous national and regional titles.
Leigh Hennessy was a five-time National AAU All-American from 1976-80 during her career at the University. She then became a 10-time U.S. champion and two-time world champion. She was inducted into the World Acrobatics Society Hall of Fame in 2005, and the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2007. She went on to become a prolific Hollywood stunt person, appearing in over 100 movies and TV series.
Lancon, a 1959 graduate who coached at Louisiana from 1990-2002, inherited a track and field program that had not claimed a conference title since 1970, and quickly created a powerhouse. Under his guidance, the Ragin’ Cajuns claimed 17 conference titles, including three during his second season. He led Louisiana to a “Quadruple Crown” in 1993 as coach for the men’s and women’s teams. Each claimed the Sun Belt Conference outdoor and indoor titles. Lancon was a Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year 14 times.
Lima, who played for Louisiana from 1999 to 2002, ranks among the volleyball program’s top five in single-season kills (381), attack attempts (1,006), and points (448.5). She was a two-time all-conference selection. She finished her career with 1,228 kills – a number that still ranks in the top five in school history. Lima has played professionally for several tours, earning numerous top five finishes, and for the Brazilian National Beach Team. In 2009, she was named the Most Improved Player on the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour.
Morton was a two-time, first-team All-American, in 1994 and 1995. She hit .360 or higher in each of her final three seasons, capped off by back-to-back .400 campaigns her final two years. Morton finished her career as the school record-holder in 12 different categories, including base hits (281), doubles (61), home runs (29) and RBI’s (176). She was selected to the NFCA All-Region and the All-Louisiana teams each of the four seasons she played at Louisiana from 1992 to 1995. Morton was named to the All-Tournament team at the 1993 Women’s College World Series.
Taylor, who began his career as a Ragin’ Cajun at running back, switched to defensive back for his senior year. He recorded 46 tackles, forced two fumbles and broke up eight passes. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Taylor in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He helped lead the Steelers to two Super Bowl wins, in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII. During his NFL career, Taylor played in 175 games and recorded 636 tackles with 14 interceptions.
The University's Hall of Fame recognizes men and women who distinguished themselves as student-athletes and have made significant contributions to their professions and their communities. They are nominated and selected through a process that is overseen by the board of directors of the Ragin' Cajuns Lettermen Club, an organization of former student-athletes who have lettered in their sport.
In 2015, new eligibility criteria for the Hall of Fame were adopted to allow the nomination of coaches and administrators, as well as alumni whose collegiate careers were shortened by the chance to pursue professional sports.
Photo caption: Ten 10 inductees into the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Athletics Hall of Fame are Jose Alvarez (baseball), Stephanie DeFeo (softball), Bret Garnett (men's tennis), the late Jeff Hennessy (lifetime achievement), Leigh Hennessy (trampoline), Charles Lancon (track and field, administration), Priscilla Lima (volleyball), Kathy Morton (softball), Ashley Rhoney (men's tennis) and Ivan “Ike” Taylor (football).The 2019 class will be inducted into the Louisiana Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 1, and will be recognized during halftime of the 2019 Homecoming football game against Texas State on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Cajun Field.