WPI Poly Club Inducts Six into Athletics HOF; Abraham Named Harrington Honoree

Front: F. David Ploss, Back (l-r) Lee (Helberg) Conroy, Malcolm MacPherson, Jason Benoit, Nickie Hunter, Nick Fluet
Front: F. David Ploss, Back (l-r) Lee (Helberg) Conroy, Malcolm MacPherson, Jason Benoit, Nickie Hunter, Nick Fluet

The WPI Athletic Department, Poly Club, and Hall of Fame Selection Committee is proud to announce its 35th Class, the Class of 2017. The six newest members were inducted on Friday, September 8th as part of Homecoming Weekend.

The inductees include: Jason Benoit '88 (Wrestling), Nick Fluet '01 (Football), Lee C. (Helberg) Conroy '05 (Basketball and Volleyball), Nickie Hunter '93 (Field Hockey and Softball), Malcolm MacPherson (Men's Soccer), and F. David Ploss '70 (Crew). Dave Abraham was recognized as the Frank C. Harrington (1898) Award recipient.

Watch the induction speeches and more HERE

 


 

JASON L. BENOIT '88 - Wrestling

Jason Benoit, the 1986 New England Champion in the 126 lb. weight class, was a fundamental force with a 41-3-3 dual meet record for the 1987 regional champions and 1986 runners-up.

"Jason was a physically strong high school wrestler entering WPI," recalled Hall of Fame head coach Phil Grebinar."His unbelievable work ethic and his technique soared in a college environment. Beating the defending New England champion from Coast Guard at 126 during his sophomore year was one of his outstanding efforts."

In addition to his individual regional title, Jason went 13-0-1 in his sophomore campaign. He then moved up to 134 for his junior season that saw the grappler collect nine pins, including four-in-a-row, and boasted a .692 pin percentage for the team champs. All three stats are currently tied for fifth in program history.

"Jason was one of the most exciting wrestlers we had on a couple of the most dominant teams in New England wrestling history," remarked current head coach and Hall of Fame teammate Steve Hall. "There was never any doubt that he was always going to leave everything out on the mat and his opponent was going to walk away knowing that he had faced someone that was extremely tough."

The 1987-88 captain was ranked No. 1 in the region before his season-ending injury in his final campaign. Despite the setback, Jason is currently tied for second in career pins (26) and is alone in second with a .533 pin percentage, as well as tied for seventh with three pins under a minute in the Engineers record book. He also claimed NWCA Scholar All-America status as a senior.

In his four years donning the Crimson and Gray, WPI boasted a 65-7 record, Coach Grebinar's 200th win, and a sweep of Boston College.

Born in nearby Oakham, Jason graduated from WPI in 1988 with a degree in civil engineering. After entering the workforce, he continued as an assistant coach for the WPI wresting team until 1998. He has worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in multiple agencies over the past 23 years managing large public projects. Most recently he was the MassDOT project manager for the award-winning Route 9 Burns Bridge over Lake Quinsigamond and he designed the celebrated sails flanking the new bridge. He is currently the Special Projects Engineer at MassDOT District 3 in Worcester. He has been a passionate stone artist for many years and is best known for the larger-than-life stone cow sculpture at the entrance of the Stone Cow Brewery in his hometown. He and wife, Linnea, live in Barre with their son Brent, and Jason's children Owen and Jaeleigh from his first marriage with Dawne (Trombi) Benoit.

 


 

NICK FLUET '01 - Football

Nick Fluet was a top running back and a highly decorated member of the WPI football team. In addition to his numerous accolades from the Football Freedom Conference (FFC), Worcester Area Football Association (WAFA), and ECAC, he was a rare four-time department award recipient.

The team rushing leader all four seasons accumulated 2,981 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had a pair of receiving touchdowns each of his sophomore and senior years and was the squad's top scorer his final three seasons. At that time, he was only the fifth in WPI history to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards and 20 scores.

"The thing that stood out to me about Nick was his toughness," commented offensive lineman teammate Steve Gentilucci. "He came in as a young player and made an immediate impact on how physical we were as a team. It made you want to play harder when you looked across the huddle and saw a young guy saying, "Give me the ball!"

As a 2000 team captain, Nick handed in the sixth-best scoring season and ninth-best rushing season with 78 points and 968 yards, respectively. In all, the local product is third in career yards and career points (210) in the WPI record book.

"Make no mistake about it, statistics reveal ability and talent," stated former head football coach Ed Zaloom. "Unfortunately, statistics do not reveal that which is most important, or at least that which I believe is most important, when an institution chooses to memorialize one as a representative of its "famed" class."

Nick was named the FFC and WAFA Rookie of the Year and a first team running back in 1997. He followed it up with first team nods by both groups his sophomore and senior seasons to go with a WAFA second team nod as a junior. Nick claimed double-digit player of the week honors from the conference and a pair from the ECAC.

Within the Freedom Football Conference Nick was a top rusher each season while also appearing among the scoring and receiving leaders as a sophomore.

Zaloom continued, "When I think back on Nick and what he meant to the WPI football family, I remember a young man who was an absolute coach's dream. I both admired and respected his intensity, his dedication, his attention to detail, his competitive spirit, his passionate heart, and his uncompromising character. Make no mistake about it, Nick represents the very best of WPI."

A native of Leominster, Nick graduated with distinction from WPI in 2001 with a degree in management engineering. His MQP was instrumental in streamlining a local business's warehouse process to facilitate the order-filling process. Nick is currently an account executive for The Trane Company in East Providence, R.I. He and his wife, Sheila, live in Barrington, R.I., with their sons, Cole and Luke.

 


 

LEE C. (HELBERG) CONROY '05 - Basketball and Volleyball

A fixture in Harrington Auditorium from 2001 to 2005, Lee Helberg was a four-year member of the basketball and volleyball teams.

After debuting as the Engineers second leading rebounder and scorer, the two-year basketball captain led the team in rebounding three times and was the top scorer her final two seasons. She was also an All-NEWMAC second team selection as a junior and senior.

As a newcomer, Lee totaled a career-high 201 rebounds and was ranked 40th in NCAA Division III with 1.9 blocks per game. Two years later, she poured in a personal-best 414 points for a 14.8 points-per-game average to go along with 55 blocks and 42 swipes en route to the program's first ECAC invitation in almost a decade. She then posted a career-best 34 assists in her final year. In all, her career featured 1,337 points, 743 rebounds, 93 assists, 152 blocks, and 110 steals.

"Lee was a versatile athlete, highly skilled and a tough competitor," said women's basketball head coach Cherise Galasso. "At 6-foot she had a variety of post moves but also could knock down 3-point shots and attack the rim making her a tough matchup for our opponents. On the defensive end she patrolled the paint and still ranks as one of the all-time leaders in blocked shots and rebounds. To say Lee had an immediate impact on the program is an understatement. She helped elevate WPI women's basketball to new heights, including the program's first postseason appearance in almost a decade and set the tone for our future success."

In the fall, Lee was a solid middle hitter with 898 kills, 157 aces, 162 digs, 55 solo blocks, and 84 block assists. Her junior season was also her best with career-highs of 311 kills, 55 aces, 45 block assists, and a .330 attack percentage.

"Lee was a tough competitor who could get the job done," recalled teammate Meghan Pajonas. "When she stepped on the court, she was a force to be reckoned with.  Her raw talent and skills aside, Lee brought to our team the gift of humor.  No matter what happened, you could count on her to unify the team, both on and off the court, with laughter and her unrelenting positivity.  She inspired our team to work hard and win, but reminded us to have fun along the way while doing it"

A native of South Yarmouth, Mass., she graduated in 2005 with a degree in management engineering. Since then she has worked in several diverse fields—from engineering to pharmaceuticals; she currently serves as a purchasing coordinator for the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. She remains active in her spare time playing in both corporate basketball and volleyball leagues. Lee resides in Boston with her husband, Patrick, and their one-year-old daughter, Cameron.

 


 

NICKIE HUNTER '93 - Field Hockey and Softball

Nickie Hunter was a key member of the field hockey and softball teams during the beginning of the NEW8 era for both programs. She had an impressive senior campaign that will be hard to emulate.

Her fall season began with an outstanding field hockey season that featured a 17-0 record, including 14 shutouts and only 3 goals allowed, heading into the NCAA tournament where she made 20 of 21 stops in a 1-0 loss to William-Smith. She followed it up by batting .414 for the 1993 softball team.

For her field hockey efforts, Nickie garnered NEW8 All-Conference and CFHCA regional accolades, as well as an invitation to the CFHCA North/South Senior All-Star Game. Academically, she was feted by the NEW8 and was named a CFHCA National Academic All-American. She was also the 1992–93 Varsity Club Award recipient.

Over the span of four years, the field hockey program won three regular season crowns and three tournament titles, and went to four NCAA tournaments. In addition to the 1992 squad, the 1990 team enjoyed an undefeated regular season.

"As a goalie in field hockey, she often had to work on her own, with just the assistant coach or other goalies," recalled former field hockey and softball head coach Judy Soderlund. "Even if she thought no one was looking, she always gave her all. She became the best goalie that I ever had the privilege to coach. A week after her last NCAA Tournament game in New York, coaches from every competing region in the country who had seen her called to tell me what a fantastic goalie she was."

The middle infielder served as a three-year captain and was tabbed as a 1993 At-Large All-American. The Engineers shared the regular season title and won the NEW8 Tournament in 1991—the first winning season in nearly a decade. Two years later, the Crimson and Gray won the regular season outright and defeated Wheaton and Worcester State for the first time.

"In softball, again she was tireless," continued Soderlund. "She was asked to play both shortstop and second base. She would make diving plays, turning in many double plays. Her effort, leadership, and willingness to learn along with her teammates were major factors in turning around a losing team to—in a few short years—winning the conference championship."

Nickie received her bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1993, became licensed as a professional engineer in 1998, earned an MBA in 1999 from New Hampshire College, and has worked for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation in the Bureau of Construction for 22 years. For the last 10 years she has served as district construction engineer in the southeast region of New Hampshire, overseeing 15 projects in the Southeast/Seacoast area of the state, including the $200 million Newington-Dover Spaulding Turnpike reconstruction projects. Past projects include oversight of the award-winning Hampton Open Road Tolling project on I-95 and award-winning Memorial Bridge Project in Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine.

Nickie is a youth leader for her hometown church in Melvin Village, N.H., plays the trumpet, and is a proud aunt of her twin sister's children, Noah and Anna.

 


 

MALCOLM MACPHERSON - Men's Soccer

Malcolm MacPherson enjoyed a successful 22 years as the men's soccer head coach with a 198-146-19 (.572) record, including a 22-10-1 ledger in his final two campaigns, and 18 winning seasons.

"Long before 'Do your job' became a mantra, Malcolm would tell our players to 'Play within yourself,'" recalled icon assistant coach Evan Holmes. "Do the things that got you here. Do simple things well and learn to do them at speed. Learning to focus and keep that focus throughout a tough game was always important. Malcolm has that big personality and big voice that fills the room or stadium. In the chaos of a game, 'play within yourself' would quickly get everyone back on track."

The 1992 season featured the third NCAA tournament berth in program history and National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-America second teamer Ryan Burke. The Engineers also concluded the campaign as the 19th-ranked team by the Intercollegiate Soccer Coaches Association of America.

A year later the Engineers won the Constitution Athletic Conference Championship—the program's only conference crown. In 1998 WPI earned an ECAC tournament berth and advanced to the finals.

"When Coach MacPherson started at WPI my sophomore year, the WPI men's soccer program immediately became stronger," remembered Matt Dawson '95. "With an outstanding crop of players and his right-hand man Evan Holmes, Coach brought the team to the NCAA tournament his first year and turned a sometimes competitive D3 soccer program into a consistently competitive program throughout his tenure."

During the NEWMAC era, the Crimson and Gray garnered 32 All-Conference nods and boasted 2013 Rookie of the Year Matt Farrell to go along with the sportsmanship award from 2007 to 2010.

"Malcolm was more than just a coach, which we always called him and still do to this day," recalled 2004 graduate Sergio Cherenzia. "He had a definite passion for the game of soccer, but more important, he was a mentor that imparted the importance of responsibility, integrity, hard work, and respect to young men in their formative years becoming men—he always referred to us as men. He knew the importance of education, which always came first, and understood and embraced what it meant to be part of the WPI community."

Academically, WPI amassed All-Conference accolades, including 28 student-athletes and six three-time selections. Nationally, Ben Gilde was three-time CoSIDA Academic All-America while Jarrod Alston and PJ Moan collected one each.

Prior to his arrival on Boynton Hill, Malcolm put together a jaw-dropping 108-36-15 record from 1983–91 at Fitchburg State—by far the most wins by any coach in program history—for an overall record of 306-184-34. His success at Fitchburg State was not limited to the soccer field, as he just recently wrapped up a 27-year stint as an assistant hockey coach under legendary head coach Dean Fuller.

Malcolm retired nearly a decade ago after teaching health and physical education for 33 years in the city of Leominster. He and his wife, Sandi, recently relocated from Holden to Cape Cod where he grew up. They have two children, Christopher and Jennifer, and six grandchildren, Hailey, Walter, Cameron, Charlotte, Charlie, and Kelsey.

 


 

F. DAVID PLOSS '70 - Crew

Coxswain: the steersman of a ship's boat, lifeboat, racing boat, or other boat. Dave Ploss might be considered as the ultimate WPI coxswain. After steering the top eight as an undergraduate, he was key in steering the evolution and elevation of the men's and women's programs to varsity status.

While pursuing his chemical engineering degree, Dave coxed the WPI varsity 8 to win the Rusty Callow Regatta in 1968, precursor to the New England Championships, and captured the Worcester City Championship to earn a rare Eastern Sprints invitation that same year.

The second head coach in program history, he took over duties from 1972 to1987 to go along with an encore in 1996. Among numerous medals at the New England and national level, WPI crews claimed the 1978 4+ United States National Championship, the 1979 8+ New England Championship, and several Worcester City Championships.

After a decade of the program being co-ed, he teamed up with Bernie Brown to make the men's and women's programs separate entities in 1982.

Throughout his tenure, Dave coordinated the logistics for dozens of student-athletes each year. He also directed fundraising by securing alumni and friends support for all the program needs prior to the formation of Friends of WPI Rowing in 1983.

He went on to help establish the WPI Crew Endowment in conjunction with the transition to varsity status in 1999, and served on the committee to hire current head coaches Larry Noble and Jason Steele.

"F. David Ploss did what great coaches do, he enabled the dreams of athletes through a partnership of uncompromising dedication, hard work, and absolute commitment to achieving those goals," mused Jack Tracy '79. "I was one of those athletes. He has had an enormous impact on my life and his former Rowers all say the same."

In addition to coaching John Matthews '74, a 1976 Olympian, and John "Jay" Feenan '80, a US National Team member and world championship participant, Dave brought WPI to the Canadian Henley in 1978 and 1979 and the 4-, which won the Reading Town Regatta in the lead up to the 1981 Royal Henley Regatta. The Engineers also went across the pond in 1982 and 1985.

"Floyd's vision and personal commitment to WPI and the crews created a competitive advantage for WPI during my years on the team," recalled Feenan. "More important, he cultivated an extremely competitive environment that drove our athletes together, yielding many medals and lifelong friendships. In my opinion, this environment contributed to a great many of us succeeding off the water—in life—and cultivated a better environment for WPI Rowing to grow into the tremendous program that it is today."

This 1985 recipient of the John Boynton Award for service to WPI by a young alumnus continues to act in an advisory role as needed for both the Friends of WPI Rowing and the varsity rowing program.

A native of Wethersfield, Conn., Dave graduated from WPI in 1970 with a degree in chemical engineering. His career was spent in the environmental and safety field with Norton Company, with Ploss Associates, and as director of environmental health and safety for Wyman-Gordon Co. He retired in 2005 and lives in Hendersonville, N.C., with Liz, his wife of 31 years. Dave currently enjoys playing golf and playing his banjo—not at the same time—and traveling with Liz.

 


 

DAVE ABRAHAM – Frank C. Harrington (1898) Award

The WPI Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes with this award those individual and/or entities that through the years have been distinguished and significant contributors to the WPI Athletics Program. Through their efforts and support, our athletics program has been able to flourish and enjoy success while contributing to the quality experience for our student-athletes. The award has been named in honor of Frank C. Harrington, a student-athlete of the WPI Class of 1898 and for whom Harrington Auditorium is named.

Dave Abraham served as the head trainer at WPI for 17 years. Universally respected by student-athletes and coaches alike he brought the perfect balance of technical skill and personality to the athletic training room.

"Dave was a tremendous communicator and his "down-to-earth" personality resonated with our student-athletes and coaches, recalled head men's basketball coach Chris Bartley. "When I joined WPI, I was an outsider to the Central Massachusetts athletics community and Dave welcomed me into that circle and helped me feel at home. I will always appreciate that and appreciate his long service to WPI."

While being a professional athlete isn't typically in the cards for the WPI student-athletes, it was Dave that made the big leagues, leaving Worcester to spend seven years in Major League Baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Through Dave's career he was responsible for so many WPI athletes," remembered Hall of Fame wrestling coach Phil Grebinar. "His work with the wrestling team and keeping our wrestlers healthy was a major component in our teams winning many meets."

A graduate of Northeastern and Worcester State, Dave currently works for Worcester Physical Therapy.