NYIT celebrates Hall of Fame inductees at enshrinement dinner

NYIT Athletics Hall of Fame inductees (clockwise): 1997 men's lacrosse, Chris Briller and Rita Smith Hirschfield
NYIT Athletics Hall of Fame inductees (clockwise): 1997 men's lacrosse, Chris Briller and Rita Smith Hirschfield

MUTTONTOWN, N.Y. — NYIT celebrated its history on Monday, inducting Chris Briller, Rita Smith Hirschfield and the 1997 national champion men's lacrosse team into the 14th class of the NYIT Athletics Hall of Fame.

The event at the Woodside Club in Muttontown began with a golf event that included 31 foursomes. The VIPs included new NYIT president Hank Foley, who stressed the importance of athletics to the university.

Briller hit .408 his senior season at NYIT in 1997 and went on to play three seasons of professional baseball. He then launched his own company, MerchantPro Express, that has grown to more than 500 employees.

"Being a part of a team is what I miss most about playing baseball," Briller said. "You create a bond that you're trying to achieve something great together. And it's something very, very difficult to achieve outside of sports." 

Rita Smith Hirschfield partnered with her husband and former inductee Bob Hirschfield to launch the New York Baseball Academy in 1982. She quickly became an ambassador for NYIT athletics.

"It was a tremendous experience," she said. "In those early years we took chances."

The 1997 lacrosse team won the first of NYIT's four national championships in the sport. They also were honored in May at the NCAA championships at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to recognize the 20th anniversary of their achievement.

Jack Kaley, who coached NYIT to four national titles, suggested that being left out of the NCAA Tourmanent in 1996 despite having only one loss motivated the team throughout that championship season.

"The '97 season began in '96," Kaley said.

Earlier in the day, the foursome of Ed Wands, Greg McEnroe, James Conklin and Nick Tullo won the golf outing with a collective score of 65. Second place went to the foursome of John Macaluso, James Brewer, Anthony Macaluso and Keith Michiche with a score of 68.

Paul Vassallo won the men's long drive, while Tara Brady won for the women.

Mark Meinberg won closest to the pin at 18 feet, 2 inches.