Jacqui White, Sports Editor
Pioneer Hall of Fame introduced for 2019
The Utica College Pioneer Hall of Fame has chosen its inductees for 2019.
The announcement marks the 12th time the Pioneer Hall of Fame has recognized a class of distinguished former student-athletes, coaches, teams and contributors to the success of athletics at UC. The induction ceremony will take place on May 9.
Gil Burgmaster, UC’s associate athletic director for sports information and external relations, explained what goes into selecting the members of each Hall of Fame class.
“We have an online system where people can nominate athletes that they think should be in the Hall of Fame,” he said.
Burgmaster said that he and four other people make up a committee that makes nominations every year, which is usually a large pool of former student-athletes.
“We get the list shorter and then we vote on who we think should be inducted,” he said.
Burgmaster explained that after the committee selects the former student-athletes, usually 4-5 of them, their names are sent to President Laura Casamento to be vetted and to make sure she agrees with the nominations.
As far as qualifications to be voted on, Burgmaster stated that there is not too many.
“One of the qualifications is that it has to be five years after they leave the program,” he said. “The qualification applies to both athletes and coaches.”
One of the inductees this year is Andrew Benkwitt, a former quarterback from 2008 until 2012. While at Utica, Benkwitt majored in criminal justice.
“It’s a great honor to be inducted,” he said.
The inductee explained that it was nice to get the recognition, not only from the college but also from the Empire 8 Conference.
“Being nominated makes you realize that you were part of something bigger than yourself,” he said.
In his four years at UC, Benkwitt set multiple records for the football team. For the career all-time records, he is first in pass attempts, first in completions, first in passing yards with 10,590 and first in passing touchdowns with 88.
Benkwitt is also first, fourth and seventh for pass completions in a single season. He holds the top four spots for passing touchdowns.
His favorite memory of being a Pioneer was enjoying being part of a team. Since graduating, Benkwitt has gone on to be a police officer in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Another member of the 2019 class inductees is Bridgette Palmer, a psychology major who played first base on the softball team for the Pioneers from 2010-2013.
Palmer stated that the induction was both a surprise and an honor.
“It certainly wasn’t something I was expecting,” she said. “It feels great to be recognized for all the hard work and dedication I put in.”
While she was surprised over her induction, Palmer’s stats show why her performance as a Pioneer is deserving of a Hall of Fame nomination.
Palmer is ranked 10th for the highest batting average in the career record book with a .353 average, as well as seventh place for both highest slugging percentage (.530) and for highest on-base percentage (.405).
In the single-season record book, Palmer is ranked first (347), second (314), fifth (262) and sixth place (257) for season putouts.
Since graduating, Palmer got a master’s degree in school counseling from the College of Saint Rose. She is currently a school counselor at Gloversville Middle School.
“My favorite memory of playing at Utica was when my teammates and I were sitting in Pioneer Pub and watching the live feed of the NCAA brackets,” she said.
The memory she will not forget was when it was announced her team had received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Jumping up and down with my fellow seniors, realizing our season wasn’t over, is a memory I won’t soon forget,” she said.