Back row: Felicia Harris, Mark Martin, Erin (McLaughlin) Hall, Mark Soltau, Clifford Gilbert
Front row: Len Whitegon, Steve Gotowala, Joseph Hilbe, Brett McNamar, Robert Harden, Jr.
|Clifford (Blackie) Gilbert
Football, Skiing (1940-41, 1947-48)
Erin (McLaughlin) Hall
Robert Harden, Jr.
|Leonard "Len" Whitegon
Clifford “Blackie” Gilbert (Football, Skiing, 1940-41, 47-48)
Clifford “Blackie” Gilbert was a four-year player on the gridiron for Chico State, though his academic and athletic career was interrupted for four years due to World War II. Gilbert went on to be a teacher at Chico High School, and in his first year was asked to be an assistant football coach. Little did he know that 28 years later, he would still be coaching Chico High’s best! Always wanting to give back to his community and his profession, Gilbert started a program in the early 1980s for the Chico Leland-Stanford Masonic Lodge to honor outstanding teachers and staff in the area school districts. He also worked with the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Sacramento in their efforts to honor outstanding high school seniors from the tri-county area.
Steve Gotowala (Baseball, 1996-97)
Steve Gotowala was simply the most dominating baseball player to ever wear a Wildcat uniform. After a solid 1996 season (9 HR, 54 RBI), Gotowala exploded in 1997, displaying offensive skills that earned him literally every award possible, from conference player of the year to All-American to NCAA Division II Player of the Year. In leading the Wildcats to their first baseball national championship, Gotowala set school records that stand to this day, including most hits (108), highest batting average (.422), home-runs (20), runs batted in (97), and doubles (28). The leadership qualities he exhibited as a player now serve him well as the site administrator for Special Education at Homestead High School.
Erin (McLaughlin) Hall (Track & Field, 1990-94)
Despite suffering a serious knee injury in high school, Erin (McLaughlin) Hall became an All-American in two different events for the Chico State Wildcats. In her first season at Chico, Hall helped set a school record as part of the 4x400 relay team. In her second year, on the advice of coach Larry Burleson, Hall extended herself to compete in the heptathlon. She finished second in the conference both as a sophomore and as a junior. In her junior season, she earned the first of her two All-America honors as part of the school’s record-setting 4x100 relay team, and then culminated her outstanding career with her sixth-place finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA national championships her senior season.
Robert Harden, Jr. (Gymnastics, 1971-74)
Robert Harden, Jr. was a key component of the powerhouse Wildcat gymnastic teams that held court in Acker Gym during the 1970s. Harden was the first Wildcat gymnast to earn All-America honors and in his three-year career, he garnered six All-America awards. Harden’s fabulous career came to a halt prior to the start of his senior season when a spinal cord injury rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Harden has gone on to inspire others and be an advocate for those in need by volunteering his time and through his writing.
David Hardy (Men’s Soccer, 1975-79)
A four year starter for the Wildcats, David Hardy was the center midfielder on the squad that finished third in the nation in 1976. Voted team captain in both his junior and senior years, Hardy showed his leadership by his willingness to play any position he was asked. After graduation, Hardy worked for Honeywell and Wang Laboratories before earning his MBA from Pepperdine in 1986. In 1990, he and his brother Mike started their own company, California Bio-Mass, Inc., which has become one of the corporate leaders in environmental recycled waste.
Felicia Harris (Track & Field, 1993)
Though her time in a Wildcat uniform was limited, Felicia Harris’s impact on women’s track at Chico State was enormous. Harris came to Chico after earning several All-America honors as a member of the Cal State Hayward track and field squad. Hayward disbanded the program in 1992 and the Wildcats were the lucky recipient of Harris’s talents. In her only season, she was named the Northern California Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year as she tallied an incredible six first-place finishes in the conference championship meet. At the NCAA national championships, Harris won the long jump title with a leap of 20’9” and captured her second national title by triple jumping 42’8” and setting a new stadium record. Already a member of the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame, Harris now brings her 11 All-America awards to the Chico State Hall of Fame.
Joseph Hilbe (Cross Country, Track & Field, 1963-64, 68)
One of the top sprinters in Northern California during his high school days, Joe Hilbe overcame an early season injury during his freshman year at Chico State to qualify for the 1964 NCAA and National AAU championships. His times in the 100 yards (9.5) and 100 meters (10.4) ranked him third in Track and Field News 1964 National Freshman rankings for both events. In 1967 he made the World List with a time of 9.4 seconds in the 100 yards, and in 1968 won the National AAU Pentathlon Championships. Hilbe served as head track & field coach at the University of Hawaii, coaching one athlete to a world record and others to memberships on U.S. Olympic and World Championship teams. He was a U.S. team coach several times and a lead competition official at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Hilbe, a PhD statistician and author, still remains active in track in Arizona.
Mark Martin (Football, 1988-89)
Mark Martin transferred to Chico State after earning all-conference honors as a member of the Butte College football team. Martin enjoyed one of the finest seasons in Wildcat football history in 1989 under Hall of Fame head coach Gary Houser. Martin and fellow Hall of Famer, quarterback Rob Tomlinson, tore up the NCAC as Martin set a school single season record with 75 receptions, including another school record 16 catches in one game. In his final game as a Wildcat, Martin had 216 receiving yards, setting yet another school record. He was rewarded with several honors including 1st team Football Gazette All-America and 1st team All-NCAC.
Brett McNamar (Wrestling, 1984-86)
A top high school and junior college grappler, McNamar came to Chico State in the mid-1980s and twice earned NCAA Division II All-America honors as well as being named Academic All-American and Chico State’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Since receiving his degree in recreation administration, McNamar has gone on to a successful teaching and coaching career at Pittsburg High School as well as at his junior college alma mater, Diablo Valley College. Throughout his 20 years of coaching, he has produced numerous league, section, state, and national medalists.
Mark Soltau (Golf, 1973-77)
On the advice of friends, Mark Soltau chose to attend Chico State, and in the process, he left his mark in two different departments. A four-year letterman for the Wildcats, Soltau competed in three NCAA Division II/III championships and earned all-conference honors in 1973. He earned medalist honors several times during his career and, in 1975, shot a course record 63 at the Lake Almanor Country Club. Mark’s love for writing and his passion for golf have since combined to make him one of the top journalists in the field. A member of the Chico State Department of Journalism Hall of Fame, Mark is currently a contributing editor to Golf Digest and has been editor of Tigerwoods.com, the official Web site for Tiger Woods, since 1997.
Leonard “Len” Whitegon (Honorary Inductee)
He wasn’t a star athlete, or a charismatic coach, or a highly placed administrator in the Chico State Department of Athletics. But there are few others who are as synonymous with Wildcat Athletics as Len Whitegon. A 1951 graduate of Chico State, Whitegon was a leader in education for 33 years, serving as principal at both Park View and Jay Partridge Elementary schools in Chico. Since his retirement in 1984, Len has volunteered for countless projects and has been honored by service groups such as the Lions, Kiwanis, the Salvation Army, and many more. A honorary member of the Chico State pep band, Len can be seen leading Wildcat basketball fans in the Chico State fight song at every home game.