The unofficial theme of Saturday's Century Club dinner at the Franciscan University of Steubenville was simple, yet powerful.
President's Award recipients Liz Repella and Lou Holtz, and Kevin Smith, who accepted the honor on behalf of his father, the late Wayne Smith, each told the more than 500 people who gathered at the Finnegan Fieldhouse for the 45th-annual dinner that a large portion of the success they have enjoyed in life can be attributed to three simple beliefs -in their faith, in their family and in their community.
Staying true to those beliefs has paid big dividends for this year's honorees. Repella finished her career at Steubenville Big Red as the school's all-time scorer - male or female, with 2,065 points. She went on to play for West Virginia University, where she set the record for most games played (134) of any athlete in Mountaineer history, scoring 10 or more points in 87 of those games. Now playing professionally for Universitario DeFerrol, Spain, Repella said the foundation for her success was built in part on encouragement from her father, S. Gary Repella, the city's law director who was himself a standout basketball player at Big Red and Ohio State University, and her grandfather, Steve Repella, who helped to supervise the construction of many buildings in our area, including Egan Hall and the old monastery at the university.
Steve Repella himself was recognized for his contributions to the school.
Wayne Smith, meanwhile, grew up in McKeesport, Pa., but he left his mark on university athletics in general and basketball, in particular. He played with the Barons from 1954 through 1956 and was a member of the 1954-55 team that played for the NAIA championship. He coached the Barons from 1960-62, leading the team to the NAIA state championship and an appearance in the NAIA championships in 1961.
Smith, who died on March 24, 2011, gave back to his community in many ways, helping to found the Parochial League Athletic Commission and serving on the city's planning and zoning Commission, the Catholic Central High School Board of Education, the Holy Rosary Central Board of Education and the university's board of advisers.
Holtz, who also was the keynote speaker, was born in Follansbee and grew up in East Liverpool. He is the only football coach in NCAA history to lead schools from six colleges to bowl games and the only coach to guide four programs to Top 20 rankings.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Holtz' teams had 22 bowl appearances and 12 bowl wins. His 1988 Notre Dame team claimed the national championship.
Now a commentator with ESPN, Holtz reminded the audience that they should strive to add value to the lives of others.
Also honored during the dinner was John Lemal, who won the first athletic letter at the then-College of Steubenville, and whose name is now attached to the school's MVP awards.
The Century Club has had a simple mission since it was founded in 1967: It has encouraged its members to share the conviction that the university is a valuable asset to the community that increases its national profile and provides outstanding opportunities for education. The club today supports the university's intercollegiate athletic program, recognizing the role the school's Christ-centered approach to athletics has on its student-athletes, the community and society as a whole.
This year's honorees, as well as the Rev. Terrence Henry, TOR, university president; the Rev. Richard Davis, TOR, vice president for community relations; Mike Florak, community development director; Chris Ledyard, the school's athletic director; and all who had a hand in this year's dinner are diligent in their efforts to ensure that that mission is fulfilled.
We commend them for their work, which improves the quality of life for everyone in our community.