Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford inducted five alumni into the Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Submitted by Maureen Scudder, Northwest Catholic High School
Wampanoag Country Club was abuzz with laughter and hugs on Saturday night as Northwest Catholic alumni and their family and friends gathered to honor five inductees into the Northwest Catholic Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gerard Pilkington ’69, Ellen Rodgers Fox ’85, Sean Gant ’85, Tricia Murray Parris ’96, and Christopher J. Thorner ’02 were the honored inductees at Saturday’s affair.
After friends, old and new, reconnected during a lively cocktail hour, guests who had come to celebrate these legends in Northwest Catholic athletic history enjoyed dinner and inspiring tributes.
The most senior among the inductees, Gerry Pilkington ’69, was the first to receive his award. In his acceptance speech, Pilkington set the evening’s theme of gratitude in motion. These five alumni from four different decades at the School, who had continued their education at five different universities, who had followed different careers paths and landed in different parts of the country, all shared a similar message — give thanks to those who hold you up.
Pilkington, one of football coach Walter Stosuy’s “Cardiac Kids,” helped Northwest Catholic win its first Conference Championship in 1968. Listing scores during pivotal matches against opponents like Pulaski High School in New Britain and Penney in East Hartford, Pilkington brought the crowd back 50 years. When he spoke of a memorable 23-22 win against East Catholic, the crowd knew history matters and memories from high school endure.
After reflecting on the 1968 winning season, Pilkington asked the central question: “Who are the real heroes tonight?” His answer: “The defense. The guys who kept us upright.” Pilkington continued, “They’re not here getting a plaque tonight, but every time I look at this award, I will think of them.” He listed names from half a century ago – Griffin, Gillette, Lyons, Grimes, and the list went on. Pilkington’s message was clear – his fellow players get the credit tonight, and he is deeply grateful for his teammates, the guys who held him up.
A spirit of humility continued when former NWC soccer coach and teacher Edward Noonan introduced the second inductee, Ellen Rodgers Fox ’85. Then Fox opened her speech with Meister Eckhart’s famous quote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Fox honored her mother, her six sisters, her one brother, her husband and sons. She also asked the central question: Who are the real heroes? and hers were her siblings, who she said she quietly observed and emulated so she could become the athlete she was and the person she is. Fox, a West Hartford resident, acknowledged how family holds us up and remembered God in all of it, sports included, closing with: “At Northwest Catholic, we played with all our heart.”
Former NWC Athletic Director and football coach John Shukie introduced the next inductee, Sean Gant, also from the Class of 1985. Like Pilkington, Shukie listed matches and scores and yards and touchdowns. He recalled the specifics of Gant’s 97 yard run as a sophomore in a game where NWC lost. You can imagine his memory for the games Northwest won. In a heartfelt conclusion, Shukie admitted, “If someone said I could go back to 1984 and coach Sean and his teammates again, I would.”
Like Pilkington and Fox, Sean Gant ’85 gave thanks to everyone who guided and supported him. He reminded the audience, “God puts people in your life at just the right time. The trick is to know what to do with the lessons they teach you.” Gant listed many teammates’ names from 33 years ago and acknowledged that he would never have had the chance to run all those yards if not for the players clearing the way.
When it was time for Tricia Murray Parris ’96 to receive her award, the crowd knew what was coming – gratitude for every opportunity afforded her. This star soccer player from the Class of 1996 spoke of the School’s motto where you know you belong, explaining how true these five simple words were for her. Parris said, “I belonged in both the classroom and on the soccer field at Northwest.” She continued, “I carried the lessons I learned at Northwest Catholic to Princeton, into work, into marriage, and into parenting.”
To close the evening, Patrick Connors ’80, former football coach and NWC alumnus, introduced Chris Thorner ’02. Although students at NWC 22 years apart, Pat reflected fondly on how the two men became friends on Brewer Field, and how they remain friends today. Thorner, who went on to play football for Syracuse, thanked his mother and sister for traveling to his games, and to his wife and three children, who are “everything” to him.
Northwest Catholic launched its Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame 14 years ago. To read a complete list of the inductees to Northwest Catholic’s Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame, visit northwestcatholic.org/
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