Four Former Memphis Athletes to be Inducted Into M Club Hall of Fame in January
Dec. 12, 2013
The University of Memphis athletic department will induct four former student-athletes into the M Club Hall of Fame on Saturday evening, January 25, in ceremonies to be held at the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame located in the Athletic Office Building on the University of Memphis campus. In addition, six individuals will be honored for their contributions to Tigers athletics.
The 2014 Hall of Fame class includes former Tiger and NFL football star Ken Irvin, Tigers women's basketball All-American and WNBA great Tamika Whitmore, tennis standout and current Memphis women's tennis head coach Lee Taylor Walker and Tigers softball record-holder Jenna Kubesch-Raizes. This year's special award honorees are Rita Sparks, the recipient of the C.C. Humphreys Golden Tiger Award, Kenneth Lenoir, who will receive the Billy J. Murphy Award, Nick, John and Tina Vergos-Jennings, the family of the late Charles Vergos and the current owners of The Rendezvous Restaurant who will be receiving the Ralph Hatley Silver M Award and former Associate Athletic Director at the University of Memphis, Lynn Parkes who will be presented the Murray Armstrong Award.
Tables for this year's event are $400 each or individual tickets can be purchased for $50 per person. In addition to the Saturday evening ceremony, the inductees and honorees will be introduced during halftime of the Tigers' basketball game against USF on Sunday, January 26th. For further information concerning the weekend or to purchase tickets, fans are asked to call the University of Memphis athletic ticket office at 901-678-2331 or the M Club office at 901-678-4878.
A native of Lindale, Georgia, Ken Irvin arrived on the University of Memphis campus in the fall of 1991 and immediately became an integral part of head coach Chuck Stobart's Tigers defense. He appeared in nine games in 1991 and was one of just four true freshmen to play that season for Memphis. As a sophomore cornerback, Irvin gained national attention for the Tigers when he set an NCAA and University of Memphis record for the most blocked kicks in a single game. Playing against the Arkansas Razorbacks, Irvin was credited with four blocked punts, breaking a national record that had stood for 50 years. For his play, he was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by three major publications, including Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Irvin was credited with 62 tackles and three pass interceptions as a junior and began drawing the attention of professional football scouts. His most outstanding in a Tigers uniform came during the 1993 campaign when he registered a career-high 14 tackles, three pass break-ups and a pass interception against the Miami Hurricanes in a game televised by ESPN. In his final season as a Tiger, Irvin totaled 45 tackles and two interceptions in helping Memphis to a third consecutive winning season. Taken in the fourth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by Buffalo, Irvin spent seven seasons with the Bills before signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2002. He completed his 11-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings.
Jenna Kubesch-Raizes, a native of Weimer, Texas, came to Memphis as a college transfer in the fall of 2005 after playing for two seasons at Georgia College & State University. An experienced and record-setting pitcher, she immediately became the starter for the Tigers in the team's first year of competition. Kubesch led Conference USA with two no-hitters in 2006; including a perfect game against Grambling State. She recorded 30 appearances and led the team in earned run average (1.87), innings pitched (165), strikeouts (158), and shutouts (six). For her play during the 2006 season, she was named to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV First Team and was voted the team's Most Valuable Player. As a senior, Kubesch's streak of outstanding performances continued. She threw a one-hitter against Tulsa in the C-USA Championship, surpassed the 200 strikeout mark during the season, set a school record with 24 wins and was nominated by the University for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. She finished her two-year career at Memphis with a 2.03 ERA, 401 strikeouts in 407.1 innings pitched and compiled a 37-23 record with four no-hitters. An honor student with an overall GPA of 3.94, Kubesch was named to the 2007 Conference USA All-Academic Team, was selected for the second time to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV First Team and received the 2007 C-USA Postgraduate Scholarship Award. During her Tiger career, Kubesch set and still holds five Tiger pitching records. Following her softball career at Memphis, Kubesch joined the staff of Learfield Sports and handled corporate marketing for the University of New Hampshire. She is currently employed as the Director of Marketing & Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the AA baseball affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lee Taylor Walker, a native of Jackson, Tenn., played for Memphis from 2001-04, teaming with current women's tennis assistant coach Ben Stapp in his first season. The duo became the highest-ranked doubles tandem in school history, ranking No. 12 in the country at the end of the 2001 fall season. Walker also became a nationally-ranked singles player, climbing as high as No. 48 in the country. He won 54 singles matches, playing primarily at the No. 1 and 2 positions during his three-year Tigers career. He compiled a 64-29 record in doubles competition climbing to a No. 12 ranking in 2004. Walker was the school's first Conference USA first team honoree and also was named to the C-USA Men's Tennis All-Decade Team (1995-2005). He was twice named an ITA Scholar Athlete and received All-Conference USA honors in both 2003 and 2004. Walker received the 2004 C-USA Sportsmanship Award. Off the court, Walker was named the recipient of the 2004 ITA/Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership award, which he received as part of U.S. Open festivities. Walker is the current head women's tennis coach for Memphis.
Tamika Whitmore, a native of Tupelo, Miss., is one of the greatest players in the history of women's basketball at the University of Memphis. The two-time Conference USA Player of the Year and three-time All-American scored 2,488 points during her career and was credited with 952 rebounds. She was named to five different All-American teams including the Associated Press, the Women's Basketball Journal, the Basketball Writers Association, Kodak and the Women's Basketball News Service during her playing career. She ranks second all-time in scoring with her 2,488 points, including a school record 45 points in a then single game which occurred in the third round of the WNIT. Whitmore averaged a career-best 26.3 points per game as a senior while pulling down 8.4 rebounds per outing. She was a Top 10 finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award in 1999 after her 26.3 point scoring average led the nation. She was drafted by the WNBA's New York Liberty following her collegiate career and played 11 professional seasons for New York, Los Angeles, Indiana and Connecticut in the WNBA while competing simultaneously for international teams in Spain, France, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic.
Rita Sparks, a licensed commodity broker since 1980 and a devoted University of Memphis supporter, is this year's recipient of the Dr. C.C. Humphreys Golden Tiger Award. In 1977, she and her late husband, Willard, formed Sparks Companies Inc., an agricultural research information and consulting firm. After Mr. Sparks' death in 2005, she formed her own investment company, Sparks Enterprises Inc. Sparks has also held several key accounting positions in the retail business and in the commodities field. She serves on the board of Metropolitan Bank, the University of Memphis Board of Visitors, the U of M Foundation Board of Trustees, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and is an ambassador for the U of M's Athletics Department. Sparks is involved in a variety of community projects. She has served on the boards of the Memphis Development Foundation, the Baddour Center, the Memphis Redbirds Foundation and the Campbell Foundation. She is a past president of the Ronald McDonald House and was instrumental in securing the funds to build the first Ronald McDonald House in Memphis. Sparks received the 2010 Tennessee Chancellor's Award for her support of higher education. She was the Memphis recipient of the 1999 Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser from the National Society for Fund Raising Executives and a member of the 1996 Leadership Memphis class. Rita was the University of Memphis 2010 Distinguished University Friend, the highest honor bestowed by the University to U of M advocates, and is also a Life Member of the Alumni Association.
A native of Savannah, Georgia and a 1962 graduate of Overton High School in Memphis, Kenneth Lenoir signed a football scholarship for Memphis State University and began his playing career under legendary head coach Billy J. Murphy. In 1963, Lenoir and his teammates completed the season with a 9-0-1 record to become the last undefeated team in Tiger football history. Memphis State finished the season as the 14th ranked team in the nation according to United Press International. An accounting major, Lenoir graduated from MSU in 1966 and later from Harvard's Executive Management Program. He began his accounting career with Ernst & Ernst and in 1972 he founded First Mercantile Trust Company, a pioneer in stand-alone trust companies and a leader in pension and retirement planning. Under his leadership, First Mercantile grew from one employee to over 200 employees managing $3 billion in assets for corporate customers. For his achievements, Lenoir was named the "Small Businessman of the Year" by the Memphis Business Journal. After selling his business in 2000, he joined family members in starting Evolve Bank & Trust which has experienced tremendous growth. Ken and his wife, Sandy, are avid followers and season ticket holders for many of the Tigers athletic teams.
The University of Memphis athletic department has long been the beneficiary of the generosity and hospitality offered by the Charles Vergos family and their restaurant; quite simply known as, "The Rendezvous". The Vergos' are this year's recipient of the Ralph Hatley Silver M Award. Founded by patriarch Charles Vergos in 1948, The Rendezvous has grown to legendary status throughout the country and draws huge crowds of barbecue fans to downtown Memphis on a daily basis. The restaurant's high-profile list of guests has included U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and entertainers such as Bill Cosby, Mick Jagger and Justin Timberlake. The Rendezvous has won international acclaim for its Memphis-style barbecue and has been designated one of the Top 50 All-American Icons by Nation's Restaurant Magazine. More than 20 years ago, sons Nick and John and daughter Tina Vergos-Jennings offered to cater their special barbecue for the media covering Tiger basketball games at The Pyramid. The Vergos' tradition of feeding the press soon grew to catering Memphis football contests at the Liberty Bowl. Because of their generous efforts, Tigers athletics receives national attention on an annual basis for the best press food service in the nation. Long known as ambassadors for the City of Memphis, the Vergos family continues to promote the Memphis community through sponsored fundraising events such as the Zoo Rendezvous and Rendezvous at the Dixon.
Former Associate Athletic Director Lynn Parkes, who came to the University of Memphis in 1975 to start the women's golf program and retired June 30, 2013, is this year's recipient of the Murray Armstrong Award. During her tenure with the University of Memphis, Parkes helped move women's athletics from its infancy to a modern-day, well-rounded program. For 29 years she served as the senior women's administrator and directed the department's compliance and student-athlete services area. Additionally, Parkes handled oversight duties for eight sports including, women's basketball, volleyball, women's golf, men's and women's track and men and women's tennis. A native of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., Parkes was a 1973 graduate of the University of Alabama. She was a member of the Crimson Tide women's golf team. Following graduation, she taught for two years at Loretto (Tenn.) High School as a physical education instructor. Parkes came to the University of Memphis in 1975 to complete her graduate degree in physical education and at the same time, start the women's golf program. While serving as the administrator for women's sports programs, Parkes served as the compliance coordinator for the University of Memphis Athletic Department. As such, she was the liaison to Conference USA and the NCAA in adherence to rules and regulations of those organizations. A former member of the LPGA, Parkes served as chair of the NCAA Women's Golf Committee. She served as tournament director of the 1995 NCAA East Golf Regional hosted by Memphis, as well as the 2000 NCAA Women's Basketball Mideast Regional Tournament and the 2009 NCAA Memphis Regional. Parkes was a member of the NCAA Women's Basketball Committee, whose charge is the selection and conduct of the NCAA National Championship, and served as the chairman of the selection committee in 2004-05. She has also served on various task forces and committees within Conference USA. Parkes was named the University of Memphis Distinguished Administrator of the Year in 2002.