Former Athletes Enter McKendree University Sports Hall of Fame

(LEBANON, Ill., October 7, 2019) — Chris Mitchell, Eric Palm, Wade Lowe, Sharon (Huffman) Marquardt and Wendell Johnson have entered the McKendree University Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. The University honored them and other accomplished alumni at its annual awards dinner on Oct. 5 at Belle Court Manor in Belleville, Ill. Photos from the event are posted at

Hall of Fame inductees are athletes, former coaches and alumni coaches or sports professionals who, through their leadership and character, have made exceptional contributions to the honor and prestige of McKendree University in the field of athletics.

Chris Mitchell, of Granite City, Ill., has distinguished himself as one of the top professionals in the field of collegiate athletics since his graduation from McKendree in 1999. He has earned respect in the sports information field, publicizing the achievements and successes of scores of student-athletes while also serving his peers and making a difference through his committee work with the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Mitchell played tennis during his four years at McKendree, serving as team captain. He helped lead the Bearcats to a regional championship and an appearance at the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championships in his senior year. Following his playing career, he began his sports information career as an assistant for one year at McKendree. The following year, he was hired as a staff assistant at Duke University, where he spent the 2000-2001 academic year.

He was the assistant sports information director at Washington University in St. Louis from 2001 to 2003 before being promoted to head the department. In 2015, Mitchell became the assistant director of athletics for communications, where he is responsible for all strategic communications for the Bears’ 19 athletic programs, including directing all media, public relations and social networking efforts. He was instrumental in developing the WashU Sports Network, which includes live video for home events.

A member of CoSIDA for more than two decades, Mitchell chaired its membership services committee and since 2009 has been a key member of the organization’s goodwill and wellness committees. He has chaired the difference-making committee since 2015, helping to organize the CoSIDA 5K and local outreach initiatives such as Samaritan’s Feet. He won the 2018 Warren Berg Award, given annually to a CoSIDA College Division member for outstanding contributions to college athletic communications.

Wade Lowe was a testament to consistency throughout his four-year wrestling career at McKendree. The 2012 graduate played a big role in the Bearcats becoming a dominant force in the world of NAIA wrestling.

He arrived after being a four-time state qualifier at Alton High School. Wrestling primarily at 133 pounds, Lowe was a force from his early days of competition for the Bearcats. He burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2007-2008, posting a career-high 41 victories on his way to a third-place finish at the NAIA National Championship. Lowe followed up with a 236-12 record as a sophomore that included a fourth-place effort in the 2009 national tournament.

After notching 29 victories as a junior, he entered his senior season as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the NAIA at 133 pounds. He backed up the pre-season rating by going 25-4 in his final season of competition, which was capped with a 2011 NAIA national title in the 133-pound weight class. McKendree finished in the top 10 of each NAIA National Championship event in which he participated.

Lowe had an overall record of 121-35 at McKendree, one of a handful of Bearcat wrestlers to earn NAIA All-America honors three times in a career.

Eric Palm, formerly of Roscoe, Ill., was key to the success of the McKendree men’s basketball program in the late 2000s. His knack for consistently hitting long-range shots and his ability to rise to the occasion in big games helped the Bearcats solidify their status as a top team in the American Midwest Conference (AMC) and the NAIA Division I ranks during that span.

The 2010 graduate finished his four-year playing career by scoring 2,066 points, which ranked fifth in program history at the time of his induction. He was one of just seven Bearcats to top the 2,000-point mark. He averaged 15.4 points per game and was able to score in a variety of ways, including through his accuracy from three-point range and at the free throw line. He closed his McKendree playing career ranked third with 532 made free throws and fourth with 254 three-point field goals. At the foul line, he is sixth in career free throw percentage at .851. He also ranks in the Bearcats’ career top 10 with 298 assists and 131 steals.

Throughout his career, Palm had several memorable individual performances on the court.  Perhaps his biggest one came in the Bearcats’ regular-season finale at Columbia College in his junior season of 2007-08. With the scored tied in the closing seconds, he scored on a driving lay-up and was fouled with three seconds left. He made the free throw to seal a 73-70 victory that gave McKendree the AMC regular-season title and capped a performance in which Palm scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half.

He was a two-time first-team All-America selection in NAIA Division I. He also earned the AMC Player of the Year award as a junior and senior, and was a three-time, first-team All-Conference honoree. At the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, Palm helped guide McKendree to the quarterfinals of the 2009 event as a senior and was named to the All-Tournament team. He also received the Charles Stevenson Hustle Award for his efforts for McKendree in the 2008 event.

Sharon (Huffman) Marquardt, of St. Louis, Mo., only played two seasons in a McKendree softball uniform, yet she remains one of the most productive performers to wear the purple and white.

The 2001 graduate transferred to the McKendree program in time for the 1998 season and quickly established herself as an everyday contributor in the lineup. As a junior, she batted .338, adding 11 doubles, five home runs and 30 runs batted in on her way to All-Conference recognition from the American Midwest Conference. She led the team in doubles and tied for the team lead in RBI.

In 1999, she became one of just a handful of Bearcat softball players to hit over .400 for a season, posting a batting average of .401. She led the squad in nearly every offensive category with 81 hits, 17 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in. She repeated as an All-AMC selection while earning All-America accolades from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

McKendree reached the NAIA Softball Championship in each of her two seasons. The Bearcats made a deep run at the 1999 event, finishing fifth in the nation and ending the year with a then-record 38 victories. Marquardt was named to the NAIA Softball Championship All-Tournament Team.

Wendell Johnson, of Lebanon, Ill., was a two-sport standout at McKendree during the 1960s. He not only left an impact on the sports he played for the Bearcats, but also went on to coach and teach the game he loved.

Johnson came to McKendree after a stellar high school career at Lebanon Community High School, where he earned honorable mention All-State honors in basketball as a senior. He played both baseball and basketball for the Bearcats, and had the distinction of being coached by three different individuals on the hardwood – Barney Oldfield, Lou Vesely and Harry Statham. Johnson lettered in both sports all four years of his academic career, and also received the White Blanket Award at McKendree.

As a junior on the baseball diamond, he earned honorable mention All-America honors from the NAIA, where he ranked in the top 20 among earned-run average leaders at 1.97. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but chose instead to pursue a career in education after his graduation from McKendree in 1969.

Johnson eventually returned to his alma mater, where he was an assistant basketball coach for seven years under Coach Statham. He later went on to serve as the head basketball coach at Lebanon High School for three years, becoming the first African-American head coach in the Cahokia Conference. He also was the athletic director and baseball coach at Lovejoy High School in Brooklyn, Ill.


Former Athletes Enter McKendree University Sports Hall of Fame