KSC Athletic Department Announces Hall of Fame Class of 2012
KEENE, N.H. 12/7/11 – The Keene State College athletic department has announced their Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2012. On Saturday, February 4th, the class of Raymond “Lippy” De Rocher ’64, Debbie Higgins ’76, Michelle Mason ’05, Wilson Perez, Jr. ’03 and Meghan McLoughlin ’05, M.Ed. ’11 will be inducted at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Center’s Centennial Hall.
“I am pleased to present such a wonderful class to be inducted into our hall of fame,” said Keene State Athletic Director John Ratliff. “This class will no doubt add to the standing and reputation of our very prestigious and exclusive group of hall of famers.”
DeRocher, the Manchester, N.H. native, played baseball for many teams in his career, including the Manchester Red Sox, a semi-professional baseball team. With good size and power, DeRocher complimented his game with good size and glove skills in a Keene Teachers College uniform. Most famously known for hitting the longest homer in KTC history, DeRocher cracked a ball into the Ashuelot River in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Lyndon State on May 17th, 1962. “Sumner Joyce said that it was the longest homerun he had seen hit in Keene in his twenty years of coaching,” said DeRocher.
Later in the same month, DeRocher cracked another deep homerun at Plymouth State. “We never had very much luck against Plymouth back then,” said DeRocher. “But the Plymouth coach, John Foley, said it was the longest home run he had ever seen hit as well, so that’s something.”
After several tryout offers with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, DeRochers decided that teaching and coaching was the route he wanted to go. “I had great days at Keene, and I loved my coaching classes because I knew when I graduated I wanted to coach,” said DeRocher. And coach he did, at Goffstown High School for eight years, earning a spot in the playoffs in every season and winning a pair of New Hampshire state championships. “In high school pitching is the name of the game and I was fortunate enough to have some great pitchers. One of them even signed with the Minnesota Twins.”
After teaching at Goffstown High School for 18 years, he and his wife started antiquing and working in real estate and live in Bedford, N.H. “It truly is a real great honor.”
Also humbled by the honor, Higgins graduated from KSC in 1976 with 759 career points as a member of the women’s basketball team at Keene State. “I was very surprised to be receiving this nice honor,” said Higgins. “I really loved my playing days, my teammates, Kay Saucier our coach, it was all so small we were like a close-knit family, and I’ll never forget those days.”
Higgins, who played on the Owls from 1972-1976, still holds KSC’s all-time record for highest scoring average in a season with 22 points per game. “When John (Ratliff) told me that record held up I was amazed,” said Higgins.
Before joining the squad after only a few years of existence, Higgins won a state championship at Bellows Falls High School in 1971. “Back then that was the first year they even had a state tournament for women,” said Higgins. “But there we were, little Bellows Falls High School, winning the state title.”
In an Equinox article from 1976, Kay Saucier spoke highly of Higgins’ talents. “When we needed a clutch basket and Debbie (Higgins) had the hot hand, everyone in the gym knew we were going directly to her.”
The five-foot, four inch long-range shooter, remembers one of the programs biggest victories during her junior season. “When we beat the University of New Hampshire in Keene, that was something special,” said Higgins. “For a little state college to do that was really big back then and I usually don’t remember stats but I do recall scoring 33 points in that game. That was awesome.”
Higgins graduated with her degree in education, but has been running her own wallpaper and painting business for the last 25 years.
Perez, Jr. finished his career an eight-time all-American runner in a Keene State uniform, and remembers attending the hall of fame ceremonies as a student-athlete. “When I was a student-athlete I went to one of the dinners and remembered the former athletes coming back and being recognized for their outstanding achievements,” said Wilson. “Now that’s me. 100 years from now people can walk through Spaulding Gymnasium and look at the Hall of Fame plaque and see me up there, it’s a really cool feeling.”
Leading the Owls to second place finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 1999 and 2000, the Newmarket, N.H. native distinctly remembers the race that first fueled his desire to become better. “If I had to pick one memory at Keene State I guess it would have to be when I earned All-American my sophomore year with my 23rd place finish at cross country nationals,” said Wilson. “That really started my fire for wanting to be better and once I became an All-American once, I just had to do it again.”
Wilson, who recently finished his season as the head cross country coach at Colby Sawyer College had high praises for many people in his life. “Obviously Pete (Thomas) had a huge influence on my career and I want to thank him for that, but you have to go back and thank some others as well. Jack Brown and David Pelletier were my high school coaches and also coach Weitzell for basketball, they were big influences on me,” said Perez, Jr.
Growing up down the street from an Olympic bronze medalist didn’t hurt either. “Lynn Jennings was a bronze medalist in the Barcelona Olympics, and she was a great motivation. I used to run up to her house all the time and she even gave me a pair of shoes to run with. They were too big, but I was still psyched to get them.”
As his teammates, there were too many to name. “I had so many great ones, I want to thank them for being there for me and for pushing me to be a better athlete and person.”
Mason, who currently coaches Division I Iona College in women’s lacrosse, graduated from Keene State in 2005. The Rochester, N.Y. native is fist all-time in wins (66), saves (437) and shutouts (43) for women’s soccer, while still holding the program mark in goals (202) in just three seasons for women’s lacrosse.
“Keene State was such an important part of my life and it means a lot to me to be put in the hall of fame,” said Mason. “To be alongside, my coach Denise Lyons and other all-time greats is an awesome feeling.”
Asked to pick out her favorite Keene State memory in each sport, Mason chose two tournament games. She will never forget the Owls NCAA soccer victory over Tufts University her sophomore season. “That was awesome – we beat them by a goal,” Mason said. “It was like a football game. They couldn’t handle the brutes that we were on the field.”
When it came to lacrosse, Mason readily recalls the Owls 2004 ECAC championship victory over Eastern Conn., a see-saw affair that saw Keene State prevail 17-16 in overtime. “It was graduation day, and the seniors wore their uniforms underneath their robes. After that it really changed the landscape of women’s lacrosse in the Little East Conference and I was really glad to be a part of it.”
Rounding out the newest class, McLoughlin was a member of the KSC softball team for four years (2002-2005). Holding records for lowest earned run average in a season (0.21), career (0.38) and strikeouts in a game (15), the Brattleboro, Vermont native was actually proudest about a different statistic. “This may sound silly, but out of all my stats, I think I am most proud of my lack of walks,” said McLoughlin, who allowed only 74 walks in almost 400 innings pitched over her career. “My team played great behind me and there were rarely people on base, so I think that was always something I really worked hard on and was very proud of.”
After a rocky freshman season, McLoughlin came back firing her sophomore year and was the Little East Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on the NCAA All-Region team. “My fondest memory of Keene State was probably going to NCAA Championships as a sophomore and as a senior. When I was a sophomore I looked up to the upperclassmen because I didn’t know what to expect, but when I was older, I was that figure that others looked up too and I am extremely proud of how much a grew over my career here.”
Currently an assistant coach under her former leader, the now first-base coach says her respect for KSC head coach Charlie Beach has only grown. “Of all the people who helped me, I of course have to start with Charlie (Beach), I respect him even more now as an assistant under him, the amount of work he puts in is remarkable,” said McLoughlin. “I also have to thank my parents, my teammates, my catchers and my high school coach Kelly Merkel. She sparked my interest in pitching, and I wasn’t always the easiest person to coach but she was the one who started it all for me.”
Excited about the prospect of the ceremony, McLoughlin had high-praise for her teammates and all they did for her. “I am extremely surprised and honored to be given this distinction,” said McLoughlin. “I was a pitcher and I never hit, so without my team I wouldn’t be getting this honor, so I have to thank them the most.”
The Ceremony will take place on Saturday, February 4th, at the Alumni Center in Centennial Hall. The pre-banquet gathering will start at 6 p.m., with the ceremony set to start at 6:45 p.m. For more information please contact the athletic department at 603-358-2813.