GREENVILLE, N.C. – Six extraordinary individuals will be inducted into the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 5, at the 43rd annual installment ceremony inside Harvey Hall as part of the annual Hall of Fame/Letterwinners’ Weekend.
The exceptional class includes former Pirate Club president and philanthropist Bill Clark; former player and head football coach Ruffin McNeill, who led ECU to four bowl games in six seasons; former softball pitcher Toni Paisley and infielder Keisha Shepperson (Stewart), both who earned All-America accolades in their careers; and Jacob Smith, who was a member of the Pirates’ 1959 NAIA national championship men’s swimming team. Also in the class is Kelley Wernert (Krainiak), a two-time all-conference performer, who becomes the first volleyball specific player ever elected to the Hall of Fame.
The inductees will be recognized publicly inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as a part of the halftime festivities during the Nov. 6 football game against Temple.
The six new inductees will bring the total membership in the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame to 178. The original ECU Athletics Hall of Fame was initiated in 1974 as an organization to honor individuals who have, by direct participation in ECU intercollegiate athletics, brought outstanding recognition to themselves and the University.
Clark (ECU ’66) is an avid supporter of ECU Athletics and has an extensive history of philanthropic acts with the Pirate Club. He committed the lead gift of $1.5 million in support of the construction on a new baseball stadium which honor’s both Clark generosity and the legacy of former Pirate head coach Keith LeClair, Clark-LeClair Stadium. He also provided the lead gift in support of the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Renovation campaign as has been honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award and the Chancellor’s Amethyst in recent years.
McNeill (ECU ’80) was a three-year starter at defensive back for the Pirates in the late 1970s before being named head coach in January 2010. In six seasons, McNeill led the Pirates to four bowl appearances and posted the fifth-most head coaching victories in program history, while developing 12 first-team all-conference selections and a trio of MVP/Player-of-the-Year award winners. In 2013 he led ECU to just the second 10-win season in program history.
Paisley (ECU ’10) is the most decorated player in the history of Pirate softball. She was named Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year in three consecutive seasons (2009, ’10, ’11) as well the league’s Freshman-of-the-Year in 2007. In 2009 she was tabbed the C-USA’s Co-Female Athlete-of-the-Year. Paisley completed her playing career with 118 victories, 23rd-most in NCAA history, while leading ECU to back-to-back conference titles in 2010 and 2011.
Shepperson (ECU ’01) earned NFCA All-America accolades in 2000 and 2001 and was a three-time all-region player. She was tabbed Big South Freshman-of-the-Year in 1998 and earned first team all-conference honors the following season while helping the Pirates capture their first conference title and first NCAA Tournament berth. Shepperson holds program career records for runs, hits and doubles and has the second-most stolen bases.
Smith (ECU ’60) collected All-America honors in five events during the 1959 NAIA nation championship meet, earning the silver medal in the 100-yard freestyle and the bronze in the 50 free. He also swam leadoff for the 1959 national championship 400 free relay team. The following year, Smith claimed the bronze medal in the 100 free and helped the 400 free relay team to a second-place finish.
Wernert (ECU ’07) received first team All-Conference USA honors as a junior and senior, ranking third in the league in kills per game in 2007. She helped the Pirates register back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in a quarter century in 2005 and 2006. As a sophomore she led ECU to its first C-USA tournament victory. Wernert set program single season and career records for kills, which ranked ninth all-time in C-USA history, upon completion of her eligibility.
An interactive video listing and capsules of the entire Hall of Fame membership is located inside the lobby of the Smith-Williams Center, which opened in 2013. Photos of all Hall of Fame members are now on permanent display and the 2021 enshrined class will be added to the display for Hall of Fame Weekend, Nov. 5-6.
All Hall of Fame members will be receiving an email next week with all the details of the Hall of Fame ceremony. If you are a current Hall of Fame member and need to update any of your contact information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the proper changes.