BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – One year ago, Northwestern High School Athletic Director Dan Armstrong decided the school needed to permanently preserve its rich athletic heritage. As a result, he founded the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame with charter member athletes Brandon Beachy, Gary Mumaw, Jenna Tarkington-Mumaw and Austin Parkinson; contributor Mike Blackburn; and coaches Merrill Hoban and Bob Rodibaugh.
On March 27, the athletic department honored its second class, which included two athletes and a coach. Inducted into the Brent Graber/Brian Hemmerly Athlete Wing were swimmer Dyan Lodde-Brownlee and basketball standout John Kiser while Dan Robinson became the third member of the Gerald Hood Coaches Wing. The trio were honored during a banquet held in the Northwestern Tiger Den in front of more than 100 friends, family and supporters.
“I would like to thank the hall of fame committee for this honor,” said Robinson, who coached the Purple Tigers football team for 21 seasons. “This is an unbelievable experience; a heartwarming experience. I thank Dan for being the driving force for this hall of fame. It is a worthwhile endeavor. It is always worthwhile to tie yourself to the past and take a moment to look back. It is worthwhile to get the newer generations to look back at the past.”
Robinson is best known for serving as the head football coach from 1982-1994 and 1999-2006. In his 21 years, the Tigers were 114-108 – a school record for victories. He took his 1992 squad all the way to the Class 3A state championship game before losing to state powerhouse Indianapolis Cathedral 33-14. His squad won two of the programs four sectional titles and he claimed the Mid-Indiana Conference title in 1982, 1983, 1990, 1992 and 1999. He was the Ball State University Coach of the Year in 1992 and coached the Indiana All-Stars twice while sending 15 players to the prestigious game. He currently is the offensive coordinator for Hamilton Heights High School and earned a second state runners-up ring in 2012.
He also served as the head softball coach for six seasons, winning the 1984 sectional title, and was assistant coach on the 1984 sectional champion baseball team. He retired from teaching after 31 years in the Northwestern Math Department.
“One thing about coaching girls is when you throw them off the field, they don’t know what to do,” said Robinson, which received a laugh from the audience. “They don’t know where to go when you say, ‘get out.’ They all go three feet outside the fence and ball around! With guys, you throw them off the field and they are gone – the cars are gone. With girls, pretty soon they are all back on the field while the guys are gone. I love coaching.”
A 1990 graduate of Northwestern, Dyan Lodde-Brownlee still stands as the best swimmer in school history after standing on the IHSAA state finals podium four times and earning 10 Mid-Indiana Conference crowns.
“I want to thank my parents who took me to practice every day,” said Lodde-Brownlee. “My parents attended every meet, home and away. But my driving force was my teammates. I feel truly blessed to be selected for this award. I love being a Tiger!”
As a freshman, she won a conference and sectional championship in the 100 and 200-yard freestyles, placing sixth in the 200 at the state finals. Her sophomore season, she earned conference titles in the 200 and 400-yard free relay while placing sixth in the state in the 200 and eighth in the 100. As a junior, Lodde-Brownlee added conference titles in the 200, 400 and 500-yard freestyles while placing eighth in the state in the 200. In her final year as a Tiger, she added three more MIC championships in the 200 free, 400 free relay and 500 free. She just missed a state medal after finishing ninth in the 400 free relay.
The star swimmer received a scholarship to swim at Butler University. She competed in four seasons at Butler in the 200 and 500 free and in the 100 and 200 butterfly, serving as a team captain her senior season.
John Kiser may be the best athlete of whom most in the area have not heard. A three-sport Northwestern athlete from 1966-1970, he dominated the football, basketball and track surfaces. On the football field he was a four-time All-MIC member and team captain. On the track, he was part of two school records – one in the mile relay and the other in the high hurdles.
But it was the basketball court where Kiser exploded, finishing his senior season with a double-double average of 29.7 points and 18.7 rebounds per game – numbers that should have earned him a spot on the Indiana All-Star team. During his junior season, he also led the team in scoring (18.8 ppg) and rebounding (15.5 rpg) as the Tigers won the MIC with a 7-1 record and finished with an 18-3 record. He had 14 double-doubles and had 19 rebounds four times that season.
In his astonishing senior season, Kiser scored 30 or more points 10 times and had 3 games over 40 points. In a game against Hamilton Heights, he scored 46 points and collected 36 rebounds. Northwestern was 14-7 as a team and repeated as conference champions. He left Northwestern as a rare member of the 1,000-1,000 Club with 1,246 points and a school-record 1,007 rebounds.
He continued his career at the University of South Florida, where he is credited with scoring the first-ever points for the new program. Kiser left USF with 920 points, 406 rebounds and 196 assists.
Kiser passed away at the age of 55 in 2007 and was represented by family members.