Pitt-Bradford Inducts Athletics Hall of Fame Class Of 2017

(L to R) Darlene Walker O'Connell, Dr. Michael Stuckart, Jackie Podrasky-McFadden, Tina Phillips, Jennifer Lewke-Tortora. Photo: Erika Helo
(L to R) Darlene Walker O'Connell, Dr. Michael Stuckart, Jackie Podrasky-McFadden, Tina Phillips, Jennifer Lewke-Tortora. Photo: Erika Helo

BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford inducted three new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday night as part of the annual Pitt-Bradford Alumni Association dinner in the Mukaiyama University Room.

The 16th Hall of Fame class is made up of volleyball players Jennifer Lewke-Tortora '05 and Jackie Podrasky-McFadden '11 and bowler Darlene Walker O'Connell '80

A native of Central Square, N.Y., Lewke-Tortora was a member of the volleyball team from 2001-04. As a Panther, she finished top five in the AMCC in blocks for three straight seasons (2002-04) and was named to the AMCC All-Conference Third Team her senior year. She made a lasting impression on the program as she ranks second in Pitt-Bradford history in blocks, third in sets played, fifth in service aces and sixth in kills. 

Tina Phillips, Lewke-Tortora's coach from her sophomore season on, presented her plaque.

"As a new coach, she was exactly what I needed: energetic, vocal, kind-hearted and gave the team a lot of personality," Phillips said of Lewke-Tortora in her introduction. "But what made her special was that she was the ideal Division III student-athlete. She was very involved in her major as well as several clubs and organizations. She did it all while putting others ahead of herself."

"I am thankful for the amazing memories I have from my time at Pitt-Bradford," Lewke-Tortora said. "Playing volleyball here helped define me as a person and taught me so much about teamwork, competitiveness and leadership. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to play here, and I am even luckier to have done it alongside such amazing women."

O'Connell helped put the Pitt-Bradford bowling program on the national stage during its first year competing in the NJCAA in 1980. The Bradford, Pa., native placed fourth at Nationals to earn a spot on the All-American team out of 100 bowlers, becoming the first Pitt-Bradford female NJCAA All-American. She scored 2,097 (514, 501, 560 and 522 series totals) in 12 games for an average score of 174.7.

Dr. Michael Stuckart presented O'Connell with her plaque.

"Dar was the franchise of the team," Stuckart said of O'Connell in his introduction. "She was a team leader in every way. It is a pleasure for me to be presenting this honor to such an absolutely amazing athlete and outstanding student."

"I came to Pitt-Bradford because I decided I wanted more out of life," O'Connell said. "I was welcomed to Pitt-Bradford with open arms. The women I bowled with were so much fun, and we had the most amazing times."

A native of Medina, Ohio, Podrasky-McFadden became the Pitt-Bradford volleyball program's first All-American in 2010. That same year, she was named the AMCC Player of the Year and the Pitt-Bradford Athlete of the Year, while leading the Panthers to the program's first AMCC title. She hit the ground running in her career, earning the 2007 AMCC Newcomer of the Year and 2007-08 Pitt-Bradford Rookie of the Year honors her freshman year. For her career, she logged over 1,000 career kills and digs, just the fourth player in program history to reach that milestone.

Phillips also coached Podrasky-McFadden and presented her plaque.

"We knew that if we could convince Jackie to come here, then we would take our program to new heights," Phillips said in her introduction. "She is not only one of our most decorated volleyball players, but student-athletes as a whole. Statistics aside, she was all about winning. She was truly a winner who cared about her team, her teammates and her family."

"There's no way I could have received this honor without my teammates and all of the hard work they put in," Podrasky-McFadden said. "I am so thankful for my time with them and all of the memories we had together during our time at Pitt-Bradford."

The Pitt-Bradford Athletic Hall of Fame was created in 2002 to honor former student-athletes at Pitt-Bradford who displayed athletic prowess, while maintaining and providing leadership, integrity, teamwork and excellence.