Central to add three to athletics hall of honor

PELLA—Three graduates who notched victories on the NCAA postseason stage are the newest inductees in the Central College Athletics Hall of Honor.

Longtime football defensive coordinator Don De Waard ’82, former NCAA Division III javelin champion and volleyball standout Alicia Whisner Fisher ’07 and George Wares ’76, the winningest softball coach in Division III history, will be inducted as part of Central’s homecoming activities this fall.

A banquet for the honorees is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29 in the Harry and Bernice Vermeer Banquet Hall in the Graham Conference Center. The banquet is open to the public but there is a charge for the meal and reservations are required.

Established in 2002, Central’s Hall of Honor is intended to recognize those who were not only exceptional performers in the athletics arena as a student-athlete, coach or administrator, but who have distinguished themselves in life after graduation through service and leadership. To be eligible for consideration, a nominee must have graduated or served as a Central coach/administrator at least 15 years earlier. Current Central staff members are typically not considered. This year’s inductions will raise the hall’s membership level to 69.

A rotating nine-member selection committee includes alumni from four different eras (prior to 1980, 1980-89, 1990-99 and 2000-09) as well as two alumni at-large, along with athletics director Eric Van Kley and two other staff members.

Longtime football assistant De Waard a community servant—A memorable 34-year run as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Central College football team ended in 2015 but hasn’t slowed the efforts De Waard makes on behalf of the college and community.

He’s served as Pella’s mayor since 2020 but quietly helped others in less visible ways as well. A certified public accountant, since 2006 De Waard has volunteered with Partners Worldwide, sometimes traveling to Honduras twice each year to help residents start and grow businesses, teaching classes in basic accounting. He was part of a group that created the Well Resource Center in Pella, which offers assistance to Marion County residents in need, and was a board member there for six years. He also spent six years on the board of directors for the Cary Christian Center, a ministry which provides support for those in need in the Cary, Mississippi area. It’s located in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. and also battles one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates. De Waard has served multiple terms as elder and deacon with Faith Christian Reformed Church where he’s also assisted with the Sunday nursery. He’s been part of the church’s Kids Hope program for 20 years, meeting weekly with a local elementary school student and serving as a mentor. And he’s part of a group that created and operates the Molengracht, a Pella downtown redevelopment project.

De Waard was far more prominent on the football sidelines where he displayed a fiery persona in masterminding some of the stingiest defenses in the storied Central program’s history, helping the Dutch post five shutouts in 1985 and again in 1994. He was named the American Football Coaches Association’s Division III Assistant Coach of the Year in 2000.

After briefly attending college in 1975 before leaving to help with his family’s farm near Kanawha, Iowa, De Waard was not eligible to compete when he enrolled as a non-traditional student at Central in 1979, so he started as a student assistant coach for AFCA Hall of Fame coach Ron Schipper and took over as linebackers coach after graduating in 1982. De Waard missed the 1983 season while launching the De Waard and Van Maanen accounting firm in Pella, but returned the following year, eventually taking on defensive coordinator duties while continuing to work full time. During his tenure, the Dutch were 302-55 (.801) with 18 Iowa Conference championships, 18 NCAA playoff berths and two appearances in the Division III title game, the Amos Alonzo Staff Bowl. His defenses posted 55 shutouts, recording 17 consecutive shutout quarters in 1993-94. Seven players he coached received all-America honors.

De Waard helped promote football internationally, accompanying Schipper in coaching a team of Division III all-stars sponsored by the American Football Coaches Association each December at the Aztec Bowl in Mexico. De Waard remained involved when that game morphed into Tazon de Estrellas (Bowl of the Stars) without AFCA support, serving as U.S. head coach for the final six seasons before the game was discontinued in 2020.

De Waard still attends nearly every Central football game both home and away, and frequently serves as a color commentator for the game broadcasts on KRLS-FM (92.1).

Fisher a two-sport star and academic leader – In her final performance in a Central uniform, Fisher uncorked the first-place javelin throw at the 2007 NCAA Division III Championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Graduating with honors while competing nearly year-round in two sports, she also received an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and was the Iowa Conference’s nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Fisher was a three-time all-America honoree, with fifth- and fourth-place national-meet showings in the javelin in 2005 and 2006, respectively. She was also 13th in the NCAA shot put in 2007. She was a four-time conference outdoor meet placewinner in the javelin, also placing twice in the discus and once in the shot put. She placed in the weight throw and shot put at the 2007 indoor league meet.

Central’s Most Valuable Field Events Performer in 2007, Fisher was a team co-captain and received the Most Valuable Freshman Award in 2004.

In volleyball Fisher was a member of three NCAA tournament teams and helped the Dutch claim four conference crowns. She was a two-year team co-captain, receiving the team’s Academic Award in 2005 and Leadership Award in 2006.

In 2013 Fisher received a doctor of physical therapy degree from Des Moines University, returning to her hometown of Adel, Iowa to serve as a physical therapist for Core Physical Therapy.

Wares a transformational Central athletics figure—The nation’s winningest NCAA Division III softball coach with a staggering 1232-437-3 (.737) record, Wares has not only crafted a championship-drenched coaching resume over nearly four decades but is credited by many with changing the way the game is played. He’ll be welcomed to the Central athletics hall by eight of his former players whose induction he proudly witnessed previously.

Inheriting a squad in 1985 that had compiled just one winning record in its 11-year existence, Wares propelled the team to a stunning national runner-up finish just a year later and has transformed Central softball into what is now regarded as one of the college’s most impactful programs.

He continues to enhance his record-setting numbers as this year’s squad completed its 28th 30-win season and the Dutch return the bulk of their lineup for 2024 when Wares starts his 40th campaign, still bringing his trademark enthusiasm and passion for the game. His tenure is already the longest of any head coach in school history.

Challenging his players to set seemingly unattainable goals on and off the field and to pursue them relentlessly, Wares has guided the Dutch to a Division III record 31 Division III tournament berths, including a regional berth this past spring. His teams have captured four of the school’s 11 national titles (1988, 1991, 1993, 2003), with a pair of runner-up finishes (1986, 2001) while reaching the national finals 13 times. Central has also won 13 conference titles.

Regarded as a national leader within the softball coaching profession, Wares was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Pleasantville High School Hall of Fame last fall. He served a three-year term as Midwest Region Representative on the NCAA Division III Softball Championships Committee (2017-19) and previously spent three years as a member of the NCAA Division III Midwest Region Advisory Committee, which he later chaired.

He served two terms as the Division III representative on the NFCA Board of Directors and spent six years on the NFCA Division III All-America Selection Committee, including two years as chair. He also served two years on the NFCA Coaching Staff of the Year Committee and was the Midwest Region representative of the NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll Committee from 2014-19. He has been a featured presenter at several national NFCA coaching clinics as well as at the organization’s national convention.

Wares previously spent seven years as girls softball coach at NESCO High School in Zearing, Iowa, posting a 214-94 record and piloting three squads to state tournament berths. He was named all-area coach of the year three times.

Wares also served as a high school boys basketball coach for 18 years, including seven at NESCO and 11 at Pella High School. He compiled a 259-106 career record, earning four state tournament berths, with two state runner-up finishes. He served for four seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Central.

Posted by on Jun 5 2023. Filed under College Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed


Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google
Log in | Copyright by Oskaloosa News