Connors State College Sixth Athletic of Fame Class Announced

WARNER – Connors State College will induct their sixth Athletic Hall of Fame class on Saturday, October 7, 2017 in the Stone Student Union on the Warner campus. The ten inductees include: Mike Moore and Brett Pennington, Baseball; Bruce Shropshire and Leonard Wood, Men’s Basketball; Nesila Onjiko Brown and Carin Ranae Stites, Women’s Basketball; James Cagle and Joe Gill, Football; Afton Burris-Melson, Softball; and Dr. Donnie L. Nero, Leadership.

The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a reception in the Ogdon Family Connors State College Museum inside the historic Russell Hall with dinner and the induction ceremony beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the Student Union.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased by calling coach Bill Muse at (918) 463-6231.



Bruce Shropshire a 1965 graduate of Connors State College was inducted in to the CSC Athletics Hall of Fame’s sixth class on Oct. 7, 2017.

Shropshire played two seasons for the Cowboys before moving on to Northeastern State College earning a degree in education in 1969 with a major in English and a minor in physical education.

He attended Eufaula High School where he was an All-Conference performer in basketball and football.

After graduation at NSU Shropshire taught English and was assistant football coach basketball coach under Paul Bell and Perry Anderson, who he also played for in high school.

Following three years at Eufaula Shropshire was named head basketball coach at Tonkawa High School, where he remained three years.

He then went to private business in 1975 in Muskogee purchasing My Place Bar-B-Q West where he has been owner for 41 years. He also part owner of Cornerstone Funeral Home in Muskogee.

He married Shirley Pearson Shropshire in 1969 whom he met at Connors State College. They have two daughters, Angie and Amy. The Shropshires have seven grandchildren.


Leonard Wood a 1956 graduate of Connors State College played two seasons for the Cowboys before moving on to Northwestern State College.

During his freshman season at CSC the Aggies placed second in the Junior College regional in Amarillo, Texas.

Sophomore year CSC placed second in the Oklahoma Junior College Conference where he received all-conference honors and honorable mention all-region.

At Northwestern State in Alva he earned a bachelor’s degree in education, where he was a two-year starter and honorable mention Oklahoma Collegiate Conference all-conference selection.

Wood received his Master’s Degree in Education from Northeastern State and his Principal’s Certification and Superintendent’s Certification from the University of Tulsa.

He coached basketball and baseball and taught social studies on the high school level for 11 years and was in school administration for 32 years.

He retired in 2,000 and now serves as Legislative Chair of Tulsa Metropolitan Area Retired Educators Association and also is involved as a board member of Connors State College Alumni and Friends Association.

He and his wife Joyce have a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.

The Woods own and manage a Charolais Cattle operation in their spare time.


Nesila “Nelly” Onjiko Brown was very active in her high school basketball program in Mombasa, Kenya. She continued her basketball career playing in the East African League.

Brown had the opportunity to play throughout Africa, and also represented Kenya in the world Feminine Basketball Qualifying Games in which Kenya together with Senegal National teams represented Africa in the World Championship.

Brown was named the Best Defensive Player. She also received several awards in track and field, volleyball, and netball.

While in Australia, Coach Monte Madewell approached Brown offering her a scholarship to play for Connors State College. After her career at Connors, Brown went on to play for East Central University in Ada. Today Brown works for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services focusing on Child Welfare Services.


Carin Ranea Stites was four-year starter at Adair High School, where  she was an all-conference as a freshman and was a conference MVP her sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Stites was also a member of the Oklahoma Girls All-State team her senior year where she led Adair to a state championship and named the MVP of the state tournament.

She finished her high school career with 3,155 points, while still holding the record for all time score leader, during the six-on-six era. Stites was also a four-year starting pitcher and led the team to a state championship her senior year, where she made the All-State fast pitch team.

While at Connors State she was an all-conference selection her sophomore year. After Connors she went on to play for the University of Oklahoma.

Stites was a two-year starter and a two-time All Big Eight Conference selection. She also set numerous records for three-point shooting while playing for OU.

After graduating, Stites became a Youth and Family counselor and married Dane Hugley. They have a daughter, Jordyn, and reside in Adair.


Brett Pennington was a three sport varsity starter in baseball, football, and wrestling at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs.

He led the football team to the state semifinals his junior year, set the single-season pin record in wrestling and was a two-time state champion in 6A wrestling.

In the fall of 1991, Pennington signed a letter of intent to wrestle at the University of Oklahoma. However, the following summer Connors State baseball Coach Perry Keith offered Pennington a scholarship to play baseball. He then turned down the wrestling scholarship at OU.

During his time at Connors Pennington was an All-Regional Team, All American selection, and played with the Junior College USA team.

Following his success at Connors State, Pennington signed with OU, but this time to play baseball, where he went to the college World Series his junior year.

Pennington married Amy Short and they have three children: Sydney, Caden, and Ty. Pennington is the Deputy Chief of the Sapulpa Fire.


Mike Moore graduated from Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, and was named  Tulsa Metro Player of the Year with a batting average of .475, five home runs, 7-2 on the mound, and 25 stolen bases.

Moore was an All-State outfielder and a member of the Oklahoma All-Star Team, and had the opportunity to travel to play in the California All-Star game.

As a member of the Connors State  baseball team he played for Coach Gary Vaught, where he was named an All-Region player both years and All-American outfielder his sophomore season. Moore was also a leadoff hitter with over 400 in both seasons. During his freshman year he stole 69 bases and hit six home runs.

Following graduation from Connors, Moore signed with Southwestern Oklahoma State University and was a member of the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Championship team in 1985, where he was an All-Conference catcher. Moore remained on staff at SWOSU as a graduate assistant for Coach Larry Geurkink.

In 1987 Moore became a coach at North Arkansas Community College before moving to  Weslaco, Texas High School, and then to Crowder high school. Moore is currently the coach at Jay high school where his record is 419-257.

Moore is married to Marsha, and together they have four children: Ty, Kaci, Blaike, and Bryce.


Afton Burris-Melson attended Stigler High School where she played basketball and softball.

After high school Burris-Melson attended Connors State College where she played softball and basketball. She played under Coach Rick Carbone, and earned All-Region honors as a third baseman.

Burris-Melson went on to play softball at Oklahoma State University under coaches Margeret Rebener, Kim Ward, and Keith Whitley. There she earned her bachelor’s in biological science. In continuing her education, she went on to obtain her degree as a registered nurse from Oklahoma City Community College.

Shortly after obtaining her RNA she married Michael Melson.

Later she became a volunteer coach for her nieces 12-and-up softball team, the team began their journey in the Edmond YMCA league and earned a bid to the 12-and-up USSSA nationals, and are on the road to the Orlando World Series this season.

Burris-Melson and her husband welcomed their son Barrett Melson this past April.


Joe Gill played football at Connors State College and was team captain in 1964, where he was selected to the Region Six All-American team. Following his college career, Gill attended the University of Tulsa where he participated in the 1965 Bluebonnet Bowl.

Upon graduation from the University of Tulsa, Gill coached football and track at Tulsa Central. He also coached football, wrestling, and swimming at Tulsa Hale. Along with coaching, Gill taught high school math and held various administrative positions.

Gill continues to give back to Connors State by serving on the Alumni and Friends Association and was honored to serve on the CSC Presidential Search Committee from 2016-2017. Gill has also received many other awards and honors some of these are:

1983 to 1991 OAPT Executive Board of Directors, 1985 Transportation (OAPT) Administrator of the Year, 1989 to 1994 Oklahoma Plant Managers Association Board of Directors, 1995 Bristow Oklahoma NAACP “Man-Of-Year”, 2013 CSC Alumni and Friends Hall of Fame, 2013 Outstanding Contribution to Public Education (OSAC), 2014 Bixby Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, and a Special Recognition Award of the Muskogee Area Education Consort.

Finishing his career in 2013, Gill was the Executive Director for Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council after 46 years with public education.

James Cagle attended Connors State where he lettered in football his freshman year, and in basketball, football, and baseball his sophomore year. He was voted Best All-Around Athlete and an honorable mention, all-conference in football.

Cagle then attended East Central State University in Ada, where he continued playing football, basketball, and baseball. During his years at ECU he lettered in all three sports twice, and received his Bachelor of Science in Education. From there, he continued his education receiving a master’s of education and minored in math and physical education from West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas.

In Allen, Oklahoma Cagle began his teaching career. He was also the head basketball coach at Olton High School, Midland High School and Duncanville High School in Texas. Cagle was named the District 8, 5A Coach of the Year in 1984, and the District 9, 5A Coach of the Year three times in a row from 1971 to 1973.

 Cagle’s coaching record includes five district championships, two regional championships, a state semi-finalist, and a state finalist. He coached the Texas All-Star Game North Squad in 1974, and is ranked 80th on the Former Texas Basketball High School Coaches Honor Page with 531-227 record.

In 1990 he received the Excellence in Teaching for Adjunct Faculty, Science, Math, and P.E. at Mountain View Community College, and named a Who’s Who Among Teachers in 1996 and 20012.

Cagle continued his career teaching both high school and collegiate math until 2011, when her retired after 50 years.


Dr. Donnie L. Nero’s distinguished career in education began as a teacher for the Sapulpa Public Schools immediately after earning his 1971 Bachelor of Science degree in education, majoring in health and physical education.  He concluded his educational career on June 30, 2011 after 38 years in the field.

His success in public education led him into higher education where he progressed through the ranks at Tulsa Community College to become Provost of the TCC Southeast Campus.

 He achieved the presidency of Connors State College in 2000, becoming the first African American to become president of predominately-white college or university in the state of Oklahoma.

Nero earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration in 1977 and a Doctor of Education Degree in Occupational and Adult education in 1993 from Oklahoma State University.

A native of Spencer, Nero graduated from Dunjee High School in 1967. He focused on attending another college when a relative from Ada persuaded him to look at East Central State College, now ECU.

This experience prepared Nero for his abilities to work with the diversities he faced as provost and president in higher education in later years.

The Sapulpa classroom teacher fresh out of college also coached baseball and soon rose through the Sapulpa school system to become a counselor and then junior high school principal in 1973.

He was a program analyst with Rockwell International for two years before returning to Sapulpa Public Schools as assistant principal of the high school.

He joined the TCC staff in 1985 as an instructor and Dean of Student Services before becoming the Provost.  He left TCC to become the 15th President of Connors State College.

While president at Connors State College, Nero served as president of the Oklahoma Council of Two-Year Presidents, and for 11 years, participated in all the Councils’ committees and served as Secretary/Treasurer. He also served as President of the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges.

Nero is a founder of the Oklahoma Legal Issues Conference, a graduate of Leadership Tulsa Class XVIII and Oklahoma State Coordinator of the National Association Student Personnel Administrators.

 In addition, he is a member of the Oklahoma Global Education Consortium, founder of the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame and has served on various boards and committees, spoken at many high school graduations and various functions, chaired many meeting, and traveled thousands of miles for educational purposes.

He has provided leadership to countless students, teachers, administrators, and staff and has been a champion of higher education throughout his many years in Oklahoma education.  Through his guidance, Connors State College has experience record student enrollment and campus renovation and he left Connors with a valuable legacy of academic programs, innovation and growth.

In 2002, ECU named him the Distinguished Alumnus and he addressed the 2002 ECU graduation class during the commencement ceremony.  In 2010, East Central University inducted Nero into the ECU Educators Hall of Fame along with Jimmy Scales, making them the first African Americans inducted into the ECU Hall of Fame.

In 2011, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame inducted Dr. Nero into their Halls of Fame.  In addition, in 2010, he founded of the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, Inc. and currently as its president.

In 2016, he completed two terms as chair of the Office of Juvenile Affairs and is now ending his tenure on the Board.

Dr. Nero is married to Shirley Ballard Nero, a native of Clearview.  They both are retired and now live in Clearview. They have two children and four grandchildren, D.J and wife Carroll and granddaughter Berlin of La Habra, Calif. and Tanya and Marvin Blades Jr. and grandson Makai and granddaughters Jordan, and Jada of Glenpool.