Golden Bears hockey standout Serge Lajoie (‘93 BEd, ‘11 MA), Pandas track star Jane Cox Kolodnicki (’91 BEd), Golden Bears basketball dynamo Sean Chursinoff (’91 BEd), and the 1969-1972 national championship Golden Bears wrestling dynasty teams are the 2019 UAlberta Alumni Award winners and Sports Wall Of Fame inductees.
Their place in Golden Bears and Pandas history will be cemented during a reception on September 19, 2019. Following the Sports Wall of Fame induction ceremony, each of the inductees will be honoured that same evening at the 2019 University of Alberta Alumni Awards ceremony at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Serge Lajoie, ‘93 BEd, ‘11 MA
With six championship rings to his credit, Serge Lajoie stands as one of the most decorated and accomplished Golden Bears hockey alumni ever.
In his time as a defenceman, assistant coach and head coach with the perennial powerhouse U of A program, Lajoie won a combined four Canadian university national championships, one as a player, two as an assistant coach and one as a head coach. As a player, he also captured the Wilson Challenge Trophy as the U of A’s top male athlete, and the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy as the Canadian university men’s hockey player of the year. He also won two provincial college championships as head coach and two Coach of the Year awards.
Originally from Bonnyville, Lajoie first joined the Golden Bears in 1988 as a defenceman under the tutelage of Clare Drake. Over five seasons he recorded 141 points, including 105 assists, in 198 overall games in the Evergreen and Gold sweater, winning four Canada West titles and one national championship.
After a five year professional playing career in Germany, he began to share his experiences, successes, expertise and knowledge to the benefit of kids, volunteers and hockey communities throughout Canada as coach, mentor, volunteer and speaker. He began as a teacher at Donnan School and Vimy Ridge Academy, and he started his successful coaching career as an assistant coach with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders. In 2005-06, he joined the Golden Bears coaching staff and stayed until 2009-10, helping the team win two national championships. During this time Lajoie also earned his Master's degree, with a focus on culture, becoming the inaugural graduate of the University of Alberta Master of Coaching degree. He then advanced to head coach, taking the job with the NAIT Ooks hockey program for five seasons, where he guided the program to Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference titles in 2013 and 2015, and earning the ACAC Coach of the Year Award twice. He has also coached in the Western Hockey League and with Team Alberta and with Team Canada.
From his days as a one of the top players in the nation, to his time as a championship calibre teacher and mentor behind the bench, Serge Lajoie is an exemplary addition to the Sports Wall of Fame, and an strong example of the tradition of excellence within the Golden Bears and Pandas programs.
Jane Cox Kolodnicki, ’91 BEd
The legacy of Jane Cox Kolodnicki’s multiple accomplishments as a Pandas track and field student-athlete still hold rarified air within the Universiade Butterdome on the U of A’s Main Campus.
From 1989 to 1991 Jane was among the most dominant female student-athletes in Canada. In her three years representing the Evergreen & Gold as a long jump specialist and sprinter, she won two national championship gold medals, established a national record that held for nine years, was a three-time all-Canadian, as well as a three-time Academic all-Canadian, won a total of nine medals in three different events and took home three trophies as team MVP or most outstanding student-athlete. She also established a U of A long jump record in 1990 that still stands as of 2019, which at 29-years old, makes it one of the longest standing team records ever.
Kolodnicki earned her Bachelor of Education, with Distinction, from the Faculté Saint-Jean in 1991, as well as a Master of Education from the University of Ottawa in 2004.
As an alumna, she has set her considerable expertise and experience to teaching and coaching the next generations of Canada’s talent, both on the track surface and in the classroom, serving as a high-school teacher, university track coach and elite level youth track coach in the city of Calgary.
One of the most decorated Pandas in UAlberta track and field history, Jane Cox Kolodnicki is strong addition to the Sports Wall of Fame.
Sean Chursinoff, ’91 BEd
Throughout his career, whether it was his five seasons as a member of the Golden Bears basketball program, or his 25 years plus of teaching and coaching within the community, Sean Chursinoff has built an incredible foundation for success and left a legacy of positive change.
Sean established himself as one of the best university basketball players in Canada between 1985 and 1990, as well as a leader who established the base that led to the Golden Bears becoming an established national power. Across his five seasons Chursinoff was a two-time Canada West All-Star, a CIAU First Team All-Canadian, a two-time Wardlaw Porteous Trophy winner as team MVP, and the 1990 Wilson Challenge Trophy winner as the UAlberta Male Athlete of the Year. He helped the team to a Canada West title in 1990, as well as the program’s first ever national number one ranking. At the end of his Evergreen & Gold career, Chursinoff held as many as eight team records and still holds, as of 2019, four team records (career free throws made - 398, single season free throws - 152, single season free throws attempted - 184 and single season assists - 115).
Sean’s greatest legacy, however, is his incredible on-court leadership and indomitable will to win. Often regarded as the catalyst that led to the back-to-back national championship titles the Golden Bears won in 1994 and 1995, Sean’s play and leadership as a Golden Bear became the team standard and set the program on a trajectory to become national champions and an established force on the Canadian university basketball scene.
Those traits have continued in his time as an alumnus, where he has had a tremendous impact on people, and in the communities of Calgary where he has taught both math and science courses at the Calgary Academy of Designated Special Education for over 28 years. In that time, he also built both a basketball and golf program for the kids at the Academy, and has coached the programs to great success both provincially and internationally. Perhaps most importantly, he has inspired new generations of athletes to be their personal best and to develop a passion and love for the game.
On the hard-court or in the classroom, Sean Chursinoff has been the spark for future success, and is a welcome addition to the UAlberta Sports Wall of Fame.
Golden Bears Wrestling
The 1969-72 Golden Bears wrestling teams hold the distinction of being the first national championship dynasty in the storied history of Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics.
During that three year period, as well as the three years that preceded it, the Golden Bears wrestling teams achieved incredible success at every level, winning six straight conference championships and four straight national championships, including the 1968-69 CIAU championship, which was won under a different format than the subsequent years, and doesn’t officially count towards their dynasty totals.
From 1969-70 to 1971-1972 the Golden Bears flattened the opposition, including winning the program’s first ever CIAU national championship with 46 pts, a 12-point margin over second place Waterloo. Gold medalists that historic year included Gord Bertie, Dave Duniec, Brian Heffel, Serge Gauthier and Bob Thayer, while Ron Lappage picked up silver. The Bears also won the Canada West championship that season by a 24-point margin over the Saskatchewan Huskies.
They claimed their second consecutive CIAU championship with 34 total points, compared to 26 by Lakehead University. Gord Bertie, who was inducted onto the Sports Wall of Fame in 1998, won another CIAU gold medal, and was joined by teammates Butch Glover and Tadamichi Tanaka, a Japanese world champion who moved to Edmonton to compete for the Bears and attend the U of A. Alberta also won the Canada West title with a total of 61 pts, seven points clear of University of Saskatchewan.
The dynasty was cemented in 1971-72 when the Golden Bears claimed their third consecutive title, this time earning the CIAU banner with 44 total points, 12 points ahead of the University of Western Ontario. Gord Bertie, Tanaka, Ole Sorensen and Serge Gauthier all got to the top of the podium in their division. The Canada West title was brought back to the U of A wrestling room as well when the Bears earned a total of 65 points, compared to 56 by silver medalists Lakehead, who competed in Canada West as part of the Great Plains Athletics Conference which stretched from Regina to Thunder Bay.
Although the team championships stopped in 1972-73, both Bertie and Sorensen would continue to find incredible personal success. They each represented Canada as members of the 1972 Olympic Team, while Sorensen also went on to co-coach the University of Alberta wrestling program with Dr. Bill Hallett, before going on to become the Technical Director for the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association. Bertie continued his outstanding career by once again representing Canada at the 1976 Olympics, where he finished sixth, and he also captured a bronze medal at the 1974 World Wrestling Championships, which, at the time, was Canada’s first ever World Championship medal.
Alongside Bertie and Sorenson, two other Golden Bears are remembered as icons for the dynasty Golden Bears: Tadamichi Tanaka, who was a two-time World Champion, and Brian Heffel who competed for Canada in the 1968 Olympics, won the Wilson Trophy in 1972 and was inducted onto the Sports Wall of Fame in 1999.
Coaching the Golden Bears during these halcyon days was Dr. Bert Taylor, who also went on to international prominence. He coached several National teams, including the Canadian national team at the 1969 World Championships, the World team in 1970 in Argentina, and the Commonwealth Games team in 1970. Dr. Taylor was also accredited as an International official, representing Canada at the 1976 Olympics.
Perhaps the most impressive legacy of the Golden Bears wrestling dynasty is the 1970 World Championship, which was hosted in Edmonton. It was the first World Championship event, of any sport, hosted by the City of Edmonton, and the success of it as an international event was the springboard for the future major sporting events, including the 1978 Commonwealth Games and 1983 Universiade.
The athletic superiority shown by the 1969-72 Golden Bears wrestling program, combined with the echo of the program’s incredible legacy within the City of Edmonton and province of Alberta’s history, establishes those Golden Bears wrestling teams as perhaps the most incredible dynasty team in Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics history, and a proud addition to the Sports Wall of Fame.