Unsung Hero 
By Bob Weiner 
 
  
As a defenseman, two-time All-American lacrosse player Tom Alexander has always excelled at neutralizing the other team’s top scoring threat. The Guilderland, N.Y., native, now a graduate student at the University who is working toward his master’s degree in education, plans on teaching English and coaching lacrosse, a sport he credits with helping him to grow up.  

     “It taught me how to compete and how to give it my all,” he said. “I have also met many great people through the sport. I have always played defense, ever since I first picked up a stick at Guilderland High School. My job is to take the ball away, and get it out of my zone. I take a lot of pride in that. It’s just simple, hard work. When I step off the field and feel exhausted, I know I gave it my best.” 
     Albany lacrosse coach Mark Wimmer believes that Alexander, who had a 3.56 grade point average last semester, has matured into an outstanding role model as well as one of the greatest lacrosse players ever for the Great Danes. 
     “As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best player I’ve ever had at Albany, and maybe the best ever,” said the coach. “He has a tremendous work ethic. He has athletic ability and talent, but he has combined that with some hard work. He is a dominant player and an unsung hero.” 
     Alexander was heroic off the field as well on December 14, 1994, when he played a key role in subduing a gunman who had taken hostage 35 students in a Greek history class. The gunman, Ralph J. Tortorici, 26, a senior, shot and wounded one student who rushed him, then tried to flee the classroom. But the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Alexander, then a freshman, pursued Tortorici up a flight of stairs, tackled him, and shoved him against a set of doors. Several other students then joined Alexander in subduing Tortorici. During the scuffle, Alexander was cut by Tortorici’s knife and suffered a superficial wound on his upper arm. Tortorici was convicted of kidnapping and assault in 1996 and was sentenced to 19 to 47 years in prison. 
     “I’ll never forget it,” said Alexander, who was red-shirted his sophomore year due to a shoulder injury and completed his collegiate lacrosse career last spring. Since he acted without thinking about the danger during the hostage incident, Alexander doesn’t consider himself a hero, although others disagree. “I’m not a hero. The way I explain it to people is that it was something that just happened. I’m just happy to get on with my life.” 
     Wimmer is not surprised that Alexander, now 23, continues to shy away from any publicity over the event. “I remember when that incident happened,” said Wimmer. “He was just a freshman, and he didn’t want to be in the limelight. I felt it was a powerful experience for him, but he has come through it nicely. It was an intense situation, and he did what had to be done. I’d call him a hero. That’s the kind of guy he is—heroic, but modest.” 



 Sports in Brief 

Joe Savino and Rafaela Nikas were named as the University’s 1997-98 male and female athletes of the year. Savino, of Norwood, N.J., was a first-team Football Gazette Division II non-scholarship quarterback. He was voted ECAC-North Player of the Year and earned the Eastern Football Conference’s Most Valuable Player award by passing for 2,377 yards and 22 touchdowns. Nikas, a native of Bay Shore, N.Y., was named to both the Brine/IWLCA and USWLA All-America lacrosse squads as a first-team midfielder. 

• Albany captured the New England Collegiate Conference’s Walter Peterson President’s Cup, recognizing the member school that compiled the strongest overall record in conference-sponsored sports during the 1997-98 academic year. The Great Danes won NECC championships in men’s cross country, women’s tennis, men’s indoor track, women’s indoor track and softball. 

• Wide receiver Dan Gmelin and tight end Seth Thomas became the first players in University history to be signed to contracts by National Football League teams. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Thomas, who caught 94 passes for 1,207 yards and 13 touchdowns during a four year career with the Great Danes, signed as a free agent to try out with the Carolina Panthers. Gmelin, 5-feet-11 and 188 pounds, agreed to terms with the San Diego Chargers. Gmelin set 12 team records for the Great Danes, including career marks for receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose yards. 

• ECAC Merit Medals were awarded to Liz Peck, Halim Wise and Darrin Jahnel as the school’s senior female and male student-athletes. Peck, a first-team All-America midfielder in field hockey, is in the University’s molecular biology doctoral program. Wise, 
an indoor/outdoor track star, and Jahnel, the top three-point shooter in Albany basketball history, shared the men’s award. Wise had a 3.29 GPA in a dual major of English and political science, while Jahnel had a 3.25 in business administration 

Dawn DiMicco, Allisson Pennington and Rafaela Nikas were each first-team selections on the USWLA and Brine/IWLCA women’s lacrosse All-America teams. 

Kelly Poynton, of Orchard Park, N.Y., who was selected the NECC Pitcher of the Year 
in softball, posted a 17-3 record with a 1.06 earned run average in leading Albany (32-9) 
to the conference title. 



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