Honda Awards Toss Drexel's Hester A Dinner in New York


(Guru's note: If the Guru is doing his special triple play of new postings this is the second one and another one follows below this one with the Dawn Staley foundation in the headline).

By Mel Greenberg

NEW YORK - Drexel senior Nicole Hester did not win the Honda Collegiate Women's Sports Award for basketball that went to former Connecticut star Renee Montgomery, who is now a rookie with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.

But unlike the all-American guard for the NCAA champion Huskies, Hester received something from the Honda folks and collegiate administrators that Montomery did not -- a special dinner in her honor here Sunday night.

The occasion was the Honda Inspiration Award that is the latest tribute to the Maryland native for fighting her way back from missing a season after contracting Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The overall winner of the sport award -- the Honda Cup -- went to Georgia gymnast Courtney Kupets on Monday, while former Lock Haven softball star Kristin Erb, now with the Philadelphia Force, was the Division II athlete winner.

Track champion Ashley Huston of Hardin-Simmons was the Division III honoree.

The honor Sunday night was a sweet topping to the conclusion of Hester's career that went with the Dragons gaining a program-record 24 wins, taking a first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title by personally busting the long monopoly held on the crown by Old Dominion, and then playing in the NCAA tournament.

Hester missed what would have been her natural junior season two years ago after being diagnosed with the disease just before the start of play.

She fought her way back, returning to action a year ago and then working her way back to top form this past season.

 Hester has already been honored by the V foundation and in January won the prestigious Philadelphia Sportswriters Association's most courageous athlete award.

 A sizeable Drexel contingent made the trip to Manhattan, including Heser's mom Kim, coach Denise Dillon and associate head coach Amy Mallon, athletic director Eric Zillmer, associate athletic director Laura White, Kathy O'Brien (who helps oversee academics involving Dragon athletes), Drexel Triangle sports editor Mike Mazzeo, and associate sports information director Britt Faulstick, who hands media matters for the women's basketball team, among other sports duties.

 The Guru transcribed the speech, so additionally, some other references are to James Tucker, vice president for student life, Tony Caneris, who held Tucker's job before retiring in May 2007, and Rebecca Weidensaul, who heads the academic-related area.

  That said, here is what Hester had to say. The Guru's personal touch should be in the post above this one to give some color to the event and other items. But that is not written yet (but will be the time most of you are reading this) since he has to do this backwards to make the chronology appear in the right order.

  So here are Nicole's remarks:

First, I would like to say thank you to God, because without him nothing would be possible.
I would like to thank the people for making this award possible – Tora Grossman and her late husband Irv for starting this foundation – you’ve been around for a long time and I appreciate everything you have done.
You have done so much to keep this award alive let alone have it be such a great honor for anyone to be fortunate enough to receive the Honda inspiration award. So I thank you for that.
I always tell people I don’t know what I’ve done to receive this type of award and I expect that people that got me in position to receive this award to be up here instead of myself.
But since that can’t happen, I’ll speak (tape inaudible for last words of sentence).
I’d like to thank my parents and immediate family, which turned out to be my backbone in this troubling time in my life. My father couldn’t make it tonight, but my mother Kim is here.
I’d also like to thank my second family – my Drexel family, who a lot of them are here tonight. Drexel could have just sent their blessings off to me and my family when they heard the news (about the disease) and continue their prior obligations to Drexel and the basketball team and continue to do what they did.
But they didn’t. Each and every person went out of their way to make sure I made it through this troubling time in my life. And as you can see, they were very successful.
There were a number of things that kept me involved throughout the season that I wasn’t there (2006-07) , so I wouldn’t miss a beat when I came back. They called me for game talks, they came to visit me at home, they sent me game tapes with stats included, asked me for advice how to coach the next game.
Even my (academic) adviser Kathy (O’Brien) came all the way down to visit me in (Waldorf) Maryland to see how I was doing. 
All these things helped me during this following year so I would be able to return to basketball and not fall too far behind and resume my starting spot the next year.
I appreciate each thing you guys have done for me.
(Athletic director Eric) Dr. Zillmer, (associate athletic director ) Laura White, Mr. (Jim) Tucker, who couldn’t be here but was around a lot when I was going through this. Rebecca (Weisdensaul), who also is not here, Mr. (Tony) Canaris, Denise, Amy, the whole athletic department at Drexel, I say thank you.
There’s a special thank you, I need, though. With all the people I’ve mentioned before, (associate sports information director) Britt Faulstick is also here tonight. I don’t think that everyone understands all that his job entails, all that people think his job entails, every thing he does to go out of his way.
He’s done a lot for me these past five years. I haven’t given him a thank you in all my speeches this past year and last year, so this is my special thank you to him.
I can’t say thank you enough, Britt, you wrote a lot of my speeches (not this one – Britt comments from audience),  you put me up for the Chicken Soup for the Soul (award), you got me a lot of national press, you brought the school a lot of integrity, I just want to say thank you. I haven’t done that in past speeches, so I just want to say thank you.
Thank you to the Triangle – People don’t know about the Triangle but I didn’t know he (sports editor Mike Mazzeo) was coming tonight , he’s at our personal newspaper at school.
And in closing, I’d like to say thank you to everyone here for coming out and enjoying this great meal we had here tonight. I didn’t know this whole thing was about me, but thank you for coming out.
In life everyone goes through their own trials and tribulations, but unfortunately cancer became one of mine. It doesn’t matter what we go through in life, all that matters is we get through them, and how we use these things as stepping stones instead of boulders weighing us down. So to all those who helped me make this a stepping stone in my life, I say, thank you.
And to all those out there who are still fighting and trying to make a stepping stone instead of a boulder, I say, God bless, and I’m praying for you.
Thank you.