Fairfield University added seven new names to the Fairfield Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday night with a ceremony in the Dolan School of Business Event Hall. The night was filled with community and nostalgia, as those honored gathered with family, friends and staff to celebrate their achievements. Those added to the list of legendary names include Ann Burgoyne ‘17, the late Dr. Wayne Gibbons ‘70, Bob Heussler P’09, Tyler Nelson ‘18, Ryan Plourde ‘14, Paulina Rys ‘10, and the 1998 Fairfield football team.  

The ceremony was kicked off by brief remarks from University President Mark Nemec and Vice President of Athletics Paul Schlickmann, followed by a dinner and cocktail reception. Gene Doris, 2023 Inductee and Director of Athletics from 1994-2017, was honored first since he could not make it to last year’s ceremony. Doris reflected on his time at Fairfield as Director of Athletics and noted that at Fairfield, “there’s a sense of friendship, common purpose and values that’s difficult to find in a workplace.” He also reminisced on the old layout of the university while praising the improvements that have been made in recent years, “The baseball layout provided many splinters for anyone who wanted to see the games. Only basketball had dedicated locker rooms. Be proud of yourselves for all you’ve accomplished here at Fairfield.” 

Each inductee honored was introduced with a highlight reel of their achievements and applause that surely brought them back to the glory days. 

Burgoyne was recognized for being the all-time leading scorer in Fairfield field hockey history, racking up 56 goals and 126 total points in just three years while leading the Stags to their first-ever MAAC Championship. 

Heussler was the play-by-play broadcaster for Fairfield men’s basketball from 1983 to 1988 and continued to serve the Fairfield University community by acting as a mentor to students at the campus radio station, WVOF. Heussler continued his career with WFAN and has done play-by-play for the UConn Men’s Basketball team, the Connecticut Sun and the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.

Nelson is the all-time leading scorer for Fairfield men’s basketball, with 2,172 points from 2014 to 2018. Averaging 17.1 points per game, he ranks eighth all-time on career charts. Scoring 732 points in his senior season of 2017-28, Nelson led the Stags to the MAAC Championship Game for that season. 

Plourde was chosen for the All-MAAC First Team twice and the All-New England First Team while playing for Fairfield baseball. Catching and playing in the outfield for the Stags, Plourde put up a career average of .323 from 2011 to 2014. He currently ranks among the top 10 in program history with 224 hits, 11 triples, 121 walks, 324 total bases, 117 RBI and 139 runs scored.

Rys helped lead Fairfield women’s tennis to back-to-back MAAC Championships in 2009 and 2010. The All-MAAC First Team Singles and Doubles performer in 2009 was also chosen as the MAAC Player of the Year and Championship MVP in the same year. During her second championship campaign in 2010, Rys was chosen as a First Team Singles and Second Team Doubles honoree.

The late Dr. Gibbons had an impact on and off the court at Fairfield University. He was one of eleven 1,000 point scorers in Fairfield men’s basketball history. With a total of 1,016 points, Gibbons averaged 13.2 points per game in his career. Post-graduation, Gibbons went on to become a doctor and went on mission trips to countries including Guatemala, Nigeria and Ghana for almost 40 years. Gibbons passed away on July 24, 2019, at the age of 70; his daughters accepted the award on his behalf. In their acceptance speech, they recalled some of his best moments with Fairfield, including his buzzer-beater to beat Villanova in the Palestra during the 1967-68 season. His daughters extended their gratitude to the University, saying “Thank you Fairfield for loving our dad.” 

Throughout the night, each acceptance speech was highlighted with the catchphrase “Go Stags!” that got the crowd of athletes, friends and family to cheer with pride each time. 

The 1998 Fairfield football team had the best season in the history of the program, in just its third year as an NCAA I-AA program. The 9-2 Stags were led by Head Coach Kevin Kiesel, posting up an impressive 7-1 record against conference opponents and leading the nation in rushing defense and total defense. They finished their season with eight consecutive wins, ultimately winning the ‘98 MAAC title.  

Pat Grugan ‘01, nose guard for the ‘98 team felt the growth between his time as a student on N. Benson Road and now, saying, “For me personally, being back on campus and driving around with my family, I was very excited to show them all the great advancements made to the athletic facilities, fields, Rafferty Stadium and of course Mahoney Arena. It meant a lot to me, for my children to see that Fairfield isn’t afraid or bashful to invest in sports, and having such a tremendous Arena so present and center on campus made it very easy to feel the sense of pride that Fairfield University has for its Stags!” 

After captain and quarterback Jim Lopusznick ‘00 was asked what being inducted into the Hall of Fame means for their team, he answered, “Having this ‘98 football team being placed in the Hall of Fame for the accomplishments of the group, now makes this team the best I have ever been a part of in my career! It means that we achieved the highest level of greatness as a group, which in my opinion, is much tougher to do vs. individual achievement.”

This induction also brings about a sense of hope for a potential revival of the football program at Fairfield. Lopusznick shared his dreams for a revival, “Bringing back the football program at Fairfield University is something that I have dreamt about.” The sense of pride Lopusznick felt when he was a part of the team stuck with him, and he expressed his feelings about the program ending in 2003, “The type of pride that you would like to share with others, in hopes that they might achieve that greatness one day. Having that taken away from you is metaphorically like losing a family member.” Lopusznick signed off on his approval of a revival, saying “I would unequivocally support the resurgence of a Football Program at FU, and would do everything in my power to help support the program.”

The weekend of the induction was filled with recollections of the athlete’s favorite moments and to All-MAAC placekicker and all-time leading scorer for Fairfield football Stephen Mirasolo ‘02, it was the win against Duquesne in Pittsburgh after a tie which sent them to overtime and they came out on top. “I fondly remember celebrating on the field with teammates, and our families and fans rushing onto the field.  Seeing my dad and giving him a big hug is a memory I’ll always cherish. We went into the locker room and found our way into the Duquesne pool where players were jumping in with all their equipment.  We still talk about it to this day because that was the game that propelled us to the ‘98 MAAC title.”

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- Freshman | Assistant Sports Editor | Political Science Major -

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