Class of 1996
Seven Selected to First Hall of Fame Class
A group of seven highly acclaimed and honored individuals were selected as the inaugural class of inductees in the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame. The inaugural class was inducted on Oct. 5, 1996.
The inductees were headlined by legendary coach and athletic director W.B. "Red" Reese, who coached in almost 1,000 Eastern athletic events from 1930 to 1964. Reese, who passed away in 1974 at the age of 72, was inducted posthumously in ceremonies that took place in the facility that bears his name (Reese Court).
The group also includes three members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame, an Olympic gold medalist, a National Football League star and a coach who rebuilt the Eastern football program in the 1960's.
"This first class of inductees represents some of the most successful eras and individuals associated with the nearly 90-year history of intercollegiate athletics at Eastern," then athletic director John Johnson said. "This is an out standing group, but we're just as excited about the future opportunities we'll have to honor and induct equally-deserving groups of athletes. I'm pleased we finally got the Hall of Fame started in order that we can rekindle the spirit and history of Eastern athletics."
Spokane's Dave Holmes joined Reese as the two former Eastern coaches who were inducted. He took over an Eastern football program in 1963 that hadn't won a game in two seasons. In Holmes' fifth year on the job, he directed the Savages to an 11-1 record and runner-up finish in the 1967 NAIA Championships.
Basketball player Irv Leifer, wrestler Lanny Davidson and distance runner Bob Maplestone are all members of the NAIA Hall of Fame. Leifer, who was MVP of the 1947 NAIA Tournament and named to the NAIA's 50th anniversary team in 1987, was in the NAIA's inaugural class of inductees in 1952.
Davidson compiled a 139-6 record with three national titles at 177 pounds, including in 1977 when he helped lead Eastern to the NAIA title. Maplestone won four NAIA track and field titles in the mile and 1,500 meters, and once held Britain's indoor mile record.
The other two inductees enjoyed remarkable success after equally-productive collegiate careers at Eastern. Launi Meili won the gold medal in women's three-position smallbore rifle shooting at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. And offensive lineman Ed Simmons spent 11 seasons with the 1992 Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins.
Every year of his collegiate career was punctuated with a major accomplishment as he finished with a career record of 139-6 while wrestling in the 177-pound weight class. Coming to Eastern from Ephrata, Wash., he was runner-up as a freshman, then was selected as the outstanding wrestler at the 1975 NAIA Championships as a sophomore. That was the first of his three-straight 177-pound titles as he led Eastern to a runner-up finish in the 1976 NAIA championships and the title in 1977. Davidson was selected to the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1982.
After Eastern failed to win a football game in 1961 and 1962, Holmes took over as Eastern's head coach in 1963. He was 34-13-1 in five seasons for a school-record .719 winning percentage. In 1967 Eastern played for the NAIA title and was 11-1-0. Holmes sandwiched his stint at Eastern around an illustrious high school coaching career in Spokane. A Tonasket High School and Whitworth College graduate, he was 35-28-4 at North Central High School prior to taking over Eastern's program. He left Eastern in 1968 to take the head coaching position at Hawaii where he directed the Rainbows to six-straight winning seasons. The last two years, Hawaii was 8-3 and 9-2 and upset Washington at Husky Stadium in 1973. Holmes returned to Spokane and coached at University High School from 1974-84. The Titans were 60-38-3, won a Border League title and shared two Greater Spokane League championships as Holmes concluded a 19-year prep coaching record with a 95-66-7 record. In 1991, Holmes was selected to the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame, with his former player and assistant coach Dick Zornes presenting him for induction. A member of five different halls of fame, he passed away in 1999.
Was MVP of the 1947 NAIA Tournament as Eastern reached the quarterfinals for the second-straight year. Eastern appeared in five NAIA Tournaments in the school's history, and Leifer played in four of them. Eastern was 18-7, 27-5, 31-4 and 22-9 in his four seasons in Cheney for a collective record of 98-25 (.797 winning percentage). As a junior and senior he was selected to NAIA All-Tournament teams. Although NAIA All-Americans were not selected until 1951, he was named to the NAIA's 50th anniversary team in 1987. Leifer earned All-State honors at Pine City High School in 1940 and St. John High School in 1941. In 1941 he teamed with his younger brother Bob, who was also an All-State selection, to second place in the state after a slim 30-29 loss to Bremerton in the finals. The 1952 state program described Leifer's effort as "the greatest all-around one-man performance in tourney history." At Eastern, he scored 1,550 career points to rank second in school history. He went on to a highly-successful coaching career at Renton High School, becoming the first man to coach four state basketball champions. He was selected as a charter member of the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1952. In 1983 he was named to the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame.
Coming to Eastern from Cardiff, Wales, he was NAIA champion in the indoor mile in 1971 and 1972, the outdoor mile in 1971 and the outdoor 1,500 meters in 1972. As a junior and senior he added second-place outdoor finishes in the mile to his resume. He set Britain's indoor mile record in 1972 with a 3:59.2 time at the San Diego Indoor. A few months later, he beat Jim Ryun at the Drake Relays en route to setting the meet's mile record with a 4:00.4 time. He still holds three Eastern records as he won more than a dozen Evergreen Conference individual titles and three cross country championships. His running career also included a pair of titles in the 1,500 meters at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., and a career-best of 3:57.6 in the mile. He went on to a successful teaching and coaching career at Highline Community College in the Seattle area. He became a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1981.
A graduate of Eastern and Cheney High School, she won the gold medal in women's three-position smallbore rifle shooting at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She also placed 11th in air rifle in Barcelona after placing sixth in air rifle and seventh in three-position rifle at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. Meili also won a bronze medal at the World Championships in 1990. In all, she set three world shooting records and more than 100 national records in her outstanding shooting career. She competed in shooting at EWU, leading Eastern to a seventh-place finish at the 1983 NCAA Men's and Women's Rifle Championships. Meili was inducted into the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and was the Inland Empire Athlete of the Year in 1992.
A fixture in the Eastern athletic department from the 1930's to 1960's, Reese coached in almost 1,000 Eastern athletic events, winning more than 70 percent of them. In 31 seasons as basketball coach, Reese was 473-298 with 12 conference titles and berths in three NAIA Tournaments. As football coach for 13 seasons, Eastern won 66 of 100 games with six conference championships. In 31 seasons as track coach, his squads won 23 league championships, and at one time won 43 consecutive dual meets. In addition, Reese served as athletic director at Eastern from 1938-62 and was instrumental in the founding of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. He served as NAIA president in the 1952-53 academic year and was an NAIA board member for 12 years. His only years away from Cheney came during World War II when he served as physical fitness officer and football coach for the Second Air Force. He came to Eastern from highly- successful coaching stints at Cashmere and North Central High Schools. At Cashmere, his hoop teams were 44-7, and at North Central his 1930 team won a state championship. Formerly from Pullman, Wash., Reese was selected to the Inland Empire Hall of Fame in 1972, and is also a member of the Hall of Fame at Washington State University where he graduated and competed in basketball.
The first Eastern football player to become a bonafide star in the National Football League, Simmons was recruited to Eastern not because of his football abilities but from the potential shown as a basketball player at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Wash. Under head coach Dick Zornes and offensive line coach Larry Hattemer, Simmons developed into a first team NCAA Division I-AA All-America offensive lineman in 1986. Eastern teams were 27-15-1 during his four years as an Eagle (1983-86), advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs in 1985. In the spring of 1987 he was drafted in the sixth round by Washington and was a fixture as a Redskin "Hog" for his entire 11-year NFL career. His debut as a rookie was against Philadelphia's Reggie White. He has played the past nine seasons mostly at right tackle for the Redskins, starting 80 games during that span. He blocked for former Washington State University quarterback Mark Rypien when Washington won the 1992 Super Bowl. In 1995 Simmons was selected to the Sports Illustrated All-NFC East team, and played 1,039 of a possible 1,042 downs. He started 104 games for the Redskins before retiring prior to the 1998 season while on the roster of the St. Louis Rams.