Violet Palmer, Tara Chance, Ellen Migasi and Dennis Nespor being honored on Saturday (left to right). (COURTESY OF TOM ZASADZINKSI)

Hall of Fame inducts four former student-athletes

The Cal Poly Pomona’s athletic department inducted four former student-athletes into the 2020 Hall of Fame class on Saturday at Kellogg West Conference Center. The individuals recognized were Tara Chance (1999-2003), Ellen Migasi (1994-1997), Dennis Nespor (1966-1969) and Violet Palmer (1982-1986).

Chance was a starting defender for her entire career as a Bronco. She was a four-time California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) selection, a three-time All-Region honoree, and was just one of four Broncos on the soccer team to earn All-American status. As a freshman, she was a part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four All-Tournament team. Chance continued her success in the classroom, earning CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2001 and 2003.

“We had a special group of girls in the right place at the right time to make something great happen,” Chance said. “Our coaches believed we were capable of anything. We became a force to be reckoned with. No one wanted to play us in overtime … we won so many games in overtime.”

Violet Palmer, Tara Chance, Ellen Migasi and Dennis Nespor being honored on
Saturday (left to right). (Courtesy of Tom Zasadzinksi)

Chance believes her time on the team helped shape her into a better wife, mother and friend to this day. She praised her parents for their unwavering support and encouragement, never letting her quit soccer when times got tough. 

Migasi, a former middle-blocker for the volleyball team, left her mark on the program as the all-time leader in blocks and block assists to this day. Migasi was a two-time All American, four-time All-CCAA selection and three-time All-Region honoree.

“I knew I needed to go to college, and I knew I needed a scholarship,” Migasi said. “Rosie, my college coach, grew my skills and mind. She always went above and beyond and that taught me to be a better coach, teacher and mother to my own children.”

Migasi shared her honor with three of her teammates who came to support her and reminisced on their time together as Broncos. After thanking her friends and family, she focused on her two sons.

“I really hope you two will find something that you love just as much as I love volleyball. I hope it will drive you to be the best you can be,” Migasi said.

Nespor, a two-sport athlete in baseball and football, was a crucial component to the baseball team. Nespor was CPP’s Male Athlete of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 1968. He played under legendary Hall of Fame Coach John Scolinos.

Nespor reminisced about all the good times he had while being a student-athlete at CPP. He praised his incredible coach alongside his former teammates, who came to support him.

“We never realized how amazing John Scolinos was,” Nespor said. “That’s the crazy thing about life, you don’t realize how good something is at that moment in time until you don’t have it anymore.”

“Playing back then, it was just so much fun. We still have lifelong friendships. It was something else. The experience was one I will never forget,” Nespor said.

Palmer became a true pioneer for the sport of basketball. Her impact on the women’s game is unmatched. Palmer was the starting point guard under Hall of Fame Coach Darlene May. She won two national championships during her career and is currently 10th all-time in program history in steals with 165. After graduating from CPP, Palmer broke gender barriers by becoming the first woman to officiate an NBA team.

Before that, she worked five NCAA Women’s Final Four games and two NCAA Women’s National Championship games. Palmer also officiated in the inaugural season of the WNBA in 1997 and worked the WNBA finals that year. As an official, Palmer won the Neesmith Award for Official of the Year in 1999, which is the highest award an official can receive in the collegiate game. She also officiated the 2014 National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game.

Even with all her accolades, a humble Palmer was at a loss for words to hear she would soon be in the Hall of Fame at CPP.

“As a 15-year-old student-athlete at Compton High School, I knew I wanted to play for Darlene May,” Palmer said. “I told my mom and dad, I didn’t care what other letters I got, I wanted to come here, and that was the best decision I ever made,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s biggest role model, her mother, told her that her God-given talent was officiating. Little did Palmer know, about eight years after her career started she would be officiating for the NBA.

“That opportunity changed my life,” Palmer said. “It was a magnificent 20 years. Having the opportunity to referee the late, great Kobe Bryant, as well as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, you name it.

“Being a student-athlete here set the bar for me because playing for Coach May was all about excellence.”

The inductees’ plaques will be located in Kellogg Arena.

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