Five inducted into hall of fame

Five inducted into hall of fame

Five Stout outstanding athletes, four from the early 1980's, were inducted into the UW-Stout Hall of Fame in ceremonies Nov. 4.

Gymnast Paul Speltz, baseball player Joe Vavra, football player Bob Johnson, track athlete Nanci Halvorson-Schillinger and basketball player Bill Peterson entered the hallowed hall.

Speltz was a member of the final Stout men's gymnastics team that won the 1984 NAIA national championship, Stout's only team national championship team.

Speltz dominated the pommel horse, setting the school record in 1984 with a 9.65. He won the NAIA pommel horse title in 1983 and 1984 as well as the NCAA Division II pommel horse title in 1983. One of only three Stout gymnasts to ever earn a berth to the NCAA Division I championships, Speltz placed 20th in 1983.

"Winning the NAIA team championship is my biggest thrill," Speltz said. "I found winning as a team a rewarding change from individual accomplishments."

Originally from Rochester, Minn., Speltz is employed by Vikings Electronics as a project engineer and resides in Woodbury, Minn. Speltz and former teammate Mark Rezac have recently started a company to develop and market a device that adds fire sounds to gas fireplaces.

Vavra will be remembered as the most dominant shortstop in Stout baseball history. He was the Blue Devils' leading hitter in 1980, 81 and 82 and the team MVP in 1981 and 82, the same years he was named all-district. He was an honorable mention All-America selection in 1982.

Vavra appears in the top ten of six Stout career records, including the top batting average (.402), and ranks second and third in single season batting average, hitting .472 in 1981 and 82.

Vavra was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1982 and worked his way through the farm system before illness took him off the playing field while playing AAA. Vavra stayed with the Dodgers as a coach, working at various levels in the farm system. In 1995, he was appointed the Dodger's major league base running coach. In 1989 and 1994, Vavra was named Baseball America magazine's "Short-A Season manager of the year."

Active in community events, Vavra yearly holds a baseball clinic at Stout for area youth.

A native of Chippewa Falls, Vavra calls Menomonie his home during the off-season.

Johnson is the Blue Devils' all-time leading rusher, tallying 2656 yards from 1979-82. A two-time all-WSUC first team pick, Johnson holds career records in rushing attempts (571) and most net yards (2656). He holds season records for most rushing attempts (209) and most touchdowns (13).

Playing in 42 consecutive games, Johnson was the team MVP in 1981 and 82 and was a NAIA honorable mention selection in 1981.

"I would not trade the experience of playing Stout football for anything," Johnson said. "The friendships, the coaches, the winning attitudes."

Johnson is employed by LithoTechnical Services in Bloomington, Minn., where he has been named the salesman of the month 14 times. Formerly from Hastings, Minn., Johnson resides in Eagan, Minn.

Halvorson-Schillinger still holds four individual women's track records and is part of another as a member of a relay team, running for the Blue Devils in 1981-82.

Halvorson-Schillinger holds outdoor records in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles, the heptathlon and was a member of the 4 X 100-relay team. Indoors, she holds the pentathlon record.

A two-time Wisconsin state hurdle champ, Halvorson-Schillinger earned NAIA All-American honors in 1981, placing third in the 400 hurdles and fourth in the 100 hurdles.

She resides in Edgar, Wis., her hometown, and is employed by Kolbe and Kolbe in Wausau.

Peterson played a point guard position for the Blue Devils basketball team in 1940-43 and 46-47 before the term was even known.

Peterson, deceased, scored 410 career points, but dribbling was his forte. When the Blue Devils qualified to the NAIA Nationals in Kansas City in 1942, he won over fans with a solo dribbling exhibition that may have lasted four minutes during an opening 47-42 win over Texas Wesleyan.

Peterson was also a master of the look away pass. As did many students, Peterson joined the armed services during World War II, then returned to Stout after the war.

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