Stan Savran, who has served as the master of ceremonies at the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame induction dinners since they first began back in 1987, closed the 14th event Saturday night at the Blair County Convention Center by conveying his impressions about the historically strong bond that has always existed between the inductees and their community.
"The memories that they've always cherished have been from knowing you,'' Savran, a Cleveland native and long-time Pittsburgh sports television personality, addressed the crowd on hand. "It's all about your town, it's all about your community. They've been honored by your community, and they, in turn, have honored you.''
Each of the five newest Blair Hall individual inductees has traveled away from their roots to forge esteemed careers in business, and, in some cases, coaching.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Steve Taneyhill speaks to the capacity crowd on Saturday night.
But all - Wayne "Buddy" Geis, Steve Taneyhill, Jill Brumbaugh, Bill Huber and Rick Stonebraker - remembered their hometowns fondly during their induction speeches Saturday night.
Geis left Altoona and went on to college and National Football League coaching acclaim. But he has never forgotten where he learned the work ethic that enabled him to excel.
"This is a great, great moment for Buddy Geis, I love this city,'' said Geis, who spent more than three decades in college and professional coaching and now lives in Florida. "It's so great to be a part of Altoona. Every time I come back here, it is special to me.''
Geis, was presented for induction via video by former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, who remembered Geis' "infectious enthusiasm."
Geis said he cultivated that enthusiasm, drive and perseverance while growing up in Altoona as the youngest in a family of 10 children.
"I learned from my family and from the people I know in Altoona about working hard, and working through difficulties,'' Geis said. "I was always very fortunate, in that I loved what I was doing [coaching].''
Taneyhill went from being an all-state quarterback at Altoona Area High School to earning his Blair Hall induction as one of the most prolific passers in the University of South Carolina's rich football history.
Now a high school football coach in Chesterfield, S.C., Taneyhill has directed that program to five state championships.
Taneyhill joins his father, legendary former Altoona Area High School basketball coach Art Taneyhill, in the Blair Hall. Art Taneyhill coached the Altoona Area Lady Lions to four PIAA state championships, and Steve, never one to be outshined, evoked hearty laughter from the audience with his plea for another Hall induction down the road.
"I've been a head coach for 10 years and my teams have won five state championships, and my dad coached for 30 years and he won only four state championships,'' Steve Taneyhill mused. "When I retire from coaching, do I get in [the Blair Hall of Fame] again?''
Huber went on from Bishop Guilfoyle - then Altoona Catholic - to play college football at Penn State. He was presented via video by former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who termed Huber "a special football player.''
Huber, who now lives in Montoursville, also cherished his hometown memories of playing football at Mansion Park and the old Cricket Field, and basketball in places like the Frankstown Armory.
"Every day, I wake up and see [Bishop Guilfoyle] purple and gold, I bleed Penn State blue and white, and I am so proud that I was born and raised in Blair County,'' Huber said.
Brumbaugh, now living in Florida, starred in basketball at Claysburg-Kimmel before moving on to play collegiately at the University of Connecticut under the direction of renowned coach Geno Auriemma, who presented her via video Saturday.
"She came around and developed into a really good offensive player who could you trust with the basketball,'' Auriemma said.
Brumbaugh was also thankful for the role her family, and especially her Claysburg coaches - Dan and Grant Crist - played in her basketball development.
"To all my friends and family, thank you very much,'' she said.
Stonebraker, a Tyrone native, became a world-class archer after developing his skills while hunting in the woods of northern Blair County.
"I'm excited to be here -- representing the sport of archery,'' he said.
Bishop Guilfoyle's first PIAA girls basketball championship team - the 1983-84 squad - was inducted as a group Saturday, and the audience was treated to an entertaining video highlight of the team's special season.
Former Mirror sports editor Jim Lane was presented with the Hall's first Lifetime Achievement Award for his 50 years of service covering high school, college and professional sports. Sue Kovensky was presented with the Hall's Community Service Award for her yeoman contributions with the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA.
Reliance Bank scholar-athlete award winners were Bishop Guilfoyle basketball standout Alli Williams and Central tennis star Jared Salyards.
Guest speaker and ESPN college football analyst Chris Fowler had accolades for Saturday's event as well.
"This dinner has a nationwide reputation for excellence, and now I see why,'' he said.