Mesa Community College hosted its inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony Thursday night, honoring 11 individuals who had in someway impacted the college either through teaching, coaching, playing or attending at some time and who had prolific careers in their respected professional fields.
Three of the 11 inductees were honored for their achievements in athletics at Mesa.
Tony Cirelli was honored for his accolades in baseball. Cirelli came to Mesa as a player in 1981 and took the head coaching position in 1995. In his tenure, he holds the record in wins with 755 and counting. He led the 2014 Thunderbirds to their first National Championship, which he also was honored with being NJCAA DII Coach of the Year.
His former players are effusive in their praise. Tony Cirelli has coached more than 160 MCC student athletes who were honored for their play and scholarship while they were here. More than 50 of them went on to have professional careers in the sport they love, and many more continued their educations and baseball careers at the university level after leaving MCC.
One student wrote: “You don’t have enough space in this section to discuss all the great things this man has done for us.”
The Athletes Award was given to Robert E. Jacks and Ronald Powell. Powell was unable to attend the ceremonies but Jacks was able to be in attendance.
One was a versatile athlete, competing for MCC in Tennis, Basketball and Track (he attended on dual scholarships for tennis and basketball). Robert E. Jacks graduated from MCC in 1967. He was ranked third in the state and 21st in the nation in tennis, shot a team best 67 percent from the floor in basketball, and set a school record at the time for the high jump at 6 feet, three inches.
Now a resident of Pinetop, Arizona, Robert went to NAU after MCC, attending on track and
basketball scholarships for the Lumberjacks. Robert shared a special season in 1966 with our other winner of the Athlete’s Award.
Ronald Powell started playing tennis when he was 12, and by the time he got to MCC, he was already a decorated state, sectional and national high school tournament winner, and had competed for ASU for a year. While at MCC he and the tennis team qualified for the National Junior College Championships, and Ronald was ranked first in the state in men’s singles. He retired from the United States Marine Corps after 20 years of service, including stints in the Vietnam War.
Robert Jacks and Ron Powell were doubles partners at MCC. Together they were undefeated during MCC’s first year of tennis competition in 1965-66. They are among MCC’s first undisputed, undefeated champions.
The last inductee, Terence Azbill, was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award for his distinguished career in law enforcement, and was nominated and selected by Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt to attend the International School of Police Executives at Northwestern University.
Terence attended MCC from 1974-1976, and played on the 1975 National Junior College Championship Football Team.
He is currently the Chief of the Office of Special Investigations for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. A member of the Arizona Department of Public Safety from 1978 to 2004, Terence Azbill rose from patrol officer to Director of Intelligence. He has also worked for the Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a program from the Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy.
He is a Desert Storm/Desert Shield veteran of the U.S. Army. He has received numerous awards, including the Arizona DPS Valor Award for Bravery, the State of Arizona’s highest award, for a shootout preventing a bank robbery; and the U.S. Army Bronze Star Medal and Commendation Medal. A dedicated husband and father of 38 years, he is said to be most proud of his children, who are also continuing the family’s legacy in policing.