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Homecoming and Athletics Hall of Fame Ceremony Celebrate Canterbury Athletes of Past and Present

Kelly Slonaker

Canterbury families, alumni, and current students gathered for the annual Homecoming Weekend and Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony hosted on Saturday, October 19. All teams played at home against Berkshire School for the coveted Sheehan Cup. While Canterbury did not take the Cup this year, the School had several great wins, including Football’s 41–0 victory, Girls’ Varsity Soccer’s 5–0 shutout, and Boys’ Cross Country’s overall win, with Jack McCluskey ’20 taking first place in the race.
The beautiful fall weather was perfect for enjoying delicious BBQ fare from The Cookhouse, and families, students, alumni, and faculty all mingled outside while taking in the surrounding games. Face painting and pumpkin decorating were big hits for the younger spectators under the tent. Many alumni continued the festivities in a “Post-Game Huddle” at the Iron Rail in New Milford after the last games wrapped up, and others stayed on campus to attend the Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. 
More than 100 alumni and guests were present for the Hall of Fame dinner to reunite and recognize the inductees. The ceremony honored five individuals—including the first inductee to be recognized as both a Canterbury athlete and coach—and the Boys’ Cross Country team of 1977. Individual inductees included W. Dickson Fairback ’55 (posthumous), James R. Briggs ’56, Richard T. Gilbane ’69, Christopher J. Ryan ’69, and Clare E. Fitzpatrick ’09.
Head of School Rachel Stone delivered the opening remarks for the evening, emphasizing the School’s pride in, and appreciation of, the inductees: “As you enter our Hall of Fame, your outstanding achievements will be immortalized on our hilltop and forever remembered by Saints fans—past, present and future.  Know, too, that you continue to inspire today’s students and provide exemplary role models for them as they balance the rigors, and joys, of academics and athletics. You have provided a standard of excellence, grace and dignity for us all, and we celebrate you tonight with a deep sense of gratitude and enduring respect.” 
Honored for their exceptional athletic achievements that have brought great pride and distinction to the reputation of Canterbury School, the inductees boast numerous accomplishments from off the hilltop as well. Director of Athletics Jim Stone introduced many of the inductees and shared their outstanding achievements. W. Dickson Fairback ’55, recognized posthumously, earned 12 Varsity letters in football, ice hockey and track while at Canterbury, and continued his athletic prowess as a three-sport athlete at Nichols College, MA; his son Dwight Fairback accepted the award. 
James R. Briggs ’56 was a “dual threat” as an athlete and coach for the Saints. He was a three-sport letterman in football, hockey and baseball while at Canterbury; an all-star football and baseball player at Williams College, MA; and returned to the hilltop to coach football and baseball leading to Connetonic League titles in ’61 & ’62. James ’56 then returned to Williams in 1974 as head baseball coach—the longest tenured coach in the School’s history—and led the team to 216 wins and 3 Little Three titles and two International tournament championships.
Dick Gilbane ’69 earned 7 varsity letters in Football, Hockey, Wrestling and Track while at Canterbury and set the School record for discus throw. After Canterbury, Dick ’69 went on to compete for Harvard in Track lettering all four years and was named 1st Team All IVY for discus in 1975 and finished 5th in the IC4A National Championships
Chris Ryan ’69 was an outstanding athlete who excelled in Football, Swimming & Track while at Canterbury, earning 10 varsity letters. Captain  of the swim team his senior year, Chris ’69 broke the school record in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle races and was also a member of the 1966 championship team that was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Clare Fitzpatrick ’09 excelled in field hockey, softball and basketball while earning 10 varsity letters at Canterbury. She was the most prolific scorer in the basketball program’s history and was named the most valuable player of the team all four years. Clare ’09 finished her high school career with 1,521 points—a record that may never be broken—and was named 1st Team All New England three years in a row. After Canterbury, she went on to play for Cornell University, NY where she continued to set records and was a three time All IVY selection. After Cornell, she began her coaching career and has been an assistant coach for seven years with stints at Yale University, CT; The United States Air Force Academy, CO; and currently at the College of the Holy Cross, MA.
The Class of 1977 Cross Country Team had a 13–0 season record, and won the Canterbury Invitational and JFK Invitational, and was the Williston Invitational Class A New England Prep School Runner-Up. The team—led by Coach Walter J. Burke, Jr., and co-captains David S. Keating ’78 and Gerard F. Vanasse ’78—had an extended winning streak with 51 consecutive dual meet victories.
Since the inception of the Hall of Fame tradition in 2015, Canterbury has recognized 36 athletes, six coaches and seven teams to the Hall of Fame, honoring the accomplishments of athletes from 1928 through 2009. The Induction Ceremony, in tandem with Homecoming, is a true celebration of excellence in Canterbury athletics—both past and present.

Homecoming Photos

Hall of Fame Photos