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Luminaries in 2024 Hall of Fame Class

irish rugby tours

Luminaries in 2024 Hall of Fame Class

Lou Stanfill sets up for the lineout. Numina Photo.

The US Rugby Foundation has announced the 2024 Hall of Fame inductees.

Here they are:

Alec Parker

At 6 foot 6 inches tall and 245 pounds, Alec Parker became one of the greatest Eagle locks, earning 57 caps. He gave up a professional career to be dedicated to his club and country’s teams. As a star tight end at Colorado’s Mesa State College, members of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club convinced him that playing rugby over the summer would be a great way to stay in shape for football, so Alec joined the Gents in 1995.

Alec Parker makes a tackle against England in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Ian Muir photo.


The natural-born second row was a fast learner and quickly became one of the best locks in the country, making the first XV on the 1995-96 Western Mustangs territorial side and becoming a first-time Eagle against Hong Kong in 1996 at 22 years old. He helped Aspen win seven National Club/Super League championships and numerous Aspen Ruggerfest titles over three decades. Alec’s Eagles career spanned from 1996 to his last test against Uruguay in 2009. He excelled for 14 years of international rugby that included playing in three Rugby World Cups (1999, 2003, 2007), starting in all but one of those RWC test matches. Alec lives in Basalt, Colorado with his wife Mindy. They help with the annual Ruggerfest tournament and along with their son, Bailey, are heavily involved as volunteers for the Disabled American Veterans. They annually host disabled veterans to participate in alternate activities of fishing, archery, and cycling. 

Denis Shanagher

Denis Shanagher is the son of the late Denis Shanagher, Sr., a US Rugby Hall of Famer. Denis captained Stanford University’s rugby team from 1974 to 1978, played with San Francisco RFC from 1978 to 1980 and the Bay Area Touring Side throughout the 1980s. He played for the Northern California Pelicans and Pacific Coast Grizzlies from 1977 - 1987. Shanagher was an integral member of the USA Eagle 15s from 1980 – 1987, earned nine 15s caps, participated in three Eagle tours and the 1987 inaugural Rugby World Cup. 

He was also a member of the first USA Eagles 7s team and earned 29 Sevens caps from 1981 to 1986. Denis' ability to read the game and his superior passing skills made all his Eagle teammates better performers. Giving back, Denis is a Founder and current Chair of the Stanford Rugby Foundation. He has served on the USA Rugby Board of Directors since late 2020, helping oversee the return of the organization to financial health and stability. He is also a member of the High-Performance Joint Management Group with World Rugby and actively involved in the 2031 World Rugby Cup in the USA. He lives with his wife, Julie, in San Francisco and has a son, Denis and daughter, Katie. He is a partner with Duane Morris LLP where he has been practicing law for over 40 years.

Jami Jordan

Jami Jordan began playing rugby with the Chesapeake Women’s RFC in 1980 where she played for six years. She then moved on to play for the Maryland Stingers from 1986 to 1991 as a flanker in 15s and hooker in 7s. While playing for Maryland, Jami served on the Eastern RFU, then USARFU Board, and became Vice Chair of the Women’s Committee in 1989 and Chair in 1990. She served as Chair of that committee until 1993 and then stayed on as Treasurer until the committee’s functions were absorbed into USARFU.

Jami Jordan with the 1991 USA team at the Rugby World Cup.

As the Chair, Jami guided the US women to the first Rugby World Cup in 1991 while helping create the first US women’s collegiate championship division. During the second women’s Rugby World Cup in 1994 in Edinburgh, Scotland, administrators from England, the US and other competing nations created the first women’s rugby world governing body, and Jami was elected to the Executive Committee. The International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) would soon incorporate this administrative body into the IRB naming it the IRB Women’s Advisory Committee. Jami represented the US on this committee until 2002, while continuing as the USA Women's National Team administrator from 2002 to 2004. In 2002, she rejoined the USA Women’s National Team (WNT) program successfully steering it through the 2002 World Cup in Barcelona, Spain. She continued to serve as the USA Women’s National Team administrator and helped initiate the selection process for the new WNT head coach after the 2002 World Cup. 

Larry Gelwix

Dubbed by the media as the “Winningest Coach in America,” Larry Gelwix established an unbelievable record of 418 wins and 10 losses while coaching from 1976 to 2011 at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Under his leadership, Highland won the Utah state high school rugby championship every year and 20 USA Rugby High School National Championships. In 1998, Highland represented the USA at the World Schools Rugby Championship in Zimbabwe, Africa, and brought home the bronze medal. Larry would eventually grow the Highland team to over 200 players, grades 7-12, with a staff of 15 coaches. In tribute to Larry and his winning ways, the movie Forever Strong was released in 2008 that was based on him and the Highland Rugby Team.

Larry Gelwix relaxes against a poster for the movie Forever Strong.

Larry played four years for Brigham Young University.  After graduation he continued club rugby with Provo RFC.  In addition to his involvement as a player and coach, Larry was a Utah RFU referee and society secretary from 1976 to1984. He also refereed for the Pacific Coast RFU from 1984 to 1989 and was the PCRFU Union secretary from 2005 to 2011. Larry went on to the USA Rugby Board in 1987 and served eight years as the National High School and Youth Committee chair and 12 years as a committee member. As national chair, Larry committed his efforts to the growth and development of the youth and high school game, both boys and girls, which has grown leaps and bounds since his tenure. 

Lou Stanfill

Louis “Lou” Stanfill earned an incredible 56 caps as a USA Eagle. His size, speed and vision made him a powerful presence on the pitch whether at flanker, #8 or second row. He was an All-State football player at Jesuit High School in Sacramento and began his rugby career there. After high school, he continued to play rugby at Cal from 2004 to 2008, where the Golden Bears won five consecutive National Collegiate titles and he was a five-time college rugby All-American. After graduation, Lou played for the New York Athletic Club from 2009 to 2012, helping NYAC win the 2012 National Club Championship while earning MVP honors.

Lou Stanfill playing for the USA during the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Ian Muir photo.

Lou made his international debut against Canada in 2005 at the age of 19 and went on to play for the USA National Team until 2015 which included three RWCs (2007, 2011, 2015). His last test was against South Africa at the 2015 RWC, earning his 56th cap, 6th most in USA Rugby history. Lou competed at the professional level from 2010 to 2019, with stints in Australia, Italy, and USA. He also coached Jesuit to two high school national titles in 2017 and 2019. Lou is a fire fighter and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Kramer, and two children. In 2020, Lou was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In his usual positive and unbeatable attitude, he summed it up as “just another bump in the road” and has completely recovered. 

Mike Tolkin

Mike Tolkin was a star soccer and rugby player at Xavier High School in New York City. He excelled at flyhalf and fullback, leading Xavier to a National High School Rugby Championship title. In college, he played soccer and rugby at St. John’s University and became a D1 Soccer All-American. Upon graduation, he joined the New York Athletic Club and had a winning career through the 1990s. While still playing at NYAC, Mike started his coaching career at Xavier HS where he led the team to 18 East Coast High School Rugby Championships and three National Championship titles. Mike became the head coach of NYAC while still the Xavier coach and led them to the US Rugby Super League titles in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Mike Tolkin, at left, about to hug Samua Manoa after the USA beat Georgia in 2013. 

His international coaching career began with the USA U19 program before becoming the US Eagles National Team’s defense coach in 2009. Mike was the head coach of the Eagles from 2012 through 2015. During that time, the team competed in 34 test matches, including four at the 2015 RWC. During his tenure as head coach, the Eagles went from 18th to 13th in the World Rugby rankings. He finished his coaching career with the MLR, taking Rugby United New York to the semi-finals. In 2021, Mike became a minority partner and General Manager of PR7s, a professional 7s rugby league comprised of both men’s and women’s teams throughout the US. 

Nancy Fitz

Nancy Fitz was one of USA Rugby’s greatest locks, dominating play in the late 80s and into the 2000s. Nancy was a star basketball player at Dartmouth College where she helped lead the Big Green to 4 Ivy League titles from 1985 to 1989. It was there that Nancy discovered rugby. Following college, Nancy relocated to Washington DC, where she joined the DC Furies RFC in 1991.

Nancy Fitz wins lineout ball in the 1998 Rugby World Cup.

She played for the Furies for 15 years, winning a collection of team titles and individual awards. Nancy played for the Eagles from 1996-2002, earning 21 caps and competing in two Rugby World Cups (1998, 2002). She was also a 7s standout and played on the USA’s first Eagles 7s team in 1997 and 1999.

After retiring as a player, Nancy took up refereeing and earned her Level 1 status. She coached numerous teams, including the Furies, Georgetown, Naval Academy, NOVA, Mid-Atlantic, and Capital All-Stars. She is now a USA and World Rugby Coach Instructor and Course Leader, and deeply involved in the advancement of youth, high school, club 7s and 15s programs. In 2023, Nancy was one of the recipients of the Kathy Flores Lifetime Achievement Award. This annual award recognizes those in the rugby community who exemplify the collegial spirit, commitment to lifelong learning, vision, and generosity that defined Kathy Flores. It truly sums up the essence and pedigree of Nancy Fitz. A true rugby legend. 

Victoria Folayan

Victoria “Vix” Folayan played her first game of rugby while enrolled at Stanford University. As a flanker and winger on Stanford’s women’s rugby team, Vix assisted the team in winning two national titles in 2005 and 2006. After college, she joined the Berkeley All Blues Women’s RFC from 2006 to 2012 and started on the wing in both 7s and 15s. She helped the 15s team in winning the USA Rugby Women's D1 Championship in 2007 and 2008, and the USA Rugby Women’s Premier League Championship in 2012. Vix was named to the USA U23 7s team and selected to the Pacific Coast Grizzlies 7s and USA Rugby All-Stars 7s from 2009 to 2013. She debuted with the Women’s Eagles in 2009 and was a member of the 2010 US Rugby World Cup team.

Vix Folayan on a break. Ian Muir photo.

Vix and Team USA won bronze at the 2013 Rugby World Cup 7s, and she became the first American to make the World Rugby 7s Series Dream Team. Vix finished her Eagles career in 2016 after the USA’s 5th place finish in the Rio Olympic games. Overall, Vix competed in 100 7s games in 27 international tournaments and earned 10 Caps on the Eagles 15s team. Since 2022, Vix has been an international athlete representative on the USA Rugby Board of Directors and on the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee Athlete’s Commission. She is now coaching the Washington Athletic Club 7s team. 

Chairman's Award: Lee Kelly

Lee Kelly. Photo Colleen McCloskey.

Albert “Lee” Kelly was a legendary pioneer that built a rugby dynasty at Gonzaga, a Washington, DC Jesuit boys’ high school, from 2000 to 2021. Lee’s rugby career began at the University of Maryland in 1969 and after graduating, he spent the next 30 years with the Maryland Old Boys as a player, coach, and administrator. When Lee’s son, Brendan, began playing rugby for Gonzaga in 2000, he offered to help with the rugby program. During Lee’s 21-year coaching career at Gonzaga, his teams achieved 16 United States High School Boys Rugby National Championship appearances, winning the title in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018; 15 PRU HS championships; seven MARFU championships; and seven Metro Area Varsity Rugby Conference championships.

Over 1,000 young men have benefited from Lee’s two-decades long leadership of Gonzaga rugby and his inclusive approach has grown the program from a one-team club sport of 35 members, to a fully recognized varsity sport of 200 student athletes. Lee’s rugby resume also includes: coaching the PRU U19 and U17 teams; creating the LAU all-star tournament; being a key member of the USA Rugby Task Force, charged with overhauling all rugby competition across the country; being a member of the USA Rugby’s Competitions Committee; founding the Boys National High School Rugby Championships (which is now named in Lee’s honor); founding the Rugby Academy, a program designed to offer more high-level rugby opportunities to high school players; and founding the Rugby Exchange, a network group of coaches. 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Pirelli

Tom Pirelli was a rugby player, high school coach, college coach, club coach, referee, administrator, youth sponsor, tour organizer and Eagles supporter (and continues to be to this day). He began his rugby career in 1965 at Princeton University and was part of three Ivy League Championship teams. In 1970, he founded the Princeton Alumni Rugby Association. Tom became the head coach of Lawrenceville High School in 1972 and two years later founded the Princeton Athletic Club RFC. He moved to Chicago in 1976 and played for the Chicago Lions.


While playing for the Lions, he became good friends with the legendary Dick Smith and joined Dick’s infamous USA Owls for the Golden Oldies Tournaments in London and Vancouver, playing his last match in 1997 at age 50. In 2012, he joined Alex Magleby and Jon Bobbett to form the Golden Eagles Association, which has raised millions of dollars to support both USA Eagles 7s teams. After moving to Florida, Tom founded the Jupiter Sharks High School Rugby Club in 2015, winning the Florida HS Championship in 2018. He headed a committee for the USRF to develop and endow the Prusmack Award, presented annually to the best male and female collegiate 7s players. Tom continues to be a big supporter of youth rugby in the U.S., and of Princeton University Rugby. He lives with his wife, Jane, in Stuart, Florida and has three daughters, one son, and three granddaughters.