Four inductees joined the other nine former UNG athletes, coaches, and supporters to be ushered into the Athletics Hall of Fame at a luncheon Saturday.
More than 120 guests gathered at the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega campus to honor and congratulate the four new members, which included former baseball coach Jim Otte Sr., former women's basketball player Anne Smith Hyams, former women's basketball and softball player Kara Winkler Leonard, and former baseball player William Gieler.
"Each member of this foursome completed their standout careers at this university as trailblazers in their respective sports by achieving unparalleled marks of success during their careers," said Lindsay Reeves, UNG director of athletics. "As accomplished as these individuals were as coaches and as student-athletes, they have continued to excel as ambassadors and leaders throughout their lives. We are very proud of the standards they have established and the legacies they have created for our current and future student-athletes."
The Athletics Hall of Fame honors individuals who have earned outstanding athletic achievement or made substantial contributions to the university's athletic programs. A nine-member board of directors is responsible for the operations of the Athletics Hall of Fame and serves as selectors for all honorees based upon nominations.
Jim Otte Sr. was a fixture in the University System of Georgia for 34 years, including a nine-year tenure at North Georgia College & State University, before retiring in 1989 from Brunswick Junior College, now known as the College of Coastal Georgia. He was a veteran of the Navy Seals and Korea as well as a 47-year volunteer for the American Red Cross. He was honored in 1997 as the American Red Cross Health and Safety Volunteer of the Year and his name still appears in nine American Red Cross textbooks. For his many years of service, he was named Affiliate Faculty Emeritus by the American Heart Association, its highest award.
Anne Smith Hyams graduated from North Georgia College & State University in 1989 as one of the most decorated players in the history of the women's basketball program. She was named a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American both of her years at North Georgia, including earning first team honors in 1989 after earning third team honors in 1988, and was also a two-time winner of the James A. Naismith Award for the Most Outstanding Women’s Basketball Player (NAIA) in Georgia. Since graduating, she served as the Key Wife Coordinator in California, serving as the point of contact for the wives and families of the Marines deployed in Iraq under her husband’s command. She is currently teaching in the Honors Program at Dawson County High School and was selected as the Dawson County High School Teacher of the Year this year.
Kara Winkler Leonard has the distinction of being the first softball player inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame, though she played both softball and women’s basketball. Leonard was a three-time All-Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference (GACC) First Team selection from 1998-2000 as well as a three-time National Fast Pitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region member during that span. In 2000, Leonard helped lead her team to the program’s first-ever conference title and was named the GACC Player of the Year as well as the NAIA Region 13 Player of the Year for her role in securing that title. After graduating, Leonard became a teacher in the Murray County School System. In 2002, she was named the Murray County High School Teacher of the Year and the Murray County School System Teacher of the Year.
William Geiler was a member of the 2001 baseball squad, which won the GACC title, and was named the GACC Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year that season. He was also named to the 2001 NAIA All-Region Team. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in computer information systems and has worked for the last five years as a marketing specialist for Ingenico Incorporated, a credit card terminal manufacturer in Alpharetta, Ga.