The Rensselaer Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee has chosen five individuals for induction into Rensselaer’s Athletics Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 consists of Jay Bernardo ’07 (football), Bryan Richardson ’96 (hockey), Felicia Tsai ’07 (track & field), Stephanie Vanek ’06 (softball), and Mike Griffin (basketball coach).
Among the highlights from this prestigious class are All-League, All-Region, and All-America awards; NCAA Championship appearances; numerous school and league standards; and an NCAA Division III record.
“The 2017 inductees into the Rensselaer Athletics Hall of Fame represent the tradition, spirit and high level of excellence emblematic of the Institute,” said Lee McElroy, associate vice president and director of athletics. “These outstanding individuals attained feats that reflect the members of the Rensselaer Athletics Hall of Fame who are among the top contributors and leaders in the world. We welcome them and look forward to a significant celebration of their distinguished careers.”
A running back from East Greenbush, N.Y., Bernardo rushed for 3,550 yards and a school-record 47 touchdowns as a four-year varsity performer. He also caught 44 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. The LaSalle Institute graduate had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, including his junior year when he ran for 1,422 yards—including an NCAA record 99-yard TD—and 19 touchdowns, along with 24 receptions for 201 yards. He followed that with 1,080 yards and 15 scores with 11 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in 2006. A management major, Bernardo was a two-time captain, named All-League three times, and earned All-Region twice while helping the Engineers to a 31-11 record in his tenure.
Richardson, a forward from Pointe-Claire, Quebec, averaged 1.37 points per game in 141 career contests. He scored 80 goals with 113 assists for 193 points and currently ranks fourth in school history in career assists and eighth in points. He scored 20 goals or more three times and had 50 or more points in two seasons. An All-ECAC honoree three times, Richardson had 23 goals and 29 assists for 52 points in 36 games as a sophomore and later notched 20 goals and 36 assists in 35 games as a senior. The team eclipsed the 20-win mark twice in his four years, including his freshman year when he was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team, and had 19 wins another season. Richardson graduated with a degree in management.
In three seasons in track & field, Tsai was a six-time NCAA Championship Meet participant as a thrower, qualifying in both indoor and outdoor each year. The Olney, Md., native was a four-time National All-America, twice in indoor and twice in outdoor. She was sixth (2006) and seventh (2007) in the nation in the indoor weight throw and fourth (2006) and fifth (2007) in the outdoor hammer. Tsai, who also threw the discus, set numerous school, Liberty League, and New York State Collegiate Track Conference records throughout her career, which featured four conference Field Performer of the Year awards. Tsai graduated from Rensselaer with a degree in chemistry.
A shortstop, outfielder, and pitcher from Smithtown, N.Y., Vanek was a two-time captain, three-time All-League honoree and twice named All-Region. In 134 career games, she hit nearly .400 (.398) with 25 doubles, 10 triples, and 18 home runs while scoring 150 runs and knocking in 83. She also set the school record for career stolen bases with 63. Vanek hit over .400 twice, scored more than 40 runs twice, and stole at least 15 bases three times. She was All-League as a shortstop twice, outfielder once, and pitcher once. From the circle Vanek was 13-6 with a 1.31 earned run average and 106 strikeouts. The mechanical engineering major helped Rensselaer to a 93-40-2 record, including a school record 36 wins (36-6) in her senior year.
Griffin, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., was head basketball coach from 1984 to 2011, retiring following a 30-year career in which he saw numerous team and individual records set—including his own for most wins in school history—and even more post-season accolades, Hall of Fame inductees, and Dean’s List student-athletes. He retired with a mark of 402-382, including one season as the head women’s coach (1994-95), guiding the Engineers to eight post-season appearances, including three NCAA Tournaments (1991, 1996, and 2009). His teams posted at least 20 wins twice and 17-or-more victories eight times, earning him the league’s Coach of the Year award five times (1990, 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2011). Griffin coached more than 40 All-League honorees, five League Players of the Year, six All-ECAC selections, four D3hoops.com All-Region members, and an All-State choice. He is a three-time Marvin H. Anderson Award recipient as Rensselaer’s Coach of the Year, as voted on by his peers. A graduate of Columbia University, he was also the freshman lacrosse coach, physical education instructor, and assistant athletic director at Rensselaer.
Griffin and the former student-athletes will be inducted at Rensselaer’s annual Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held on April 29 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy. Anyone interested in attending the ceremony, including former teammates, should contact Sachi Vines, director of marketing and promotions, at (518) 276-4855 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.