Leading a Hall of Fame Life
Nebraska Wesleyan University boasts a long history of athletic excellence, best showcased by NWU’s top-10 national ranking for academic All-Americans across all divisions. Induction into the Nebraska Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes the best of the best.
NWU softball player Lynne Henry (’96) was completely taken aback when she received the call from athletic director Ira Zeff that she had been selected to be inducted into the 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame. In her typical selfless fashion, Lynne didn’t think of this award for herself, but for her kids. Her son is 10 and her daughter, a volleyball player, is 14. “Being a female athlete is important but sometimes we don’t get the same notoriety or emphasis that male athletes do. I wanted her to see how much hard work pays off.”
As a student-athlete on the softball team, Lynne racked up countless accolades, including All-NIAC and CoSida Academic All-America honors. However, it’s the little moments “laughing on and off the field” that she remembers the most. Lynne returned to NWU this past October for the first time since her graduation. She was motivated to travel from Colorado to Lincoln to show her children the rewards of hard work. As she showed her family around campus before the Hall of Fame ceremony honoring 2020 and 2021 inductees, she couldn’t help but reminisce about all the experiences with her teammates she holds dear. One such memory took place during a training trip to Florida where the team got carried away at the beach. In a crunch for time before the start of their game, they had to wear their swimsuits under their uniforms.
Born and raised in Colorado, Lynne was drawn to NWU because of its strong education program and academics remained a top priority. Within the education program, Lynne found a team of fellow students who shared her academic drive and helped Lynne find the balance between student and athlete, a skill student-athletes are still mastering today.
Now a fifth-grade teacher back in Colorado, Lynne is integrating the skills she learned on the field and classroom into every walk of life. “My time at NWU taught me that as much as I’m focused on being a teacher, it is also important to focus on being a mom, being a wife and having strong friendships.”
NWU softball taught Lynne the importance of teamwork. “Being on a team is so important for life—knowing those cooperation skills, being a teammate, knowing how to lift your teammates up, help each other, depend on each other, work together.”
Lynne credits her teammates, classmates, Delta Zeta sorority sisters and coaches for shaping her into the person she is today. Describing herself as shy and lacking confidence, Lynne remembers how her coaches pushed her toward leadership roles. Their belief in her abilities brought out a lot of the leadership skills that she still uses today. Her coaches solidified her career goals in education. “They really helped develop a lot of those skills of helping others and teaching others and being a role model.”
Present and Future of NWU Hall of Fame
To be inducted into the NWU Hall of Fame, a candidate must meet several criteria. All inductees must be graduates of NWU and must have graduated at least 10 years before. While at NWU, they must have competed in their sport for at least 2 years. Inductees must meet one or more of the following athletic accolades as set forth by the selection committee: set a school record or be named first-team all-conference, all-regional, or all-district.
Beyond the selection committee’s criteria, work ethic is a key component to every student-athlete’s success story. Lynne always took ground balls after practice and was in the batting cage before every game. She considers her place in the NWU Hall of Fame an example to others, especially her children, of what you can achieve with hard work and dedication. It’s a lesson she has applied to her life since NWU. As so clearly put by Lynne’s husband, Jason, at this year’s ceremony, Lynne’s time at NWU “prepared her to be a hall of fame wife, hall of fame teacher and hall of fame mother.”
Athletic Director Zeff concurs. Currently in his 24th year at NWU, Dr. Zeff now gets to share in the experience of having witnessed many new inductees to Hall of Fame while they were competing for NWU. “They have a certain level of talent, they have a work ethic that helps them achieve full capabilities, and they’re leaders on the team.”
Dr. Zeff considers the Hall of Fame celebration the best part of his job. He enjoys congratulating these athletes and inviting them back home to share their stories: their relationships with teammates, the education they received, and how NWU helped them achieve excellence on the field and in the classroom.
Future NWU Hall of Famers continue this tradition of excellence. One-third of Nebraska Wesleyan students will compete in intercollegiate athletics during their time at NWU. While training methods and education on nutrition are evolving, work ethic and commitment stay the same. These values have been put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dr. Zeff continues to see NWU student-athletes coming out on top. “It is frustrating for all, but student-athletes are doing the best they can. They work hard and are extremely excited to be back in a more normal competition schedule.”
NWU strives to support its student-athletes through ups and downs. NWU President Darrin Good, who frequently cheers on Prairie Wolves from the stands, wants to elevate the student-athlete experience by providing more resources, including more assistant coaches and new facilities.
During the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in October, Dr. Good shared his belief that athletics are “the heart and soul of this school” with student-athletes and their competitions as an integral part of campus culture. He has made it a priority to attend to student-athlete success in competition and in the classroom so that every student can succeed in their life after NWU.
It takes a village to raise a college athlete. The W Club is devoted to every NWU student-athlete’s success. Established in the 1970s, the W Club helps fund team banquets and projects across athletics that raise teams’ excellence and school spirit. Learn more or make your annual W Club gift today: https://nwusports.com/sports/2013/10/9/WClub.aspx
Story by Quynn Kennedy ('23)