After 47 years and hundreds of deserving inductees, the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame Banquet just keeps getting bigger and better. Monday night at the Trade Center, a sold-out crowd watched, clapped, cried and even stood in appreciation of the many award winners. Some of the highlights included the male and female athletes of the year presentations; golfers Steven Fox from UTC and brand new LPGA Tour member Brooke Pancake. Cleveland’s highly successful businesswoman Brenda Lawson was presented the Fred Gregg Jr. Award for her great philanthropic work in the Volunteer state, and Sale Creek basketball star Rachel Price thrilled the crowd and brought plenty of tears as she accepted the Walt Lauder Award for courage and perseverance. Rachel made the announcement that she was now cancer free after her doctor, who was in attendance, gave her the great news just before the banquet. (You just can’t make stuff like this up.)
The tears that were shed were tears of happiness at the wonderful news that Rachel received. There were other tears shed on Monday night; tears of love and admiration for GPS Physical Education Instructor and Department Head, Peggy Michaels, who received the Betty Probasco Award for lifetime achievement. Peggy has battled Multiple Sclerosis for twenty-seven years, yet she still teaches every day. She was there when my daughter Christi was a seventh grader in 1991, and to this day she still gives Peggy Michaels credit for helping her make it through GPS. That was twenty-two years ago, and Peggy had been fighting MS for seven years at that time. We all admired her for her perseverance back then, but I had just assumed she had retired years ago and done what I would very likely would have done; gone to the house and sat down when walking became very, very difficult.
But not Peggy Michaels. She walks slowly with the assistance of a cane, and she also has a small motorized vehicle she uses to get around while she teaches each day. After the banquet I walked over to where Peggy was standing with family and friends, thinking she worked just a partial schedule. I asked her if she was at GPS every day and she replied, “Yes…..I still work full time. I’m there every day.” I should have known. The dedication she has for her students and the love she has for her job is more than just a part-time deal. In 1993, she was honored as the Tennessee Secondary Schools Teacher of The Year. She designed a physical education program called, SHAPE, which is a model for fitness/wellness programs in the southeast.
Peggy Michaels considers herself blessed to be able to work at GPS, where she is surrounded daily by youngsters of all shapes and sizes. She says they are also a blessing to her, but if you ask any one of them, they would say Peggy Michaels is a real blessing to them as well.
Speaking of blessings…we were all blessed by her presence and her speech at the Hall of Fame Banquet. We were also blessed to hear Rachel Price’s words describing the tough year she has had battling cancer, followed by the tearful announcement, “I’m now cancer free!” We were also blessed by the humility shown by the great athletes, coaches, and officials who were enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
As my wife Shelia and I were leaving the Trade Center, we both commented on how tired we were when we got there, but how great we felt just three hours later. Thanks to the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame; you literally made our day.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).