Ceremonies scheduled during upcoming Bevo Francis Weekend
RIO GRANDE — One member of the legendary Bevo Francis basketball team from the 1950s and another basketball player who starred at the University of Rio Grande in the 1990s are about to be the newest members of the University of Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14, as part of the Bevo Francis Weekend at Rio Grande. Both honorees will be recognized between the 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. basketball games, and then will be inducted in a ceremony that begins at 7 p.m.
The two inductees will be Meghan (Kolcun) Miller of Gallipolis and Donald Vyhnalek of Fairmount, Ind.
Miller led the nation in three-point shooting percentage as a senior, scored 1,029 career points and pulled down 599 career rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, she also led Rio Grande to the NAIA National Tournament three times during her storied career. She graduated from Rio Grande in 2000.
Vyhnalek played for the 1953-1954 Rio Grande men’s basketball team, which received national acclaim and defeated several of the top programs in the country at the time.
“It’s quite an honor,” Vyhnalek said about being inducted into the Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame. He will join the other members of the history-making Rio Grande basketball team in the Hall of Fame, and legendary Coach Newt Oliver will present him at the ceremony.
Vyhnalek came to Rio Grande as a 17-year-old from Nebraska, after his high school coach asked Oliver to consider him for the team. His time at Rio Grande had a huge impact on his life, and gave him some amazing memories.
“For a 17-year-old kid who had his 18th birthday in Madison Square Garden, you can’t beat that,” Vyhnalek said, referring to when the Rio Grande team played in the famous basketball New York City arena.
“It was unbelievable,” Vyhnalek said. He was able to play with great teammates from Rio Grande and travel around the country playing the top college programs. When Rio Grande played against Providence at the Boston Garden as part of a doubleheader, he recalled, half of the crowd left after the Rio Grande game ended and before the NBA’s Boston Celtics game began.
“It was just amazing how the people treated us so well, all except the referees in Kansas City one time,” Vyhnalek said. He was proud to be on the team, and said his time at Rio Grande helped him a great deal in life.
“It was just a wonderful learning experience for a young kid,” Vyhnalek said. It’s amazing to look back at his time at Rio Grande now, and remember everything that happened, he added.
“The teachings of Newt (Oliver), they just carried on,” Vyhnalek said. He has enjoyed seeing the documentaries and reading the books about the basketball team, and he still runs into people today who remember seeing him play.
“Their dad took them to see the greatest scorer in the history of basketball at that time,” Vyhnalek said, referring to teammate Bevo Francis. “It’s pretty nice to have that feeling when you hear from people who were 10 or 11 years old at the time, and they remember being at the game.”
After his time at Rio Grande, Vyhnalek went on to Doane College in Nebraska, where he also excelled on the basketball team. He then served in the U.S. Army and then had a successful career with the Ford Motor Company.
Now that he is retired, he spends time with family, stays in touch with his friends from Rio Grande and travels to the campus at least twice a year. He wishes that his close friend and teammate Roy Moses were still alive to be at the ceremony, but he is looking forward to seeing many old friends at the event.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Vyhnalek said.
Miller played for Rio Grande for five years, as she spent one year as a medical red shirt, and graduated with a degree in biology in 2000.
She helped lead a very successful Rio Grande team whose accomplishments included three national tournament appearances, one Great Lakes Region Championship, one AMC Tournament Championship and countless outstanding wins. She was named the team captain in the 1998-99 season and the 1999-2000 season, and was named First Team All-AMC in 1999-2000.
Coach David Smalley said that Miller was extremely instrumental in the success of the basketball program during her tenure.
“Meghan always displayed a touch of class on and off the court,” Smalley said. “Meghan was a complete team player as well as a team leader. Her work ethic in the classroom and on the court was more intense than any player I have ever coached.”
Miller said that she looks back proudly at her career, especially at the three national tournament appearances.
During her time at Rio Grande, she suffered a serious injury and had to take a medical red shirt year during her senior year. She worked hard to rehabilitate from her injury, though, and ended up leading the nation in three-point shooting as a fifth-year senior by shooting an astounding 49.7 percent from behind the three-point line.
In addition, she was named the national “Comeback Athlete of the Year,” by Training and Conditioning magazine for the way she worked hard to come back from her injury.
After her time at Rio Grande, Miller went on to continue her education and eventually earned a Nuclear Pharmacist/ Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She works today as a pharmacist for the Cardinal Health Nuclear Pharmacy Services.
“Academically, Rio Grande definitely prepared me for my career path,” Miller said. The basketball program also prepared her for numerous challenges in life.
“It really prepares you to be a leader in whatever you do,” Miller said. The athletic program helped her with her work ethic, and helped her in numerous ways.
Miller stays in touch with many of her former teammates, and stays in touch with the basketball program, as her husband, Todd Miller, is an assistant coach at Rio Grande.
She is very proud now to be inducted into the Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s something that you never think would happen to you,” Miller said. “It’s a great honor.”
(On the Web, www.rio.edu)