Heisman Club Inducts Hall of Famers


Emma Webster

Four new black-and-white photos will be added to the newly updated Heisman Club Hall of Fame display in Philips Gym when alumnus Don Hunsinger, Thomas B. Geiger Jr., Toju Omatete and Shannon Houlihan are officially inducted today.

Jackie McDermott, Sports Editor

The recently revamped Heisman Club Hall of Fame will add four new members this weekend, inducting a legendary coach and administrator, an All-American swimmer and two of the most decorated track and field athletes in school history.

Don Hunsinger, Thomas B. Geiger Jr., OC ’76, Shannon Houlihan, OC ’94 and Toju Omatete, OC ’90, will be honored at the Hall of Fame induction dinner on Friday, Sept. 23 to kick off Homecoming weekend.

Don Hunsinger

For 32 years, Hunsinger served as director of athletics and physical education and a professor and was a professor for 32 years from 1970–1972 and 1978–2008.

Hunsinger coached almost every sport Oberlin offered. He served as head coach of men’s and women’s tennis, football and baseball and assistant coached men’s and women’s basketball. Hunsinger’s diverse sporting mind made him a four-time North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year who won a total 435 games over his decades-long career.

But Hunsinger said that his Hall of Fame induction speech on Friday will credit his success to his players — 14 of whom are also in the Hall of Fame — and his colleagues.

“I’m going to talk about what a privilege it was to work at such a fine institution and all the wonderful young men and women I got to coach and all the coaches I got to work with,” said Hunsinger.

“The best part of coaching athletics at Oberlin was the great student-athletes I got to work with every day.”

He is still active in Oberlin athletics and frequents the Oberlin tennis courts which bear his name. The NCAC award that honors an outstanding male student athlete annually is also named after Hunsinger, one of the founders of the conference.

A northeast Ohio native, Hunsinger still resides in Oberlin and serves the NCAC by directing the NCAC tennis tournament and assistant directing the swimming championships.

He remains active in the Heisman Club, an organization which he was instrumental in starting. Hunsinger has served on the Hall of Fame selection committee since its genesis. His fellow Heisman Club members pulled a bit of good-natured trickery to keep Hunsinger from knowing that he was on this year’s ballot. When he was voting for this year’s inductees, they sent him a ballot that didn’t have his name on it. But when the results came in, it was revealed that he was an inductee.

“To be on that wall with the people that have preceded me—it still hasn’t hit home that that’s going to happen,” Hunsinger said.

“It’s beyond my wildest imagination that that would ever take place. I think after Friday night I will breathe a sigh of relief that it really is true, that I’m not dreaming this.”

Thomas Geiger Jr.

Thomas Geiger is a former All-American and former school record holder in three events whose endurance and dedication to swimming made him one of the standout athletes of the 1970s.

Geiger was coached by fellow Heisman Club Hall of Fame member and former Head swimming and diving Coach Dick Michaels.

Michaels said it took some time in the Oberlin swimming program for Geiger to realize his potential, but once he did, his talent was undeniable.

“He was really, really good and kind of an interesting story was that he did things in practice that we didn’t see in meets. He would just swim workouts in practice you couldn’t believe,” Michaels said.

“We finally figured out that he had to be worked out really hard before a meet or else he couldn’t swim well. So the morning of a meet I would have him go through a workout and take him back to the meet later in the day and he would swim really well.”

That ability to swim all day enabled Geiger to win back to back events.

“I would swim him back-to-back frequently in the 1,000 and the 200 free. So he would swim the 1,000 just fast enough to win it and get out of the pool and sit on the block and wait for everybody else to finish, then come back and win the 200 in the very next event,” said Michaels.

Geiger was a Great Lakes Athletic Conference Champion and school record holder in the 500- and 1,000-meter races and also notched a school record in the 1,650-yard event. In the 1,650-yard race, Geiger earned his greatest achievement — a ninth place finish at the NCAA championships and All-America honors.

Michaels said the level of swimming in the North Coast Athletic Conference makes Geiger’s achievements even more impressive, as he competed against multiple-time national champion teams such as Denison University and Kenyon College. He said there is no doubt Geiger belongs in the Hall of Fame.

“In my business we have finite bounds. We have a stopwatch that tells us if you’re good or not. And so he was an All-American, he was in the top dozen athletes in the country in his events and that proved it. And he was a conference scorer in the top [six] every year in his events in the best Division III swimming conference in the country year after year after year. So there’s no question,” Michaels said.

After graduating from Oberlin, Geiger married his college sweetheart, Paulette, an Oberlin Conservatory graduate. The two settled in Toledo, Ohio. Geiger is the President of Capital Tire, Inc., a large wholesale tire business, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Lourdes College.

Shannon Houlihan and Toju Omatete

 The two youngest inductees, Houlihan and Omatete, have more in common than the fact that they were both track and field athletes. Both were outstanding athletes in an array of events and are two of Oberlin’s most decorate track athletes of all time.

Heisman Club Hall of Fame committee chair JD Donovan said Houlihan’s ability to run almost any event made her outstanding.

“When she ran, she was kind of a jack-of-all-trades person,” Donovan said.

“Whatever event they needed her to run in, she ran it and did very well. So she’s probably one of the more outstanding track athletes of the last couple decades.”

Houlihan dominated the triple jump throughout her four years at Oberlin. She was an NCAC Indoor Champion in the event four years in a row and earned NCAC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year honors during her senior year. She qualified for the NCAA Championships in the event twice, and set an Oberlin record during her freshman year with a jump of 36–11. That record stood until 2016.

Houlihan also excelled in the 55-meter hurdles and 4×200 meter relay. Over the course of her career, she earned a total of five NCAC championships and 19 all-conference accolades.

Houlihan also played field hockey and was a senior captain of the squad.

She later turned athletics into a career and is now the head track and field coach and a cross country assistant coach at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN.

Houlihan will be joined in the Hall of Fame by fellow triple jumper Omatete, who Donovan also said stood out because of his range of abilities.

“He was like Shannon, he ran in most every event,” said Donovan.

“In fact, there’s a story — one of his good friends [a former runner at Denison University] was talking about him at a track meet and said, ‘Oh yeah, I remember him, he ran every event every time I ran against him.’ I’m sure that wasn’t the case but he certainly was a multiple-event runner and very talented.”

Omatete’s ability to perform in many events both outdoors and indoors set him apart. He collected 14 All-NCAC honors, seven indoor and seven outdoor, and held school records in field and running events.

During his freshman year, Omatete set the tone for a winning career. He won the NCAC outdoor 400m championship in school-record time. He also won a triple jump NCAC championship, clearing 44-03. In an Oberlin track career that spanned just three years, he earned school records in the triple jump, 400 meters and 4×400 meter relay.

Omatete is a teacher and academic counselor who most recently worked as GED Coordinator and Instructor at the Latin America Youth Center in Washington, D.C.

Additional reporting by Jack Brewster.