BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College athletic department inducted three new members into the Fred I. Dickerson Hall of Fame Friday night in McDonald Dining Hall. This year’s induction class includes: Mike Eades ’83 (men’s basketball), Manuel Jessup ’76 (men’s basketball), and longtime athletic administrator Rita Smith.
In what has become a signature event of Lees-McRae’s homecoming weekend, alumni, staff, students and honored guests were on hand to watch three exceptional individuals enshrined in Lees-McRae’s athletic hall of fame.
In his opening remarks, McPhail commended the trio of honorees:
“For you three are what intercollegiate athletics represent. Good citizens, great servants, wonderful ambassadors for not only your profession, but this dear college,” McPhail noted. “Being a part of sports teaches one all of life’s lessons in a simple week. Early morning practices, treatment for injuries, preparation for competition and then the game. In that, I have just mentioned dedication, sacrifice, commitment, perseverance, loyalty and passion. These are traits you all exemplified throughout your career at Lees-McRae and beyond.”
After McPhail’s opening comments and dinner from the staff of the MacDonald Dining Hall, Lees-McRae President, Dr. Barry Buxton spoke to the crowd. The night’s honored guests then received their time in the spotlight, as each was in turn welcomed into the special fraternity that is the Lees-McRae athletic Hall of Fame.
Mike Eades, ’83 men’s basketball
Eades established himself as one of the best floor generals in program history during his tenure in Banner Elk, dishing out 283 assists in 54 career games for the Bobcats. During his career in the Green and Gold, Eades set a school record with an average of 5.2 assists per game while ranking second all-time in program history in career helpers. After his time at Lees-McRae, Eades went on to start at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for one season, averaging 7.3 points in 26 games.
“This night means more to me than words can say,” Eades said. “Lees-McRae has done so much for me. I knew that and coming back to reminisce with the people it has been a great experience. Words cannot describe it. I would not have had the successes that I’ve had professionally [without my time at Lees-McRae].”
He has gone on to a successful career as a leading basketball official in the NCAA, regularly officiating games in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference. He has officiated countless NCAA March Madness games, including this spring’s Elite Eight matchup between Cincinnati and Ohio State in Boston, Mass.
Manuel Jessup, ’76 men’s basketball
Jessup stared for two seasons in the Green and Gold, averaging nearly 16 points per game while shooting at a 48.8 percent clip from the floor. Jessup enjoyed perhaps his best season with the Bobcats during the 1975-76 campaign, averaging 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while posting a field goal percentage of 51.7 percent.
“It’s an honor to be here,” expressed Jessup. “I’m honored that Lees-McRae thought enough of me to bring me back. This is a night that I won’t forget,” Jessup commented. “Lees-McRae was the foundation to establish my career in basketball and professionally and now the things that I’m able to achieve was based on lessons from Lees-McRae.
A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., Jessup went on to star at Coastal Carolina University, scoring 1,124 points in during the 1976-77 and 1977-78 campaigns, ranking fourth all-time at Coastal in career scoring average (19.1). He posted the fifth- and sixth-highest point single-season point totals in that program’s history, while ranking ninth all-time in steals (147).
“I was surprised when I came back with my son Harrison [Jessup] two years ago, how the interaction has not changed over the last 20 years,” Manuel Jessup said. “Now since this has happened I’m going to have to make more of an attempt to come back more often.”
After his playing days, Jessup transitioned into a successful career in the business world, holding several top management positions with Chico’s women’s clothing, Sara Lee Corporation, and Levi Strauss & Co., including a stint as both the Corporate and Global Vice President of Human Resources at Sara Lee.
Rita Smith, athletic administration
Smith has been a cornerstone of the Lees-McRae athletic department for the last 28 years, serving the College in various capacities as the Chair for the Division of Sport and Wellness Studies, Director of Athletic Training Education, Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Education, and Senior Woman Administrator for Athletics. She was instrumental in the development of the athletic training program at Lees-McRae, building the program from the ground up and serving as the College’s first full-time athletic trainer.
“It’s a pleasure to be inducted into the Lees-McRae athletic hall of fame. It’s a very special night,” Smith said with numerous members of her family and athlete-training students in attendance.
She has served the athletic training community for over 30 years, working countless camps and holding various positions both as an athletic trainer and an instructor for sports medicine/athletic training. She has been a licensed and certified athletic trainer for over 25 years, serving at Lees-McRae for all but one year.
Lees-McRae College, a four-year, co-educational liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, USA, is located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. Being a year-round tourist destination, the area provides the best of a vibrant college community coupled with natural beauty and a rich history. Please see www.lmc.edu for more information.
- LMC -