BANGOR, Maine — They all may have done it in their own way, but for the same reasons.
The eight new members of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame were chosen not only for their numerous athletic accolades compiled over the years in their respective sports, but most importantly for their love of the game.
That was the common theme mentioned Sunday to summarize all the inductees at the Bangor Civic Center.
The class of 2012 included a diverse mix of different generations of Maine athletes who had excelled: University of Maine head football coach Walter Abbott, Cony High School and University of Maine tailback Phillip Coulombe, Mount View High School and UMaine basketball player Emily Ellis, University of Southern Maine basketball player and Dexter basketball coach Ed Guiski, Lake Region High School and Colby College basketball player Matt Hancock, University of Maine baseball player and Bangor youth baseball coach Dennis Libbey, Bowdoin College head football coach Howard Vandersea, and Husson College basketball player Dana Wilson.
The 86-year-old Coulombe was the first to be introduced and received a rousing ovation from the crowd. The former bruising tailback, who helped UMaine win the 1949 Yankee Conference championship, was unable to climb up on stage to receive his award.
Master of ceremonies and former Colby College coach Dick Whitmore brought the celebration to Coulombe, walking down to the inductees table to allow him to take it all in.
Wilson was surprised to receive the nomination to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, noting it couldn’t have been for anything good he did.
“When I got the notice, I thought they had put me in for a new category: most shots attempted,” the all-time Husson points leader, quipped.
Wilson, who scored 34.9 points per game in his senior season at Husson, credited his success and ability to his coaches as well as fellow hall of fame members Keith Mahaney and Dick Giroux.
Vandersea, who coached Bowdoin to a share of six Colby-Bates-Bowdoin titles, was fond of his time coaching for the Polar Bears and in New England.
“Football in New England autumn is something special,” he said, noting the various sights and sounds that come with it. Vandersea continues his work with Maine football as the Northeast Coordinator of the Maine State Chapter of the National Football Association and College Hall of Fame.
Whitmore had the pleasure of introducing one of his former players in inductee Hancock.
“The most potent force I have ever had the pleasure to coach,” he said of Hancock, going as far as saying he may have been the best college basketball player in the history of Maine.
Hancock, who ranks in 15 categories in Colby College’s record books, led his team to an 80-24 mark over his four years. He loved comebacks and being in tight situations, as he would thrive off them, and it would lead to superior play.
“There was nothing I loved more than to be in a situation to do that,” he said, with fellow inductee Guiski falling to one of those comebacks in the 1984 championship game between Guiski’s Dexter team and Hancock’s Lake Region squad.
“It isn’t about the moments, but more about who you share them with,” he said, after explaining how he couldn’t have been so successful or gotten to this point without the help of others.
Guiski stepped on the floor with the likes of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson to try out for the 1960 Olympic basketball team. He noted his relationship with his players at Dexter High School and the many coaching connections he made, such as with mentor Bryce Beattie and others.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” he said, explaining the influence he felt he has had would outweigh his accomplishments in getting to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
Ellis, who is the only female to have her number retired at UMaine, was the most inspiring of the inductees. Her playing days came at a time when women’s basketball was just starting to grow into its modern-day model.
“She was a pioneer in establishing a level of competitiveness and skill in the game for women,” Whitmore said.
Ellis gave high praise to the establishment of Title IX, which provided equal opportunity for any education program or activity receiving federal aid. It was with that program that Ellis gained an education and played basketball at UMaine. She found lots of success from it.
She credits her athletic prowess and perseverance to her success in life off the court.
“It has given me the tools to succeed in the big game — life,” she said, as she has gone on to own her own construction and real estate company.
UMaine and Husson coaching legend John Winkin summed up Libbey in one sentence for Whitmore.
“Gotta keep him off them bases!” he said of Libbey, who led UMaine in stolen bases once his career ended in 1973.
“One of the proudest moments of my life,” said Libbey of his induction, which came in front of many family and friends who made the trek down from Aroostook county for the event.
Abbott was the last to step to the podium, but received the loudest ovation. His work with UMaine football has been well documented over the last several decades.
“Someone who has had a remarkable impact on the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s,” Whitmore said upon introducing Abbott.
Abbott credited his first encounter with Sam Sezak as a moment that changed his life’s direction and purpose.
“It made me want to work with people,” he said.
He took that encounter and ran with it, becoming a prolific head coach and a prominent figure within the UMaine community, as well as other Division I athletic programs.
“A kind word and a little love can put kids in the right direction,” Abbott concluded.
The hall also recognized four scholar-athletes and presented two President’s Awards.
Wayne Lawton and Keith Mahaney, both of Bangor, received the President’s Award. Both were longtime members of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame board of directors.
The scholar-athletes honored were Seth Sweet of Madison, Carylanne Wolfington of Hall-Dale in Farmingdale, Jordan Hersom of Leavitt of Turner Center and Patrick LaChance of St. Dominic of Auburn.