James Draw­bridge ‘66 (left), Jeanie Adams, Thomas Kanka ‘84, and James McHugh ‘94 (right) were inducted into the Hillsdale College Ath­letic Hall of Fame on Sat­urday. (Photo: Sally Nichols / Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College Ath­letic Hall of Fame honored its four newest members on Sat­urday night. Jeanie Adams, James Draw­bridge ‘66, Thomas Kanka ‘84, and James McHugh ‘94 were all inducted into Hillsdale’s Hall of Fame at the 19th annual Hall of Fame Banquet. More than 200 people were in atten­dance at the Searle Center.

Each of the four inductees possess unique stories, and each left a lasting impact on Hillsdale ath­letics.

Unlike her three fellow inductees, Adams is not a former Charger athlete. From 1970 to 2014, Adams worked in Hillsdale’s ath­letic department, making her one of the longest-tenured employees in Hillsdale’s history. In her 44 years, Adams worked under five dif­ferent ath­letic directors.

“She served as exec­utive assistant to five ath­letic directors, which tells you who kept the ath­letic program moving during that time,” eco­nomics pro­fessor Gary Wolfram said during his intro­duction of Adams.

Adams never thought she’d become a member of Hillsdale’s Hall of Fame.

“I had the priv­ilege of orga­nizing this event for 16 years. I never dreamed I’d be a recipient,” she said. “I’m honored, I’m humbled, and I’m astounded. It’s just won­derful.”

Adams shared mem­ories from throughout her time working at Hillsdale and looked back fondly at the rela­tion­ships she made with coaches, admin­is­trators, and student ath­letes.

“There were very few times that I didn’t want to go to work,” Adams said. “I can truly say that I loved my job.”

Before Adams began working in the ath­letic department, Draw­bridge founded Hillsdale’s varsity hockey club.

In 1963, Draw­bridge put out posters around campus asking for stu­dents who might be inter­ested in forming a hockey club with him. About 12 skaters came to that first meeting. In its early years, the team would skate on Baw Beese lake or the pond in the Arb.

The club was unfunded, but when the team did have any money they would go skate at the Uni­versity of Michigan.

“Usually mid­night or 1 o’clock was the only time we could get on the ice,” Draw­bridge said. “We’d pile into three or four cars and drive up there and then skate.”

The club team played four games in its first season. In their final game, the Chargers traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to take on Ohio State’s JV hockey team. Hillsdale won 17 – 0.

A little later on, a hockey arena was built in Jackson, allowing the team to play and practice much closer to home.

“I think that really brought success to the program,” Draw­bridge said.

Hillsdale took on Purdue Uni­versity in Jackson in its final game of the 1968 – 69 season. It was standing room only.

“You couldn’t find a place even to walk,” Draw­bridge said. “Here’s the little Hillsdale College playing Purdue Uni­versity.”

The Chargers trailed 2 – 0 after the first period. They won 14 – 2.

“It was that team — that ‘68-‘69 team — our second place finish in the playoffs and the game against Purdue that proved to be the impetus for hockey becoming a varsity sport,” Draw­bridge said.

Hillsdale’s student body pre­pared a pro­posal in the spring peti­tioning the board of trustees to make hockey a varsity sport. The board approved it.

“For the first time probably in the school’s history a sport was made because of student ini­tiative,” Draw­bridge said.

After grad­u­ating, Draw­bridge coached the hockey team he created while serving as Hillsdale’s director of alumni rela­tions and job placement. He left Hillsdale in 1974.

“What Hillsdale gave me in addition to coaching was a pro­fession,” Draw­bridge said. “Early on we didn’t have school funding, so a lot of times I was out talking to mer­chants trying to raise money. When the stu­dents made it a varsity sport, they also had an opening in the devel­opment office. So I wound up as a fundraiser and Hillsdale gave me my pro­fession. For 40 years I was a fundraiser.”

Draw­bridge expressed grat­itude and dis­belief when he learned of his induction.

“To say I’m honored and humbled by this tribute would be an under­statement,” he said. “I was stunned. I just sat there, and I imme­di­ately thought of Lucy and Charlie Brown, and Charlie Brown thinking that Lucy was always going to leave the ball there. I would’ve pulled it out, so I was sure I was being punked.”

Kanka, an NAIA All-American defensive lineman with the Chargers in the early 1980s, was sim­i­larly humbled and aston­ished when he learned of his induction.

“I was speechless, which is not an easy feat to accom­plish,” Kanka said. “As I look out at this incredible turnout of former team­mates — high school and college — coaches, friends, and family, my hall of fame induction pales in com­parison to their atten­dance here today. For you all to be here today, to take time out of your busy lives, makes this a day I will never, never forget.”

Kanka helped lead Hillsdale’s dom­inant defense in the early ‘80s and was an integral part of the Chargers’ unde­feated regular season in 1982. But if it wasn’t for a short car ride with former Hillsdale ath­letic director Jack McAvoy before his freshman season, Kanka might never have played Charger football.

Kanka came to Hillsdale as a freshman out of shape and over­con­fident.

“I wasn’t ready phys­i­cally or men­tally to succeed at football or aca­d­emics when I came to campus in the summer of 1980,” Kanka said.

After five straight days of dawn patrol — he and his team­mates would wake up at 5 a.m. to run — Kanka had had enough.

“I was ready to quit,” Kanka said.

As Kanka made the trek across campus to Simpson Dor­mitory, worn out and ready to give up, McAvoy pulled up alongside Kanka and offered him a ride to Simpson.

“Cool, I don’t have to walk,” Kanka said.

Kanka got into the car and what McAvoy told Kanka has stuck with him for the past 37 years.

“You know that the deci­sions you make today will not only affect you for the rest of your life, but also your family,” McAvoy told him. “The coaches brought you here because they believed you could be a good college player. Stick around and prove they made the right decision.”

Kanka did just that.

“Those words changed my life,” Kanka said.

Since grad­u­ating, Kanka has founded Hillsdale’s Gridiron Club and has been heavily involved in fundraising.

The night’s final inductee, McHugh, is one of Hillsdale’s greatest track and field ath­letes.

McHugh won back-to-back NAIA cham­pi­onships in 1993 and 1994 in the high jump. His per­sonal best — 7 feet, 1 inch — is a school record that has yet to be broken.

McHugh also tied for third at the NCAA D‑II Track and Field Cham­pi­onships with a jump of 6 feet, 10 inches.

“The track team was really just a big family with brothers and sisters, and the coaches are your parents keeping you in line. We would travel together and spend close to 40 hours per week together,” McHugh said. “I’m just the guy that gets to get inducted into the hall of Fame for them. I just feel like I’m their rep­re­sen­tative.”

McHugh expressed grat­itude to all his former coaches, including Bill Lundberg, whom he now con­siders a “dear friend and mentor.”

“Coach Lundberg is the one that got me here to Hillsdale. His infec­tious enthu­siasm and charisma is what brought me here,” McHugh said. “His expe­ri­ences and guidance allowed me to blossom into the athlete that I didn’t even think that I could be. I just wanted to jump 7 feet in the high jump someday. His ability to put together a dream team of coaches was just short of mirac­ulous.”

McHugh was thankful not only for the impact Hillsdale had on his growth as an athlete but also as a person.

“Thank you to this college who helped a young man start to see what is most important in life, and thank you to each one of you here who in your own way have made sac­ri­fices,” McHugh said.