A wide-ranging class celebrating several facets of Raider history will be admitted to the Southern Oregon University Sports Hall of Fame this fall, the Hall committee revealed Thursday.
The class of 2018 includes a 31-year member of the SOU athletic department, Rhonda Bergh; a key figure in the modern era of Raider men’s basketball, Tom Chipps (1997-2001); two longtime supporters of SOU athletes, Jed and Celia Meese; one of the most dangerous hitters in the Raider baseball history, John White (1976-78); the star of the school’s women’s field hockey team, Dana Yearsley (1977-81); and the 1987-88 wrestling team, which is the only one in program history with a perfect dual record.
An induction ceremony will be held Nov. 3 in SOU’s Rogue River Room.
Hired in September of 1980 as an administrative assistant, Bergh was the longest-tenured employee in department history upon retiring in 2012 — working alongside 10 athletic directors and in five different offices during her stay.
Her assistance of day-to-day operations within the department included helping coaches with travel and recruiting, budget management, and Raider Club fundraising efforts. She was recognized with the Steve Flynn Athletics Service Award in 1998, and in 2001 was the recipient of Cascade Conference and NAIA Region I Meritorious Service Awards.
Chipps left as the top scorer in men’s basketball history, but when he arrived the Raiders were coming off a two-win campaign and nearly a decade removed from their last winning season. As a freshman, he helped them to a 13-win improvement that marked the biggest turnaround in the NAIA. And as a sophomore in 1998-99, he led them to conference regular-season and tournament titles and an appearance in the national tournament — the Raiders’ first of each in 30 years.
Chipps’ 1,648 points is fourth on SOU’s all-time list; he was the team’s leading scorer every year of his career, averaging 14.2 overall and advancing to the postseason three times. A two-time member of the All-Cascade Conference first team, he also left at No. 4 on the school lists for steals (127) and 3-pointers made (161). He graduated with a degree in business management.
The Meeses, two of the most enthusiastic supporters of Raider athletics, have aided scholarships and facilities improvements through several eras. They made their first contribution in 1989 and added significant gifts ever since to go with their consistent generosity at the Raider Club Auction, Raider Club Golf Tournament and Raider Club Fund Drive.
They also lend support to Southern Oregon University as a whole, and Jed was a longtime and valued member of the Raider Club board.
White sparked the Raider baseball lineup from 1976-78, earning All-Evergreen Conference honors each season and making the all-district team twice. Even as his role changed, his batting average never stopped climbing — going from .350 as a designated hitter, to .382 as a third baseman and .410 as a shortstop in successive seasons.
As a senior, he led all Northwest small-college players in average and broke Southern Oregon’s single-season mark for RBIs with 35 in 32 games. He drove in 12 of those during a three-game sweep of Oregon Tech that clinched the Raiders’ Evergreen Conference South Division title.
White, who earned a business degree with honors, was inducted into the Oregon State ASA Softball Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2009, he was named the OSAA Class 3A coach of the year for leading the baseball team at Rogue River High.
Yearsley competed in three sports at SOU but was most notably the gem of women’s field hockey team during its final years of operation. She came to Ashland in 1977 via Pennsylvania and led the Raiders in scoring for the duration of her career, receiving all-star recognition all four seasons from the coaches in the Northwest College Women’s Sports Association.
Her teams, coached by Sally Jones, scored wins over University of Oregon, Boise State, Washington State and Idaho.
Before graduating with a degree in literature, she also suited up for the women’s basketball team and won the 1981 NCWSA regional tennis tournament at the No. 3 singles position to qualify for the national tournament.
Guided by Raider coaching legend Bob Riehm, SOU’s 1987-88 wrestling team was perhaps the top dual outfit in the program’s deep history. The Raiders’ 15-0 record included wins over Oregon (22-19), Oregon State (24-13), Portland State (18-16) and Western Oregon (39-8), as well as two dominant performances against Oregon Tech (45-3, 33-11).
The team ultimately took third at the NAIA Championships and produced six All-Americans: national champion Ken Wharry (134 pounds), third-place J.D. Alley (275), fourth-place
Jeff Marshall (158), fifth-place Mike Ritchey (126) and Larry Denn (167), and seventh-place Brad Christensen (150).
Ritchey, who captained the team along with Wharry, became the first four-time All-American in team history, and Alley — who would later be inducted to the NAIA Hall of Fame — won an NAIA District II title.