Trinidad Express / Ephraim Serrette was overcome with emotion at the Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Division I Athletic Hall of Fame 2017 induction ceremony, in New Jersey, USA, recently. The former sprinter was added to the Hall of Fame in recognition of his excellence on the track between 1978 and 1982.
“On the Saturday of the ceremony,” Serrette told the Express, “it really kicked in for me. I was probably taking it very lightly, but when I arrived and saw some of the old faces and my coach Russ Rogers, it became very emotional. The way it was done, the inductees were outside and had to be presented by someone. Russ did my introduction.”
Rogers was high in praise for the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) president.
“The intro Russ did for me spoke volumes. He spoke about me not being on an athletic scholarship, explaining that I was offered a scholarship by the Trinidad and Tobago Government after the school had offered me a scholarship, and that I, in turn, got Fairleigh Dickinson to give another T&T athlete the scholarship.”
Thanks to Serrette’s initiative, Ken Barton got the opportunity to attend FDU.
“Russ also spoke about me being the informal leader of the school team. He said too that I was easy to coach because I didn’t like to lose. I was actually unbeaten on the eastern coast for my four years at Fairleigh Dickinson. Russ spoke about me going on to be president of the NAAA, and the developments under my leadership, including sponsorship deals for the association.”
Rogers even lauded Serrette for the golden run produced by the T&T men’s 4×400 metres combination of Jarrin Solomon, Jereem “The Dream” Richards, Machel Cedenio and Lalonde Gordon at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, England.
“That victory over the United States came up,” said Serrette. “For Russ, the mile relay was always his pet event. After doing my introduction, he kind of broke down. Russ stood there shaking his head as he reflected on all my achievements, reliving all that had happened.”
Then, it was Serrette’s turn to speak.
“I thanked Russ for who he was to me at Fairleigh Dickinson. I also had to pay tribute to Elia G. Stratis. He was on the Board of Trustees at FDU. Stratis arranged for me to visit the school, calling Trinidad and asking that I come. He loved track. Russ was not there yet, but Stratis indicated that he would soon be coming over. FDU’s track programme was developed while I was there.
“In addition to Ken Barton,” Serrette continued, “T&T’s Richard Ross was at FDU then. There were also athletes from Kenya and Somalia, American high jumper Franklin Jacobs, Canadian thrower Michael Clarke, Barbadian Clyde Edwards and Guyanese Oliver Als. As Russ said, we had the right people at the right time. Just 12 to 15 guys on our team, but we would win. Russ was about quality, and not quantity.”
Another former T&T sprinter, Ruthven Prithwie was at the Clinton Inn Hotel for the induction ceremony.
“Ruthven contacted me,” said Serrette, “and sent a limousine to pick me up. I was instrumental in Ruthven going to FDU. I also played a role in getting Ronald Sobers and Pernell Bruno there. There were also T&T footballers at FDU—Winston Phillip, Brian ‘Big Bird’ Brown, Francisco ‘Sippy’ Moreno. And Earl ‘Spiderman’ Carter, who was with the New York Cosmos at the time, was goalkeeping coach at FDU.”
The four years Serrette spent in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickinson University were very rewarding. Coming just 15 days after he celebrated his 60 th birthday, the October 21 Hall of Fame induction ceremony served as a timely reminder for the 1981 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor Championship men’s 60 yards bronzemedallist.
“It was a nice function, and very emotional for me to relive my time at Fairleigh Dickinson. I’m really honoured to have been present for such an occasion. It’s a big thing in the United States to be inducted into a Hall of Fame, and I’m very happy for this recognition outside of Trinidad and Tobago. Sometimes,” Serrette ended, “people are more appreciative outside than at home.”