BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern College Hall of Fame class of 2018 was inducted Friday night. Shawn Morris, Jennifer McKannan, Robert Willett, Paul Rosner and Vinnie Pappalardo joined the Hall of Fame, and their places were immortalized in Birmingham-Southern athletics history.
Shawn Morris '13 – Football
The most prolific rusher in the history of Birmingham-Southern football, Shawn Morris put the Panther program back on the national map during his career on the Hilltop.
The Pensacola, Florida, native rushed for over 600 yards in each of his first two years with a combined 23 touchdowns, but he exploded onto the scene as a junior. Morris started all nine games in 2011, helping the Panthers to a 7-2 record. He was the top rusher in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, totaling 1449 yards. Morris also led the Panthers and the conference with 17 touchdowns as a junior, and still holds the conference record with an average of 8.6 yards per carry. He would make it back-to-back 1000 yard seasons, as he ran for 1,026 yards in his senior season with nine touchdowns, helping the Panthers climb to as high as No. 11 in the national rankings.
Today, Morris lives in Madison, Mississippi, where he is an assistant project manager for Brasfield and Gorrie construction. He and his wife Alexis are now the proud parents of a two-month-old daughter, Laila Rae.
Jennifer McKannan '11 – Volleyball
A four-year starter in her career for the Panthers, Jennifer McKannan remains the best defensive player in the history of Birmingham-Southern volleyball. Her freshman season was the most successful in BSC volleyball history, as the Panthers defeated national powers No. 3 Wisconsin-Whitewater, No. 5 Emory and No. 10 Ohio Northern, while winning five tournament titles on their way to a 32-3 overall record. McKannan and the Panthers would continue their success in the 2008 season, compiling a 27-8 overall record. She led the team with 471 digs that year from the libero position and helped BSC finish the season with a 16-match win streak.
After a down season in 2009, McKannan helped the Panthers to another great season her senior year, breaking numerous records. McKannan broke her own school record with 802 digs as a senior, and she became the school's all-time leader in digs, surpassing the 2000 career digs mark. Her average of 6.03 digs per set that season remains a school record.
McKannan returned to the Hilltop earlier this year when she was named assistant volleyball coach for the Panthers.
Robert Willett '13 – Men's Cross Country / Track & Field
The epitome of consistency, Robert Willett is the most decorated runner in Birmingham-Southern history. After a solid freshman campaign, Willett had a break out year as a sophomore finishing in the top-10 in five meets in 2010, including his first individual title in the Berry Viking Open. As a junior, Willett earned All-SCAC cross country honors. He continued his success during the track and season, winning multiple events on his way to qualify for the NCAA Division III Indoor National Championships where he finished third in the 800-meter run, earning All-American honors. During the outdoor season, Willett set the school record in the 800-meter run and won the 800- and 1500-meter championships at the conference meet. He was named the SCAC Male Track Athlete of the Year to cap his junior season.
In his senior season, Willett helped the men's cross country team to multiple top finishes. His second place finish at the conference championships earned him first team all-conference honors, and he was also named all-region and academic All-American. In his final track and field season, Willett again earned All-American status with a second place finish in the 800-meters at the NCAA indoor championships, and continued his domination during the outdoor season. He was first in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter runs at the conference championships, and he would ultimately bring home the 800-meter title at the NCAA outdoor championships.
Following graduation, Willett spent a year as a Special Needs Adult Counselor in his hometown of Mobile, before attending nursing school. After earning his nursing degree, he has spent the past 10 months working as a registered nurse in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Mobile Infirmary.
Paul Rosner – Men's Tennis
A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Paul Rosner was a three-time doubles All-American at the University of Alabama Birmingham and went on to a seven-year professional playing career, climbing as high as No. 58 in the world's doubles rankings. Retiring from his playing career, Rosner took over the Birmingham-Southern men's tennis program in 2004.
After a 1-7 start in his first season, Rosner led BSC to nine wins in its final ten matches, including 7 straight victories, as the Panthers finished 5-2 in Big South play and made the semi-finals of the conference tournament. In 2005, the Panthers were even more impressive under the second-year head coach. Rosner's team overcame an 0-3 start to the year to post a 12-7 overall record, including a 6-1 mark in the Big South. BSC finished second in the conference and Rosner earned the Big South Coach of the Year award.
Rosner would coach BSC to 28 wins over a four-year span in the Division I era before making the transition to Division III. As probationary members of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and unable to compete for a conference title, the Panthers still reached double-digit wins in 2009 and 2010.
Rosner stepped down as the BSC head coach in 2011 to become the tennis director at the Mountain Brook Tennis Club, a position he has held for the past seven years. Today, Rosner lives in Pinson, Alabama, along with wife Leigh and their two daughters, Nora Claire and Addison.
Vinnie Pappalardo – Athletic Training
Vinnie Pappalardo was Birmingham-Southern's head athletic trainer from 1995 to 2003, building the athletic training program from the ground up as he served as the sole athletic trainer for up to 15 varsity sports during his tenure.
Even with all of the BSC sports programs on his plate, Pappalardo still found time to also help out with the 1996 Olympic Games, serving as the soccer practice venue medical coordinator in Birmingham. In 2001, he also spent time as a volunteer athletic trainer at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. However, he never let anything interfere with his duties on the Hilltop, putting the needs of student-athletes first.
Today, Pappalardo is a part-time carpenter and artist and a full-time family man. He and his wife Julie are the proud parents of two children, Luke and Clarie.
Bob Strain Distinguished Service Award
Each year the Bob Strain Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual in recognition of their special contributions to the Birmingham-Southern Athletic Department. This year, the Bob Strain Distinguished Service Award winner is Dr. Jack Taylor.
Taylor has given his time and his talents to ensure our student-athletes are successful in the classroom by providing study techniques, tutoring and investing countless hours to mentoring students. If not for his dedication, many student-athletes struggling academically at BSC would have fallen to the wayside. Taylor's support of BSC's student-athletes is not solely academic, however, as he frequently travels with teams so that student-athletes feel the support of faculty. Dr. Jack Taylor's dedication to student-athletes and his willingness to serve epitomizes the award.