Six Alumni Athletes, Pioneering Team to Be Inducted Into Caltech Hall of Honor

Published : Thursday, May 14, 2015 | 4:42 PM

On Sunday, May 17, the Caltech Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation will induct its second class of honorees into the Caltech Athletics Hall of Honor. Six individual athletes and one pioneering team, representing more than three decades of Caltech history, will be enshrined during the campus event.

Established in 2014, the Hall of Honor celebrates significant athletic achievements by members of the Caltech community, commemorates Caltech’s athletic tradition and commitment to competitive excellence, and recognizes the important role that athletic participation plays in students’ overall development.

“The Caltech Athletics Hall of Honor is a marvelous vehicle to share and showcase the value of participation and athletic excellence to all different types of athletes who have competed for Caltech,” says Betsy Mitchell, director of athletics, physical education, and recreation at Caltech. “We are proud of each student-athlete and all of our athletic alumni, and the Hall of Honor induction gives us an opportunity to highlight the best of the best. These alumni contributed to the Institute, their teams, and themselves in a variety of meaningful ways that have carried on into their careers and lives.”

The 2015 class consists of Manny Bass ’49, Bruce Chesebro ’63, Karen Close (Tanaka) ’83, Henry DeWitt ’68, Alan Kleinsasser ’74, Howell Tyson ’50 and the 1971-72 Women’s Fencing team.

Athletes

Bass was a three-sport athlete while attending Caltech, starring in football as well as throwing for the track and field team and playing basketball.  Long considered one of the best football players in Caltech history, the two-time All-SCIAC First Team tackle’s notoriety stretched far beyond Pasadena.  He became the first Beaver to be named Little All-Pacific, making the First Team in both 1947-48 and 1948-49, and All-Pacific Coast, earning Honorable Mention status.  In addition, he earned Second Team Little All-America honors and was named the Sports Writers All-Southern California Second Best Lineman as a senior.  Bass also threw the discus with track and field, placing fourth in the SCIAC Championships in 1948.  He returned after graduation to coach the line on the freshman team.

A dual-sport star in swimming & diving and water polo, Chesebro earned three Varsity letters with each team and captained both squads for two years apiece, as well as the freshman water polo team despite entering college with no competitive experience.  The leading scorer all four years on the water polo team, he certainly made his mark in swimming as well, claiming the 50 Free SCIAC title as a junior in a conference-record 22.8 and anchoring two 400 Free Relay SCIAC champion squads, setting one conference and another meet record.  Chasebro was also a two-time runner-up in the 100 Free to earn All-SCIAC First Team honors both years he competed, leading Caltech to a pair of team SCIAC championships with the two highest scores in team history.  Although he missed the 1963 SCIAC Championships as a senior studying abroad in Europe, he went on to break both the school and SCIAC records in the 100 Free at the National AAU Championships.  Among his many honors, Chesebro was awarded swimming’s Campbell Award for sportsmanship, improvement and ability, named the 1961-62 Outstanding Caltech Athlete and received one of 12 national awards from Chemical and Engineering News for achievements in scholastics and extra-curricular activities.

Clearly one of the best athletes on campus in her era, Close ran her way to NAIA Championship titles in the 400-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles, earning All-America status in the latter as she placed sixth at the NCAA Championships.  She is one of just two SCIAC champions in program history, having won the 400m hurdles as Caltech’s only participant at the conference meet over a seven-year span and earning the most points of any Caltech team until 1991.  Close graduated with three Caltech records, including the 100-meter high hurdles, which she held for 11 years, and currently ranks fifth on the all-time list.  She still holds the 400m mark (59.07) by more than a full second and the 400-meter low hurdles record (1:04.50) by nearly four seconds and is the only female recipient of the Goldsworthy Track Trophy for sportsmanship, team spirit and proficiency.

The most decorated swimmer in program history, DeWitt starred not just at Caltech but on a national scale.  He won seven individual SCIAC titles, including the 50 and 100 Yard Freestyle three times each, setting five conference and meet records and breaking marks in both his other title swims while leading a pair of relays to third- and fourth-place finishes at the conference meet.  DeWitt went on to claim back-to-back NAIA titles in both the 50 and 100 Free, setting meet records in both as a junior with a 21.88 50 Free and 48.57 100 Free, and led the 400 Medley Relay to a fourth-place finish.  He also placed second in both events at the NCAA Championship, earning All-America status from both associations and going on to compete in the 100-meter Freestyle at the 1968 Olympic Trials in Long Beach. Upon graduation, DeWitt held 12 program records simultaneously, the longest of which remained intact for 27 years (both the 50 and 100 Free).  Also named Caltech’s Outstanding Athlete in 1968, he was awarded the Campbell Trophy for sportsmanship, improvement and ability all three years on the Varsity team and captained the squad his final two.  He joined the water polo team as a senior and instantly became an All-SCIAC First Team honoree as a forward, also serving as team captain and winning the Coach’s Cup.  Additionally, DeWitt served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Caltech Big T yearbook, was awarded an Honor Certificate as a senior and became Caltech’s only inductee into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1977.

One of just two four-time winners of the Goldsworthy Track Trophy for sportsmanship, team spirit and proficiency and captain of the cross country team as a senior, Kleinsasser won three SCIAC titles in the 880-yard and mile runs, going on to finish runner-up in the 800-meter run at the NAIA District championship twice and placing fifth in the 880y at the NCAA Championship to earn All-America honors.  He graduated with two program records and two other Top-3 times in the 400-meter dash and marathon, currently ranking fourth and sixth, respectively.  His converted marks for the 800m (1:50.74) and 1500m (3:52.44) are still program records by five combined seconds.

Tyson holds one of the longest-standing records in all of Caltech athletics, as his shot put mark of 49 feet, 4 ½ inches has hardly been threatened since his graduation and fell just 1/4 inch shy of the conference mark at the time.  A three-time SCIAC champion in the shot put and discus, including both titles in 1948, runner-up in the shot put as just a sophomore and freshman record-holder in the shot, Tyson also graduated with the third-best mark in program history in the discus and still sits in 10th all-time.  He also contributed on both the football and basketball teams.

Pioneer

With the first class of women admitted to the Institute in 1970, the following year saw the advent of women’s intercollegiate sports as freshmen Marie H. Beall, Katherine E. Delfosse, Debra L. Mielke, and Mary B. Ogilvie and sophomores Ann. E. Clemmens and Janet C. Wainwright formed the women’s fencing team.  The squad competed in the foil across 12 matches, including the Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California Championships, where they improved against two of three opponents they had faced earlier in the year.  This group helped pave the way for the bright future of women’s athletics at Caltech, with the Beavers now fielding eight women’s teams.

Learn more about the Hall of Honor: http://gocaltech.com/information/HallOfHonor/CaltechHOH