Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame 2020 Inductees Named

Eight individuals and two teams are in the third class to be inducted
The members of the women’s field hockey team lined up with NCAA logo in background. The Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame 2020 inductees are named.
The 2012 field hockey team became the first women’s team at Tufts to win an NCAA championship with their 2–1 victory against Montclair State.
January 24, 2020

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Eight outstanding student-athletes and two memorable teams will be inducted as the third class of the Tufts University Athletics Hall of Fame on April 18.

Six decades and eleven sports are represented in this third class of honorees as Tufts continues to recognize the great individuals and teams from its nearly 150 years of athletics history.

2020 Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees:

Julia W. Browne, A11 — Tennis

As a junior at Tufts in 2010, Browne won the NCAA Division III singles championship in dominating fashion. She did not lose a set while winning six matches over three days at the championship event. A seven-time All-American in her career for singles and doubles play, Browne was also a part of two ITA Small College Doubles championships as a Jumbo. A 2010 Honda Award nominee for Division III Women’s Athlete of the Year, she received three NESCAC Player of the Year awards and was selected as the ITA’s Senior Player of the Year in 2011. Her leadership and sportsmanship were recognized on a national level as the recipient of the prestigious ITA Arthur Ashe Award in 2010. She played professionally on the WTA circuit following graduation.

“Julia entered her freshman fall as a very solid player, but it was clear that she hadn’t yet come close to reaching her peak as a tennis player,” said Tufts head coach Kate Bayard. “What I didn’t know at the time was how determined and hard-working she would be during the next four years, and how much of a mark she would make on our program in so many ways. Julia proved herself as the top Division III player in the country while maintaining the highest values of sportsmanship, team leadership, and community service.”

Paul E. Dresens, E89, EG93, A22P — Football

As a senior in 1988, Dresens rushed for 1,070 yards on 143 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per rush. Compiled in just eight games, the record-setting yardage was one of three 1,000-yard seasons at Tufts at the time. He helped the Jumbos lead the nation in rushing that year with 369 yards per game. His 13 rushing touchdowns that season stood as the team record for nearly 30 years. As a sophomore he was the MVP of the 1986 team when the Jumbos won the NESCAC championship, leading the team with nine touchdowns. An outstanding blocker in Tufts’ wishbone offense as well, his 24 career rushing touchdowns also stood as the team record until recently. Dresens finished his Jumbo career averaging 6.1 yards per rush.

“We led the nation in rushing because of many, but mainly Paul Dresens,” said Duane Ford, his coach at Tufts. “The scheme required a team-oriented toughness that Paul epitomized. He was the pound-for-pound toughest competitor in my time at Tufts. He blocked better than he ran the ball—and he was an excellent runner. He had an amazing standard of excellence. He wanted to win every play.”

James J. Fitzgerald, E30 — Baseball, Basketball, Football

Fitzgerald was a versatile leader of the Tufts football teams of the late 1920s and was an even better baseball player. He also played basketball at the university. He etched his name into the football record book with a remarkable 53-yard drop-kick field goal in 1926. He then was a leading member of Tufts’ undefeated 1927 team—one of just three in school history—as a two-way tackle who earned United Press International All-American honors. As a baseball player, his success at Tufts earned him an opportunity to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League, which he led in home runs and runs batted in one summer. He was offered a professional contract by both the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, but he stayed at Tufts to complete his civil engineering degree.

“Most of the rival football players who faced “Fitzie” on the line of scrimmage knew who he was by the time the game was over,” wrote Arthur Sampson in the Boston Herald, “and most of the rival pitchers who tried to throw a fast one by him learned who he was by the time the ninth inning rolled around. He always made a big impression on everyone with whom he happened to come in contact.”

David P. “D.J.” Hessler Jr., E11 — Lacrosse

Hessler was the offensive leader of the 2010 Tufts team that won the university’s first NCAA team championship. He earned the Most Outstanding Player Award for the NCAA final after tallying a goal and four assists in the Jumbos’ 9–6 win over Salisbury. A three-time All-American, Hessler was named the Lt. Col. J.L. (Jack) Turnbull Award recipient as the Outstanding Attackman in Division III for 2011 when he helped lead the Jumbos back to the NCAA final. A two-time NESCAC Player of the Year, Hessler graduated as Tufts’ all-time leading scorer with 321 points on 140 goals and 181 assists. An academic standout as well, he received the NCAA’s Elite 88 award as the highest performing student at the 2011 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship.

“D.J. was an instrumental part of our program winning our first national championship,” said Mike Daly, A95, AG97 his coach at the time. “He was a great player in his own right, but he made everyone around him better. Beyond lacrosse, D.J. came from an amazingly supportive family and was a top student, often missing practice for engineering labs. He always found time and a way to balance everything.”

Sakhi B. Khan, A85 — Squash

Ranked number one in the United States as a junior player, Khan was a four-time All-American who was consistently ranked in the national top five while at Tufts. In his freshman year, he helped lead the squash team—in only its fifth year of existence—to a sixth-place finish in the country, which still stands as the best-ever ranking for a Tufts team. He then reached national collegiate individual championship in 1983, losing by just one point. A three-time Massachusetts state champion while at Tufts, Khan then competed on the World Professional Tour and won the World Teaching Professional Championships twice. He is a fourth-generation member of the Khan squash dynasty—established by his great-uncle Hashim Khan—and was a coach for 20 years at Colby College.

“Sakhi was a leader and key figure in squash at Tufts, helping to put the program on the squash world map,” said Rick Shapiro, A69, his coach at the time. “He helped set the standard through hard work, dedication, and desire, which served to motivate all his teammates. Sakhi continually tried to improve and become a better player and worked diligently to reach his maximum potential, which as his record indicates, was quite high.”

Seymour M. “Bud” Niles, A50 — Baseball, Basketball

Niles was the workhorse ace pitcher of the 1950 Tufts baseball team, which qualified for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. His 11-inning victory over Boston College late in the season that year locked up the team’s berth into the College World Series. The tall, lanky right-hander achieved All-American honors for that 1950 season. As a junior in 1949, he won 10 games, which still stands as Tufts baseball’s single-season record 70 years later. His 28 career pitching victories stood as the team record for 53 years and remain the second-most all-time. Niles posted a career record of 28–7 for a .800 winning percentage. He was signed by the Boston Braves and won 10 games with a 2.76 earned run average pitching in the minor leagues in 1951.

“He was unassuming on the mound,” wrote Tim Horgan, the famed sportswriter who was at Tufts at the same time as Niles. “He didn’t have a blazing fastball or a baffling curve, but he did have good control, a working knowledge of how to pitch, and stamina. He was one of the all-time greats at Tufts from the post-war era.”

Helen Jane Sears, J43 — Basketball, Field Hockey, Golf, Tennis

In the early 1940s, Jackson College’s Helen Jane Sears was a student-athlete leader who helped blaze a path for the future of women’s sports at Tufts. She came to the university after a strong athletics career at Thayer Academy in nearby Braintree, where she would become a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame. At Tufts she earned 12 varsity letters in basketball, field hockey, and tennis. In addition to those sports, she also participated in Yacht Club and played golf. Her accomplishments as a Jackson athlete were recognized with a Tufts Jumbo Club award in 1999. By the late 1940s, Jackson College had more women’s varsity teams than many of the other colleges in the area, a result of the commitment displayed to athletics by student-athletes like Helen Jane Sears.

“Helen Jane Sears played multiple sports, participated in student government and sorority activities, and was a member of several clubs,” wrote former sports information director Ed Shea in Jumbo Footprints: A History of Tufts Athletics, 1852–1999. “While the records for Jackson College are sketchy for the 1940s, we can say with certainty that she was a leader in every meaning of the word. Just out of college, Jane made her mark as the first woman director of the YMCA in Boston by founding the West Roxbury branch, part of her lifetime commitment to athletics.”

Maren E. Seidler, J73 — Track & Field, Swimming

Seidler came to Tufts in 1969, having already competed in the 1968 Olympics. She was one of the first two women to earn a Tufts varsity letter, even though the university did not yet sponsor women’s sports. She trained with the men’s team and won the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (pre NCAA) shot put title in 1971. She captured 23 national titles from 1967 to 1980, including a record-setting nine consecutive outdoor titles (1972–1980). The first American woman to throw the shot more than 60 feet, Seidler won the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials four straight times from 1968 to 1980. A member of four Olympic teams, she was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2000 and helped establish a new era for women in sports.

“For a period of 13 years, Maren Seidler totally dominated shot putting in the U.S.,” the Boston Globe reported in a 1973 profile. The article continues, “Ms. Seidler was one of a new self-confident, unapologetic breed who refused to play by the old rules for female athletes. They didn’t use the back door of the gym anymore. They did not suffer foolish questions or stomach-churning clichés gladly.”

1979 Football Team

Forty years ago, the 1979 team recorded one of only three undefeated seasons (8–0) in the 145-year history of football at Tufts. Coached by Vic Gatto, the team rallied around a devastating neck injury to captain Jim Ford, A80, M87 during the 1978 season to win 12 straight games including the perfect 1979 finish. A victory at Norwich—where they were major underdogs—was the highlight of the season. The Jumbos came back from a 19–3 second-quarter deficit, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter to win 22–19. The Jumbos also had a 35–13 win over Middlebury and a 30–0 victory over Williams that year. They clinched the undefeated season with a dominating 35–7 victory at Bates. The squad was the centerpiece of an era when Jumbo football won 18 of 19 games overall.

“When you practiced during the week, you were practicing against a defense that was as good as any other defense in the NESCAC,” said Gary Heffernan, A80, co-captain of the ’79 team. “We were also practicing against an offense that was probably better than any offense in the NESCAC. That helped on game day, because you were practicing hard all week, and you knew on Saturday that the kids you were playing against were no better than the kids you were practicing against all week.”

2012 Field Hockey Team

The 2012 field hockey team became the first women’s team at Tufts to win an NCAA championship with their 2–1 victory against Montclair State. Earlier in the post-season, the Jumbos had suffered a disappointing loss to Bowdoin in the conference semifinals. However, they earned sweet revenge with a 2–1 win over the Polar Bears in the NCAA Quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four. A 2–0 semifinal victory against DePauw put the Jumbo program in its second NCAA Championship Game, including 2008. Tufts trailed Montclair 1–0 before scoring twice to come back and defeat the Red Hawks. Head Coach Tina Mattera led the Jumbos to a 19–2 finish during that landmark season, which remains tied for the most wins in a season in team history.

“In a lot of games that year we had been tied 0–0 or down by a goal,” Mattera said. “The team had to work through the situation each time and was able to get goals later in the game or come back from a deficit. I had confidence in them that they could rally, and they came through when it mattered most.”

Brown and Blue Award

As part of the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, Tufts Athletics will also present the Brown and Blue Award for the third time. This honor recognizes alumni, donors, benefactors, and supporters who have made significant contributions to the success of Tufts Athletics. This year’s recipient is Jeff Cicia, A54, A88P who bled brown and blue as much as anyone who has ever been associated with Tufts.

Tufts has always been a part of Cicia’s life. Raised in Somerville, he enrolled in 1950 and played on the freshman and junior varsity basketball teams. After volunteering for the Army, he returned to Tufts and received an economics degree in 1958. He met his future wife, Nancy, at Tufts. In 1962, his years of service to Tufts Athletics began when he worked part-time in the athletic training room. He would eventually become director of facilities in 1984 and helped develop the Ellis Oval, Lunder Fitness Center, and Chase Gymnasium. A leading member and past president of the Tufts Jumbo Club, he received the Tufts Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 1988. Cicia has remained a fervent fan of the Jumbos even during his retirement.

“Tufts University has become a better environment for student growth and development because of the untiring efforts of Jeff Cicia,” reads the resolution written upon Cicia’s retirement in 1996. “Tufts benefitted from the depth of loyalty and commitment demonstrated by Jeff through a nearly 50-year span.”

Director of Athletic Communications Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.