After nearly two decades, the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame's presidential baton has changed hands.
Dave Andrews, 60, who has served as the Blair Hall's president since 1995, is stepping down as the organization's chief leader.
The Hall's new president will be Neil Rudel, who - along with Andrews, Steve Sheetz and the late Bernie Dembert - made up the Hall's original founding committee back in 1987.
Sheetz served as the Blair Hall president from 1987 until 1995, when Andrews took over those duties. Andrews said earlier this week that he'll continue to serve the Hall as a member of both its selection committee and its board of directors.
"I think that with any organization, it is good to have some change in leadership at the top periodically,'' Andrews, an Altoona attorney, said. "I really think that Neil deserved a shot because he's been one of the people who has been with the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame since its formation. I thought that this is a good opportunity for Neil to be in the president's position, and that he'll do an excellent job.''
Rudel, 56, is the managing editor of the Altoona Mirror.
"It's an honor to follow in the footsteps of Dave Andrews and Steve Sheetz,'' Rudel, a Johnstown native who lives in Duncansville, said. "I have worked closely with and learned much from both of them. Steve established the tradition of how we honor our athletes and celebrate the Hall of Fame, and Dave drove our banquet to what it has become - the premier event of its kind in central Pennsylvania and beyond. I know that it will be a significant challenge, but I'm eager to help take the Hall of Fame to its next generation.''
Since its original banquet was held at the Penn State Altoona's Adler Gymnasium in 1987, the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame has held 15 banquets and honored 80 inductees, along with many student-athlete scholarship and community service award winners.
Attendance for the banquet has averaged nearly 1,000 since it moved to the Blair County Convention Center from the Lakemont Park Casino in 2002.
During Andrews' reign as Blair Hall president, the Hall - with the help of Reliance Bank - has awarded a total of $88,000 in scholarship money to the county's deserving student-athletes.
"We're very proud of what we've been able to do, bringing national sports talent to this community, honoring inductees at our banquets [which have been held every other year since 1992], and honoring the great student-athletes of our community,'' Andrews said.
Rudel hopes to continue that tradition.
"Our sports history is as rich as any community our size in the country, and we look forward to the continued recognition of our outstanding individuals, teams and scholar-athletes,'' he said.
Rudel said nominations for the Hall's Class of 2014, both for individuals and teams, can be mailed to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, 612 Robertdale Drive, Duncansville, PA 16635 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nominations are due by Aug. 9.