Beckford, Knodel and Thames to Enter Rice Athletic Hall of Fame



Aug. 28, 2009

The Rice Athletic Hall of Fame will welcome its three newest members on October 9 when Allison Beckford, Don Knodel and Damon Thames are inducted during ceremonies held in the Grand Hall at the Rice Memorial Center.

Tickets for the 2009 induction ceremony are $35 ($20 for children under 12) and are currently on sale either online at RiceOwls.com or by calling Mary Santos at 713-348-5677.

Along with the induction of the three newest members of the Hall of Fame, the R Association will also honor Ron and Margie Sass with their Honorary R Award, as well as present former Rice lettermen Gene Walker and Leland Winston with the Distinguished R Award.

Beckford won a total of three NCAA titles and was a six-time All-America while competing for Rice from 2000 to 2004. The Jamaican native and 400m specialist won her first NCAA championship in 2001 and defended that title a year later, setting a school record of 50.83 in the process. She moved indoors in 2002 time win her third NCAA title in the 400 meters, setting a school indoor mark of 52.16. She won a combined 12 individual WAC titles while competing for the Owls and went to represent Jamaica at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She won a bronze medal for Jamaica at the 2003 IAAF World Championship as a member of Jamaica's 4x400m relay. An accomplished student at Rice, Allison Beckford graduated in May 2004 with degrees in linguistics and kinesiology. She was named as a CoSIDA Academic All-America in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

Don Knodel led the Owls to a Southwest Conference title, the 1970 NCAA Tournament and 76 victories during his eight-year tenure (1966-74) as Rice University's basketball coach. Knodel's Rice team captured the 1970 Southwest Conference championship with a 10-4 league record. Knodel, known as "The Silent K," took over a program which had won just three games in its previous two seasons. Rice saw improvement in the win column Knodel's initial four seasons at the helm, leading up to the school's first Southwest Conference championship in basketball since 1954. During Knodel's tenure, Rice had two players named All-Southwest Conference. Greg Williams was named the 1969 Southwest Conference Player of the Year while Gary Reist was named All-SWC in back-to-back seasons (1970 and 1971). Knodel's 76 victories ranks fifth all-time at Rice. His overall record was 76-127 while his Southwest Conference record was 40-72. Knodel returned to Rice in April of 1999 as the Executive Director of the "R" Association.

Damon Thames made the most of his two seasons on the baseball diamond with Rice. The Humble, Tex., native became the second Owl to be named the national player of the year in as many years when he grabbed the accolades after his 1998 season after hitting .424 with 26 home runs, while setting school records in hits (120) and doubles (36). . . As a senior shortstop in 1999, he earned All-America honors for a second-straight season and helped lead the Owls the top spot in the national polls and the program's first-ever win at the College World Series. In his two years, Rice posted a 105-32 (.766) record Thames finished as the school's all-time leader in career batting average (.399) and he was second in career doubles (60). He drove in 187 runs in 137 games played and his 37 career home runs, 13 triples and 60 doubles led to a .730 career slugging percentage.

For many years, Ron and Margie Sass have been the most active couple supporting Rice athletics. Since joining the Rice faculty in 1958, Ron has been a supporter of Rice Athletics. Over the years, he has served as an interviewer and advisor of prospective athletes of Rice, particularly those interested in the science disciplines. After they enrolled, he provided many of them with invaluable mentoring. He has provided significant advice to the Athletic Department from a faculty point of view and ,of course, he has supported Margie in her many athletic endeavors. After Margie's marriage to Ron, she became the consummate convert. Margie has been on various women's athletic committees, helping and leading where ever she can. For years, she was an unofficial photographer for the Athletic Department, attending practically every event. She even found time to attend Rice as a student and get her degree.

Known for his gritty style during his playing career at Rice from 1963-65, Walker has maintained his passion for the Owls since his graduation in 1966. He has been a tireless supporter of many of the Owls programs and an active member of the R Association. He played a key role in saving Rice Division I athletic program when it was under attack several years ago, hosting meetings to develop ideas and support. A successful entrepreneur as creator and owner of Safe-way Driving Center, Walker has lobbied the state legislature in Austin on behalf of his industry to improve driving programs and driving laws.

An All SWC selection as an offensive tackle in 1967, Winston was also drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. He became a successful orthopedic surgeon working adjacent to the Rice campus in the Medical Center. For nearly two decades, he teamed with Tom Clanton as the Owls' team doctors and now serves as the Owls Medical Director. He serves on the board of the Foundation for Orthopedic, Athlete & Reconstructive Research.