The Sportsmen of Westport recently honored nine individuals for their contributions to the local sports scene. What follows is information on each honoree.
Carolyn Center led the volleyball, basketball and softball teams to many victories at Staples before graduating in 1995. The Sportsmen of Westport recognized her accomplishments this spring and bestowed upon her the Sportsmen Award.
Center was the starting center on the 1995 state champion Staples girls basketball team that compiled a 26-2 record and closed out the season with 18 straight victories, and was the middle hitter for the Lady Wreckers volleyball team that won the FCIAC title and went to the state finals her sophomore year.
Center was a four-year starter on the basketball team, earning All-East Division honors as a sophomore and named All-FCIAC as a junior and senior. She was also named Second Team All-State as a junior and First Team All-State her senior year. She led the Lady Wreckers with 18 points in a 41-31 triumph over Bridgeport Central in the Class LL championship game.
The 6-foot-2 Center finished fifth in FCIAC scoring in 1995 with a 14.1 points per game average to go along with 11 rebounds a game and 90 blocked shots. She was selected to play in the Connecticut Schoolboy Schoolgirl Classic and was named the MVP of the girls All-Star game.
Center was a 1,000-point scorer and was named to the Hartford Courant's Top 15 Basketball Players in the state all three years as well. In addition, she was named to the Connecticut Post's All-Area team in 1994 and 1995, and was the Post's Female Athlete of the Year during the 1994-95 school year.
She led the Staples girls volleyball team to the FCIAC finals her senior year. She was a two-time All-FCIAC selection in volleyball and an All-State pick her senior year. She was the MVP of the Connecticut Post All-Area team her senior year.
Center, who was named the Lady Wreckers' team MVP in both volleyball and basketball, was also the starting first baseman on the softball team and a team captain in all three sports.
She continued her basketball career in college, receiving a four-year scholarship to the University of Richmond where she was named First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association and team MVP in 1999. She also made the CAA All-Academic Team and was the University of Richmond Scholar Athlete.
Following graduation, Center played professionally for the Northampton 76ers in Northampton, England during the 1999-2000 season. That same season, she coached an All-England Under-15 girls team.
Center was named the Director of Development for the University of Georgia Athletic Association in 2006, where she currently manages the school's annual giving operation, the athletic department's No. 1 source of revenue.
She has also managed to stay close to the sport she still loves as a volunteer coach for a sixth-grade girls basketball team in Athens, Ga.
Ed Murphy received the Sportsmen Award from The Sportsmen of Westport at its dinner. Murphy played soccer for Staples before graduating in 1974. Murphy's brothers Dennis (Class of '73), Kenny ('76) and Kevin ('77) also played for the Wreckers.
In seven years at Staples, the Murphys contributed to six FCIAC championships and four state titles. On four of those seven teams there were two Murphys on the roster, and between them the four brothers won a combined 10 FCIAC crowns and six state championships.
"We did have a great time," Ed Murphy said. "We never played together, all four of us on the same team, except for a 23-and-under team called the Bridge Grill. Kevin was too young, but we put him on the team anyway."
While at Staples, Murphy won two FCIAC and state titles. He capped off his scholastic career by making the All-FCIAC team and being recognized as a High School All-American.
Murphy played three years for the University of Connecticut. The championship run he enjoyed in Westport continued in Storrs as the Huskies won the New England Regional championship all three years he was there, while reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I tournament in 1974 and '76.
Following his graduation from UConn, Murphy returned to Staples and was an assistant coach for the 1978 state title team.
Murphy also played hockey while at Staples, scoring four goals and recording 13 assists as a senior.
Kevin Murphy followed in the footsteps of his older brothers when he joined the Staples soccer program in September 1974. Dennis (Class of '73), Ed ('74) and Kenny ('76) preceded him and they all won multiple FCIAC championships.
The youngest Murphy won FCIAC titles in 1974 and 1975 and was honored with the Sportsmen Award from the Sportsmen of Westport this spring.
During his three seasons at Staples, Kevin was one of the Wreckers' anchors on defense at the sweeper position, earning All-FCIAC and All-State accolades as a junior. Senior year, he finished second on the team with seven goals and was selected to the All-FCIAC, All-State and All-New England teams.
After graduating from Staples in 1977, Murphy was the starting sweeper for the University of Rhode Island's soccer team. He was named All-NEISL and All-New England all four years and senior year he was selected as a First-Team All-American.
After his playing days, Murphy coached for 12 years with the Wilton travel soccer program.
While at Staples, Murphy also played center on the Wreckers' ice hockey team, and later coached Ridgefield travel hockey for nine years and Connecticut Yankees Triple A hockey for eight seasons.
Murphy is still involved with sports through his two sons, John and Brian, who both play golf at the University of California at Berkeley.
Staples football and track alumnus Mark Skinner, Class of 1967, received the Sportsmen Award from the Sportsmen of Westport.
Skinner played three seasons of varsity football for the Wreckers. While he excelled on both the offensive and defensive lines, he really made his mark at offensive tackle.
After graduating from Staples, Skinner was selected to play in the 1967 Nutmeg Bowl, Connecticut's prestigious summer all-star game, before heading off to Ferrum Junior College in Virginia. During his second season there, Skinner was named all-conference at offensive tackle and helped the Panthers win the 1968 National Junior College Athletic Association championship.
He went on to play at Division I University of Richmond, where he was converted to offensive guard and earned all-conference honors as a senior.
Skinner's final season at Richmond was impressive enough to draw the attention of the NFL Houston Oilers, who signed him in 1971. He was released from camp before the season, and in 1972 was invited to a tryout by the Washington franchise in the fledgling World Football League.
But football wasn't the only sport Skinner shined in at Staples. He was also a member of the track team in the spring his junior and senior years, and threw the discus, shot put and javelin. His specialty, though, was the discus. "He was a great discus thrower. Nobody could beat him," Skinner's high school football and track coach Paul Lane said. "He was probably one of the top 10 in the country."
Besides the throwing events, Skinner was a key member of the Wreckers' 880 relay team.
"Mark was a big kid, about 235 pounds, but he was also a great sprinter," Lane noted. "He was just an outstanding athlete."
Skinner, now 61, resides in North Carolina with his wife Janine. He is a general contractor in both residential and commercial construction, and previously worked as a real estate agent.
Sports have always played a big role in Mary Martinik's life and the Sportsmen of Westport recognized this by bestowing upon her the Sportsmen award this spring.
Martinek is currently working as physical education and health teacher at Bedford Middle School.
At Garden City High School in Long Island, Martinek played field hockey, volleyball, basketball and gymnastics and was a cheerleader too. She capped off her scholastic career by being named the Top Female Athlete in Nassau County, and in 1985 was the first female inducted into the Garden City High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Martinik went on to become a gymnast and softball player at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).
Following her graduation, Martinik coached the Darien gymnastics team to a 125-30 record and had a 63-3-3 in field hockey and 40-17 in softball at Mather Junior High School in Darien.
Martinik taught physical education and health at Coleytown Middle School from 1993-97 and was the Staples Athletic Director from 1997-2000 and the K-12 Coordinator of Physical Education and Health.
She returned to Coleytown 2000-01 before moving over to Bedford the following year.
Martinik is very active with Team Liaison for Special Area Teachers and is the Blue and Gold Council Advisor for 30 Student Council members.
In 1995, Martinik was named the Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and NASPE, while in 2001 she received the CTAHPERD Professional Service Award.
In addition, to her playing and coaching, Martinik was a field hockey official from 1976-94, and a USGF Gymnastics judge from 1976-90.
Staples wrestling Coach Kevin Lippert is the 2010 recipient of the Sportsmen's of Westport's Coaching Award and has been a coach in its wrestling program for the past 16 years.
Counting his four years as a Staples wrestler, he's been a part of the program for 20 years. Lippert began wrestling in Westport even before that, in 1983 as an 85-pound wrestler in the town's middle school youth wrestling program.
Two years later, he was wrestling 103 pounds for Staples under John Chacho, the same season the Wreckers won their last FCIAC championship.
Lippert would wrestle the next three seasons between the 119 and 140 pound weight classes, before the 1988 graduate wrestled one season at Penn State University.
But it was at the coaching level where the former Wreckers grappler made his biggest impact at his alma mater, returning in 1994-95 as an assistant coach.
After seven seasons, Lippert was named the head wrestling coach at Staples in 2001-02 and has spent the last nine seasons in that role, accumulating 122 career victories. During that span, he has also coached four Class L state champions and eight state runners-up, as well as one FCIAC champ and another seven wrestlers who reached the conference finals.
One of his career highlights came in 2004 when he helped guide the trio of Sloan Holzman, Andrew Sichel and Addison Freeman to 100 career victories each while combining for two state championships and four runner-up finishes.
Spencer Cohen register 140 wins and 111 pins, both Staples career records. Lippert is equally proud of the fact Cohen then "joined the Marines to protect and serve our country."
In addition to his duties as the Staples coach, Lippert also served as head coach of the Wesport PAL Middle School wrestling team in the Western Connecticut Wrestling League from 2001-06. Since 2006, he's been an overseeing administrator and coach with the program.
And since 2001, he has been a Connecticut wrestling official on the junior varsity and middle school level.
Prior to coaching wrestling, Lippert coached baseball in Westport Little League from 1986-89, leading the Pontiacs to the playoffs every year. He was also the junior varsity softball coach at Greens Farms Academy from 2001-02.
A native of Long Beach, N.Y., Lippert graduated from Penn State in 1993 and received his Master's Degree in Learning Disabilities from SCSU in 2002. He taught one year at Stamford High School, and for the last 11 years has been a Special Education teacher at West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk.
When he's not teaching or coaching, Lippert, a certified emergency medical technician, has found time in the past six years to volunteer for Westport EMS, as well as direct traffic for the Westport Police Department.
Lippert and his wife, the former Stephanie Gelman, a 1990 of Staples, reside in Monroe with their ninemonth old son, Reilly Preston Lippert.
Bob Wickey received the Westport PAL award for his dedicated service. Wickey moved to Westport in 1991 and has been involved with PAL since 1998.
"I think the philosophy of being involved in community activities is more than just writing a check," Wickey said. "If a deed needs to be done, that's something I can do. Maybe others don't have the time, but I have the time."
Wickey has managed the PAL concession stand at the fireworks and worked at the PAL food tent at the Italian Fesitval.
In 2002, PAL made Wickey its treasurer, a position he continues to hold. He was active in establishing and continues to manage every winter the PAL-owned Ice Rink at Longshore.
His volunteer work doesn't end with PAL. He also managed the Staples snack bar during the 2007 football season when his son played football for the Wreckers.
When his children were younger, Wickey coached his daughter Sydney's seventh-grade basketball team and his son George's Little League team.
He also served as director and treasurer of the Darien Youth Hockey Association from 1999-2004, and sponsored his son's team for three years.
A native of Manchester, N.H., Wickey was very involved in sports himself growing up. In basketball, he played center for Manchester West High School, which won the New Hampshire state championship his senior year.
He was also a two-way starter on the football team at offensive and defensive end, and was named the "Best Athlete" in his senior class.
After graduating in 1973, Wickey continued his education at St. Anselm College and earned a BA in math and economics. He went on to earn his MBA in finance from the Johnson School of Business at Cornell University, and later attended the London Business School. He is currently with Equinox Investment Partners.
Wickey and his wife, Penny (Pinsky) Wickey, have three children, Emily, Sydney and George.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Sam Friedman is this year's Sportsmen of Westport's Citizenship award recipient. Friedman was appointed to his current position in 1978 served on a number of committees, including the Court's executive committee from 1985-95. Then in 1997, he added the title of Judge Trial Referee, a senior position he still holds today.
He also authored and sponsored the bill that created the present-day public defender system which became a model for other states. The Legislature appointed him its chief legal counsel, or Legislative Commissioner, in 1975, and he later served as Chairman of Gov. William O'Neill's statewide advisory committee on the Deinstitutionalization of people with developmental disabilities.
During his 32-year tenure on the bench, Freedman has also served on the Public Defender Commission from 1988-96, on the Chief Justice's Task Force on Post Verdict Juror Contact, on the Connecticut Task Force on Tort Reform and on the Chief Justice's Committee to Review Court Rules.
Closer to home, Freedman was on the Westport Republican Town Committee where he served as chairman of the Rules Revision Committee.
He is also a member of the Westport Center for the Environment and the Westport Historical Society. In addition, he is a past member of the Connecticut Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, the Yale Clubs of New York and Eastern Fairfield County, and the Algonquin Club of Bridgeport.
When he's not on the bench, he teaches classes on legislation and felony trial practice at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. Friedman has taught there since 1983 and in 1997 was named a distinguished Judicial Scholar at Law at the University. He also has taught at Yale Law School, Yale School of Management and Sacred Heart University. This year at graduation, Quinnipiac University conferred upon him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Judge Freedman has been a member of the American Law Institute since 1985 and this year was voted a life member. He has also been a member of the Connecticut Bar Association since 1954, the Connecticut Judges Association since 1980 and is a past member of the Bridgeport and Westport Bar Associations.
Freedman also authored a book in 1978, and has written several articles for law journals over the years. Early in his career he wrote a column for three Connecticut Newspapers -- including the Westport News -- on government and the arts.
He lives in Westport with his wife, former State Sen. Judith Freedman. They have a daughter, Martha Ann.
Neil Harding was this year's recipient of the William A. Krause Jr. Humanitarian Award more from the Sportsmen of Westport.
In 1979 that Harding, a volunteer for Westport's EMS at the time, and Lt. Edwin Audley of the Westport Police Department saw a need for a larger organization and formed the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Harding has been a member for the past 31 years, including two terms as president as well as serving on the Board of Directors and holding the position of Crew Chief. He first became a part of the Westport community in January 1977 when he acquired the Charles H. Lewis Funeral Home.
Under the volunteer status, the organization has taken the level of care from basic to intermediate and finally to a paramedic level service which now provides the highest level of care to the people of Westport. Harding has been an integral part of that transition.
In addition, the volunteer service has always been responsible for all of the capital expenditures, including the purchase of ambulances, cardiac monitors and associated equipment, through generous contributions from the Westport community.
This wasn't the first time he was recognized for his volunteer work. In 1959 at age 16, he was honored by the North End Boys Club in Bridgeport as the "Boy of the Year" for his volunteer work teaching swimming and life saving skills.