Eight athletes, one coach, three contributors and one team make up the Class of 2022 inductees into the Father Ryan High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
The inductees represent classes from 1942 to 2000 and were selected from more than 110 nominations submitted by the community.
They will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in a special ceremony on Sept.1, 2022, at Father Ryan, and will be the honorary captains at the school’s Sept. 2 home football game.
The inductees include:
Paul Barnard, Class of 1950, Baseball, Basketball. A 130-pound starting point guard, Barnard fearlessly battled other Nashville athletes, including Mt. Juliet star and future NBA player Tom Marshall. A star on the baseball diamond as well, Barnard was named All-NIL as an infielder, leading the Irish at first base and on the mound to a regular season Western Division Championship.
Joe Benedict, 1963, Baseball, Basketball. He was the sixth man on the 1962-1963 NIL Co-Championship basketball team and was the second leading hitter in the city for the baseball team. Benedict was recruited to play baseball at Vanderbilt, and he was a four-year starter for the Commodores, winning MVP honors his senior year of college.
Robert L. “Bobby” Berry, 1942, Basketball, Football. As a fullback on the football team, Berry was an anchor of the offense and a tough man to bring down, earning All-City honors and leading the NIL in scoring. On the basketball court, he was a key member of the squad, their valuable sixth man. He also played baseball and ran track for the Irish and was voted Most Athletic in the Class of 1942.
Joe Crumby, 1995, Basketball. At 6’7″, Crumby put his height to good use during his Irish years, racking up more than 1,000 career points and leading the Irish boys basketball team to the State Playoffs in 1994-1995, the first time the Irish had been to the postseason since 1974. Crumby averaged 17.4 points and eight rebounds per game and was a fan favorite for his ability to throw down some big-time dunks with ease. He currently is Father Ryan’s Dean of Students.
Christy Csorna, 1999, Cross Country, Track and Field. Perhaps the most dominant runner in Father Ryan history, Csorna graduated as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. A 1998 Cross Country State Champion and a 1999 Track State Champion in both the 3200- and 1600-meter runs, Csorna was named the 1999 Girls Track Athlete of the Year by The Tennessean. She competed for Belmont University in college, where she continued her excellent career in both cross country and track and was inducted into the Belmont University Hall of Fame in 2020.
Michael J. Hooker, 1974, Football, Track and Field, Wrestling. Hooker was extremely gifted, excelling in football, wrestling, and track and field, where he threw the shot put and held the Father Ryan record for 38 years. The record was broken by his nephew, Jim Wilson, Class of 2012.
Jocelyn P. Robertson Thomas, 1976, Basketball. She was the anchor of the Lady Irish basketball team during her years at Father Ryan, played the center spot and was known for her rebounding prowess and leadership both on and off the court. She finished her Irish career with more than 1,000 points and was named Most Athletic in her senior year. In 1976, her senior season, she led the NIL in scoring.
Christina “Whit” Whitley ’00, Basketball, Volleyball. A two-sport Irish athlete in the latter half of the 1990s, Whitley was “an undersized, yet dynamite” athlete, according to her former coach and fellow Father Ryan Athletics Hall of Famer Jinx Cockerham. Whitley excelled in both volleyball and girls basketball, and was renowned for her relentless nature, competitive spirit, and Irish pride.
Bill Brunner, 1977, will be inducted as a coach of the baseball team. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in economics, Brunner returned to his alma mater to teach and coach. In 2002, as head coach, Brunner led the Irish baseball team to its first-ever State Championship. He now works as the Athletics Fields Manager for Father Ryan and continues his work in the classroom. A lifelong educator, Brunner teaches math and AP microeconomics, and was selected as the Bishop Smith Teacher of the Year in 2021.
The three contributors who will be inducted are:
Father Bill Fleming, 1949, Teacher, Coach, Principal, Donor. An active supporter of Father Ryan during his high school days, Father Fleming became one of the Irish’s most devoted, vocal and supportive fans during his tenure as religion and history teacher from 1958-1971 and as principal from 1971-1974. In addition, he served as the head tennis coach for the Irish from 1961-1964.
Father Fleming made one of the largest gifts of funds to Father Ryan High School upon his death in 1999, creating two scholarships for those needing assistance in order to enjoy and benefit from a Catholic education. While not specified for athletes, the scholarship proceeds have served to make Father Ryan accessible to numerous student-athletes. To date, those funds have provided more than $1 million in financial assistance to students at Father Ryan.
The Father William Fleming awards are presented each year to the top athletes – male and female – for their achievements in athletics and their accomplishments in and out of the classroom.
Everett “Hosey” Holzapfel, 1959, Athlete, Coach, Athletic Director. From 1955 to 2009, with the exception of just a few years, Holzapfel could be found at Father Ryan. He was the starting quarterback and captain for the football team and point guard for the basketball team. After graduating from college, he returned to his alma mater and spent two decades as a teacher in the Math Department, with a focus on statistics. During this time, he was the official statistician for Father Ryan athletics, and rain or shine, Holzapfel was on the sideline at every game, recording stats and keeping notes in his trademark trench coat and fedora. At a time before computers, when analytical breakdown of sports was still in its infancy, Holzapfel was ahead of his time.
In the early 2000s, he became the school’s Athletic Director and retired in 2009.
Julius “Chuck” Meriwether, 1974, Athlete, Coach, Major League Baseball Umpire, Sports Executive. From his days as a student to his service as a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee, Meriwether was an ambassador for Father Ryan Athletics and the entire Irish community.
A baseball player throughout his youth, Meriwether’s passion for the game led him to pursue perhaps the hardest job in America’s pastime: umpire. After years spent working his way up the ranks at the local and college levels, Meriwether became an MLB umpire in 1987, just the fifth African American umpire in league history at the time. He enjoyed an illustrious career on the diamond and was behind the plate for the final game of the 2004 and 2007 World Series and umpired two perfect games. Meriwether passed away from cancer on Oct. 26, 2019; that evening, MLB held a moment of silence for him before the start of Game 4 of the World Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
The 1973-1974 Girls Basketball Team that were Nashville Interscholastic League Co-Champs also will be inducted.
In just their fourth season as a sport at Father Ryan and playing in one of the largest and most competitive divisions at the time, the 1973-1974 Girls Basketball Team advanced the Irish girls athletics program in a significant way.
Coached by Father Ryan Athletics Hall of Famers John Gorham and Jinx Cockerham, and featuring Hall of Famers Karen Harris Russell, Kay Batey, Paula Holloran and fellow 2022 inductee Jocelyn Robertson Thomas, this squad was truly an Irish “dream team” with talent, determination, and grit. They were District Champions and finished third in the TSSAA State Playoffs, losing to eventual runner-up Warren County, who fell to Shelbyville, a longtime girls basketball powerhouse.
The season was a major milestone for the Irish, as Father Ryan represented one of the smallest schools in its division and held its own against large city- and county-wide schools. The Lady Irish finished with a 23-7 record and were Co-Champions in the NIL with Mt. Juliet.
“I am thrilled to read and talk about the nominees each year, and I am always touched by their stories and their accomplishments,” said Director of Athletics Ann Mullins, a 2003 graduate of Father Ryan.
“However, what truly stands out about each of these Hall of Famers is their humility and their emotional response to selection to the Father Ryan Athletics Hall of Fame,” Mullins said. “Their love for the school and the deep honor they feel over their selection speaks loudly to their experience at Father Ryan and their continued love of the school.
“I thank the Hall of Fame Selection Committee for their outstanding work and look forward to celebrating these men and women in September,” she said.
More information about the inductees and about nominating candidates for future classes are available at www.fatherryan.org/hof.