Grinnell College Athletics

Grinnell College Athletics

The Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame will welcome 12 new members on Saturday, Aug. 30. A ceremony, slated for 10 a.m. in the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center Natorium, is free and open to the public. A dinner for the inductees and their families is scheduled for that evening. The 2014 Grinnell College Athletic Hall of Fame inductees are:
Diane “Dee” Fairchild served as Grinnell College’s director of athletics for 21 years, from 1986 to 2007. When named A.D. in 1986, she was among the first female athletic directors in the state to be in charge of both men’s and women’s sports programs. Over the years, Fairchild was responsible for a number of positive changes to the College’s athletics department and also coached tennis, golf, basketball, and field hockey. She provided extensive overview of the building and completion of the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center, possibly the premiere athletic facility in all of Division III, as well as numerous state-of-the-art athletic fields. She was a regular “team captain” and member of the Grinnell Town and Gown. Her other positions at the College included chair of the Department of Physical Education, member of the Executive Council, chair of the Affirmative Action Committee and division chair of special programs. She pursued her love of athletics in a variety of arenas. She served as Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference chair from 1986–87, Midwest Athletic Conference for Women/MCAC Merger Committee chair from 1991–94, Midwest Conference chair from 2006–07, member of the NCAA division III Athletic Management Council, and several other NCAA committees. She was frequently asked to be an external reviewer of physical education and athletic programs at liberal arts colleges across the country, including Pomona, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr. In 2013 at Grinnell, she helped to create the Title IX Policy which pertains to sexual harassment. Fairchild was rewarded for her tremendous contributions to the Midwest Conference with the Conference Meritorious Award, and most recently she served as interim Midwest Conference commissioner. Fairchild is already a member of the Mankato State University and Johnson State College Athletic Halls of Fame. In 2007, she was declared an Honorary Alumna of Grinnell College. She holds the title of associate professor emerita of physical education and lives near Grinnell.

Nick Ryan ’55 was a standout football player for the Pioneers and was considered one of the greatest running backs to ever play for Grinnell. A proud 1951 graduate of Missouri Valley (Iowa) High School, he was a four-time All-State band drummer. At Grinnell College, Ryan was named First-Team All-Midwest Conference as a halfback. Ryan also set the single-game rushing record that stood for nearly 20 years while also holding the record for season and career rushing. The single-game mark was against the undefeated conference champion, Carleton College, where he outgained the entire opposition’s backfield. For the season, he was 12th in the nation in rushing yardage. Grinnell coaching legend John Pfitsch called Ryan the “best open field running back” he’d seen at any division level. He was also a member of Grinnell’s track and field team, participating as a sprinter and long-jumper. However, his greatest contributions to Grinnell may have been off the field. Following a tour as an aircraft carrier qualified naval aviator, he served as an admissions counselor for Grinnell from 1959 to 1966, director of placement and student aid from 1966 to 1970, and finally dean of admissions and student financial aid until 1978. Professional activities included The College Board and College Scholarship Service, Educational Testing Service committees, regional review panel for campus-based programs with the U.S. Office of Education, president of the Iowa Association of School, College and University Staffing, secretary of the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, president of the Iowa Association of Student Financial Aid Administration, and president of the Iowa Association of College Admissions Counselors. His contributions helped recruit a number of talented student-athletes to Grinnell College. Additionally, he was a member of Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. He ended his career as a student financial officer for the University of Iowa before retiring in 1990. He lives in Grinnell, continuing to give back to the community.

Christine Thorburn M.D. ’92 qualified for the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships in 1989 and claimed the Midwest Conference title that year. The cross country star holds the 15th-best 5-kilometer time in Midwest Conference history. Thorburn also competed for the Grinnell track and field team, winning the individual MWC championship in the 3,000-meter run, 5,000, and 10,000 races. Following her graduation from Grinnell with a degree in chemistry, Thorburn set down the track spikes and picked up a bicycle instead. She experienced tremendous cycling success, competing for the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team in 2004 and 2008. She won the women’s individual time trial event at the U.S. Federation National Championships in 2004, placed fourth in the 2004 Athens Olympics Women’s time trial and placed fifth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Women’s time trial. On the academic side, in 1992 Thorburn won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Nepal and received her degree in medicine from Stanford University in 1999. Thorburn thrived in a career in rheumatology, serving as a fellow at Stanford University before becoming a physician at Palo Alto Medical Clinic. She lives in Portola Valley, Calif.

William Eric Blevins ’04 was a two-time All-American in diving. Nicknamed “Country,” he was the first diver, male or female, to win eight Midwest Conference diving championships and also the only Grinnell diver to accomplish the feat. He helped launch Grinnell’s “men’s swimming and diving dynasty,” winning conference titles in his second, third, and fourth years. He won the award for outstanding senior athlete in a single sport in 2004 and owned multiple pool records when he graduated with a major in economics. Blevins received a master’s in sports management from Minnesota State University-Mankato. He became a successful diving coach at a number of institutions, including being named head diving coach at his alma mater, Minnesota State University-Mankato. He is currently in his third season as diving coach at Division I Rider University in New Jersey. His coaching highlights include training two national qualifiers in Division III and five national qualifiers and three All-Americans in Division II. He was also named Missouri Valley Diving Coach of the Year while coaching at Indiana’s University of Evansville. Overall, Blevins has coached four Division I conference divers of the year – one at Evansville and three at Rider. In his free time he is a member of the Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP) for the admissions department at Grinnell, promoting the College at high schools on the East Coast.
Emilio Jacob Chavez ’01 has a rare claim to perfection, throwing the only perfect game in Grinnell College history. The All-American pitcher for the Pioneers was a three-time Midwest Conference South Division Pitcher of the Year, along with four-time All-Conference and three-time All-Region. Among his lengthy list of noticeable accomplishments, Chavez led all NCAA divisions in strikeouts per nine innings in 1999 and is the all-time strikeout and wins leader at Grinnell. A master of deceiving helpless batters, he holds the first, third, fourth, and seventh best single-season strikeout totals in Grinnell history. Chavez is also listed among the all-time NCAA Division III career leaders, along with former major league baseball pitcher Billy Wagner, in the categories of fewest hits allowed per nine innings and strikeout ratio. After graduating from Grinnell with a degree in economics, he pursued a professional baseball career in the Frontier League and Mexican League. He also graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law and is now the deputy district attorney for the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe, N.M. In 2010 and 2013, he was named 8th Judicial District Prosecutor of the Year.
Steve Diekmann ’95 was the exemplar student-athlete, becoming a two-time All-American in basketball and a two-time Academic All-American. He played an instrumental part in rebuilding Grinnell’s now incredibly successful basketball program. Diekmann was the leading scorer on the 1994 team that compiled Grinnell’s first winning season in nearly 30 years, averaging 34.4 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field. During his senior year, he averaged 37.3 points (the NCAA D-III record) as captain of another successful Grinnell team. He was named to multiple All-Conference teams and was the Midwest Conference South Division Co-Player of the Year in 1994. He also won the Morgan Taylor ’26 Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Senior Athlete in a Single Sport in 1995. His love for basketball remains strong. He plays when he can, including through a prison ministry with inmates at San Quentin State Prison, and has attended multiple men’s basketball reunions. Diekmann graduated from Grinnell with a degree in economics and later earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He had a 15-year career in the financial markets (most recently as a managing director at Nomura Securities) and now works as a director for The Leaven, a nonprofit organization. Diekmann lives in Alamo, Calif., with his wife Julie and their two children, Matthew and Hope.

Darren W. Young ’93 was a five-time qualifier for the NCAA Division III National Track and Field Championships. As a Pioneer sprinter and long jumper, he won nine Midwest Conference titles and established nine school records. He also set three Midwest Conference Championships records in the indoor 200-meter dash, indoor 300 and indoor long jump. He was elected men’s team captain and named its most valuable performer for three consecutive years. In 1993, he also received the David Theophilus ’51 Award as Grinnell College’s outstanding senior male athlete and was named the men’s most valuable performer at the Midwest Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. He ended his Pioneer career by leading the men’s team to its first Midwest Conference Championship since 1965. He graduated from Grinnell with a degree in economics and then from Washington University in St. Louis with an M.B.A. in finance and accounting. For more than two decades, he has continued to support the Grinnell College track and field teams, including as a two-time assistant coach and as the primary sponsor of the annual indoor track and field meet named in his honor. He now serves as head, exchange traded products, for RBC Wealth Management and lives in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. with his wife Anupama and three children, Jordan, Jaclyn, and Jaylen.

Stephanie Hitztaler ’96 was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Meet. The cross country and track star won several individual awards, including the Midwest Conference Cross Country Championship in 1994 and the Grace McIlrath Parker ’11 Trophy for Outstanding Senior Athlete in a Single Sport. She blazed through the second fastest 5-kilometer clocking in Grinnell history at the time, running the course at Chicago’s Lakefront Invitational in 18:37.9 during the fall of 1995. She was also a captain in track and finished sixth in the 1,500-meter run and third in the 3,000 at the 1994 Midwest Conference Track Championships. A Russian major at Grinnell, Hitztaler went on to earn M.S. and M.A. degrees in natural resources and environment and Russian and East European studies, and then a Ph.D. in natural resources and environment, all from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has spent extensive periods abroad working for environmental nongovernmental organizations and conducting research in the Russian Far East, including one year as a Fulbright Scholar. She currently lives in Jyväskylä, Finland, where she is working as a consultant for a NASA-funded project on land cover change in northern Eurasia.

Dan LaFountaine ’09 became the first men’s tennis player in Grinnell history to earn All-America honors, along with his doubles partner, Nate Fox ’09. LaFountaine and Fox were the first Grinnellians to ever secure a victory in NCAA Division III tournament play. LaFountaine also qualified for the NCAA Singles Championship in 2007, and was a four-time team Midwest Conference Champion. He and Fox won three Midwest Conference doubles crowns, and LaFountaine also won a singles title. Under his leadership, the Pioneers dominated league play with an incredible 124-4 record for individual matches; he and his teammates captured 29 MWC individual titles out of a possible 36. Twice during LaFountaine’s career, the netmen advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA regional tournament; and during his time the Grinnell program became a permanent fixture as a top-15 team in the Intercollegiate Association Central Region rankings. LaFountaine, who compiled an 86-13 career singles mark as a Pioneer, claimed numerous awards, including the Morgan Taylor ’26 Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Athlete in a Single Sport, and he earned Phi Beta Kappa academic honors as a junior. A career highlight would certainly be crushing nationally-ranked Robin Borg, the son of professional tennis star Bjorn Borg, 6-2, 6-0. LaFountaine graduated from Grinnell with an independent major in international relations. After Grinnell, he made plans to create a tennis academy to promote tennis in New Mexico. He was very active in spreading his love of tennis, through volunteering as a part-time coach and chaperone on tennis team spring break trips and assisting in recruiting for Grinnell tennis. Away from the court he was a director of operations in the home health care field; during his short career (he died in 2013), he hired two Grinnell graduates and guided five former teammates as they interned in the business.

David Malbrough ’35 was not a fan of losing. The Pioneer swimmer never lost a backstroke race in his four years at Grinnell and lost only one of his races during his senior year. With winning usually comes records, and Malbrough set Midwest Conference records in the 150-yard backstroke, 220 freestyle, and 100 backstroke. After Grinnell he continued to dominate in the pool for most of his life. He was a frequent U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) national champion and was a 33-time USMS All-American between 1994 and 2001. In the 1998 YMCA Nationals, he broke the record for age 85-plus in the 50-yard backstroke and the 500 freestyle. Malbrough’s swimming longevity was quite noteworthy, as he was featured in SWIM Magazine for being on one of the oldest relay teams in swimming history. Away from the pool, he graduated from Grinnell with a degree in business administration, holding a variety of jobs, ranging from sales director for the Boy Scouts of America to forming his own business, Malbrough Enterprises, a gift and gourmet accessory shop. He also gave back to Grinnell by serving as the alumni director at the College from 1954 to 1955; he won an Alumni Award in 1970. He died in 2001.

Rob Rollins ’86 had a full career as a Pioneer, qualifying for the NCAA Division III National Swimming and Diving Championships all four years and earning honorable mention All-American honors in his final race for Grinnell. He was Grinnell’s first two-time Academic All-American in swimming, won the President’s Medal, and set 10 varsity records. Rollins also received the Robert Ross ’53 Swimming Trophy in 1983 and 1984, as well as the Les Duke ’25 Trophy for Freshman Athlete of the Year in 1983, the Morgan Taylor ’26 Award, and the Honor G Scholastic Award in 1986. Rollins graduated with a degree in economics from Grinnell, then earned his M.B.A. in finance from Rice University. He had a 17-year career in finance, marketing, sales and operations with Mars Inc. and then taught in the nationally-ranked Miami University Business School for eight years. Throughout this time, Rollins stayed involved in swimming, winning three YMCA Masters national championships and coaching both Masters and Special Olympics athletes. He currently works as a financial adviser at Edward Jones Investments and lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his wife Cameron Hay ’88 and their children, Turner and Sydney. He is the younger brother of the legendary Bruce Rollins ’71.

Amy E. Walters ’01 was a three-sport standout athlete at Grinnell. In soccer she was an All-Midwest Conference First Team performer all four years, and was named MWC Player of the Year in 1998 and All-Region in 2000. She is the school record holder for career points and points per game and is second in career goals and career assists. In basketball, she was a three-time All-Conference player, and the school record holder for assists, second in steals, and seventh in career scoring. In track and field, Walters was the MWC champion in the 400-meter dash and was top 10 in school history in the 400, 800, 4×400 relay, and distance medley relay as well as the school record holder in the 4×100 relay. Unsurprisingly, she was named Freshman Athlete of the Year in 1998 and three years later claimed the Joyce Buck ’56 Memorial Trophy and Honor G Service Award. She graduated from Grinnell with a degree in sociology and began a career coaching soccer and teaching middle school. She has been teaching at Blake School in Hopkins, Minn., since 2001. After coaching soccer at Augsburg College and Hopkins High School, she is currently assistant coach for the boys’ varsity team at Blake and lives in St. Louis Park, Minn.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. A member of the Midwest Conference, Grinnell fields 20 sports for men and women. Nearly one-third of Grinnell students participate in intercollegiate sports, and over the past several years, Grinnell has led the Midwest Conference in Academic All-Conference honorees.

The Grinnell College Athletics Hall of Fame was created in 1995 to recognize the achievements of the college’s most accomplished student athletes. For more information about the Hall of Fame, go to



Posted by on Aug 26 2014. Filed under College Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed


Search Archive

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