Eastern Mennonite University will induct three new members to the Hall of Honor this fall: Richy Bikko ‘11, Alyssa Derstine Landis ‘11, and Michelle Leaman Richards ‘10.
The induction ceremony, among many events during EMU’s Homecoming and Family Weekend 2021, begins with a drop-in continental breakfast from 8-8:45 a.m. followed by a program from 8:45-9:45 a.m. Registration is required for the induction ceremony. Visit www.emu.edu/homecoming to register.
A video webstream of the induction ceremony will be available. Check the Homecoming website for more information.
With this year’s inductions, EMU’s Hall of Honor contains more than 100 former players and coaches, as well as four teams and six administration honorees from the era known as “The First 60 Years.” Sponsored by the Royals Club, the Hall of Honor is located in the main hallway in University Commons, which houses Yoder Arena.
The event kicks off a busy day on campus, which includes three varsity sporting events as well the baseball team’s traditional Blue/Black World Series (Friday at 5 p.m., Saturday doubleheader beginning at noon). Royals field hockey is also celebrating its 50-year anniversary with a special recognition at their home game, 11 a.m., on Saturday, and with a drop-in tent open at 2 p.m. by the Campus Center (Register for the reception or email Coach Kishorn for more information.). Roger Mast, retiring men’s soccer head coach, will also be honored at halftime of that game, scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
Richy Bikko ‘11, Cross Country and Track and Field
Bikko, a standout distance and middle distance runner, earned EMU’s highest athletics honor, the President’s Award, at the culmination of his career in 2011. The Kenyan native was new to the sport, with just two seasons of high school indoor and outdoor track during his senior year at Harrisonburg High before arriving at EMU. [Read more on Bikko’s journey to EMU.]
He finished 16th in his first cross country race and won the next one, setting up a stellar career that included two NCAA National Championship appearances. His best finish of 108th during his junior year was the highest national finish of an EMU runner since Kenny Layman took fifth place in 1997.
Bikko was also a two-time All South/Southeast Region First Team selection, finishing eighth in 2010 and ninth in 2009. He was All-ODAC First Team, finishing fifth and second in 2010 and 2009. He also accumulated four conference honors on the track in the 1500m, the 800m, and 4x400m. Bikko earned EMU’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 and two academic awards, named to the NCAA Division III All-Academic Men’s Cross Country Team in 2009 and honored with the ODAC Academic All-Conference Award in 2010.
Among his strongest memories of being an Royals athlete is his record-setting attempt to qualify for outdoor nationals in the 1500m. He bested the 31-year-old record set by Layman, but missed qualifying by .41 seconds — “a learning for me in how I can balance both disappointment and joy in a moment.” [Bikko’s record was broken in 2021 by junior Isaac Alderfer.]
Bikko carries on the spirit of mentorship and teamwork that he says sustained him at EMU. He is director of programs for Global Minimum Inc. (GMin), creating experiential learning programs for youth in Sierra Leone and Kenya to become leaders and problem-solvers in their communities. He is also a board member at the peacebuilding organization Daima Initiatives for Peace & Development (Dipad) founded by his late mother Doreen Ruto MA ‘06 (conflict transformation).
Bikko says his athletic experiences at EMU directly impact his current work. “I learned to appreciate how everyone led through big and small ways –whether it’s by coming up with a warm up exercise for the team, leading team practice, pacing the runs, leading a prayer, cheering teammates and also rivals. I also appreciate the way in which as a student-athlete I got spiritual guidance from my coaches… I still keep the verse from Micah 6:8 close ”What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”‘ as I continuously work in solidarity with the most vulnerable and disenfranchised communities.”
Alyssa Derstine Landis ’10, field hockey
Landis, an attacker and two-time EMU Athlete of the Year in 2009 and 2010, helped the Royals to four consecutive ODAC championship game appearances.
This was a career highlight despite losing each time to Lynchburg. “We were so close!” she says.
One of EMU’s most decorated athletes, Landis named those who surrounded her as the reason for her success. “I have been honored to receive numerous individual awards during my time at EMU, but I absolutely could not have done it without my teammates, coaches, and support from parents and other individuals along the way. I remember feeling the sting of losing the ODAC Championship Game multiple times in a row, and what I would have done to be able to trade in the individual awards for winning the Championship Game and getting the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.”
Landis holds two Top 10 slots in the EMU field hockey records books. She is seventh in the career goals (58), ninth in career points (140) and 13th in career assists (24).
Landis is one of EMU’s most decorated field hockey athletes. Among her many conference honors were ODAC First Team honors in 2007, 2009, and 2010; ODAC All-Tournament Team honors the same three years; and two Player of the Year honors in 2008 and 2009. She was also twice named ODAC Player of the Week.
She was also a three-time VaSID All-State First Team honoree (2007, 2008, 2009).
Landis holds three All-American awards: She was a two-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) honoree, joining the Division III Senior All-Star Team in 2009 and the All-American Second Team in 2009. In 2008, Womensfieldhockey.com named her to the All-American Second Team.
NFHCA also awarded her All-Region (South) Second Team honors in 2007 and 2009 and All-Region (South) First Team honors in 2008.
She lives in Telford, Pa., with her husband, Bryan, their daughter Corbyn, 4, and son Parker, eight months. She has worked with Lacher & Associates for nine years, currently in the role of client executive and healthcare and benefits team lead. She and her family are members at Salford Mennonite Church.
“Field hockey has been such a part of me for the majority of my life and in some ways defined who I was for many years,” Landis wrote in her acceptance letter. After graduation, she was an assistant coach with the EMU team and then played in a local adult league. She still pulls her stick out to play with her daughter and says she hopes her two young children will learn to love field hockey — “or any other sport that can help teach them some of the valuable life lessons that these activities can offer.”
She has “great memories” of her time with the Royals: “The bus rides, dinners, and hotel stays with teammates, team building activities, devotions after every practice, the comradery around the dreaded conditioning practices or running tests, the high intensity games – there were so many wonderful memories.”
Michelle Leaman Richards ’10, track and field
Richards was the most dominant female hurdler to attend EMU, capping her career as a two-time NCAA national championships qualifier in the 100m hurdles and the 55m hurdles and 60m hurdles in 2008. She was also a provisional qualifier in the indoor 55m hurdles in 2009.
She holds six individual EMU records: 55m hurdles (8.48); 60m hurdles (9.13); 100m hurdles (14.85); 400m hurdles (1:06.08). She was also on two record-setting outdoor relay teams.
She set two indoor ODAC records in the 55m hurdles (8.48 seconds) and the 60m hurdles (9.13) on the way to earning three conference championships. She was ODAC Champion in the indoor 55m hurdles in 2008 and 2010 and in the outdoor 100m hurdles in 2008.
A standout in the classroom as well, Richards was recognized three times by ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District awards. Among her other athletic honors were two All-ODAC second team awards in the 55m hurdles in 2009 and the 100m hurdles in 2007. She was a two-time ODAC Track Athlete of the Week. She was also honored with the EMU Athlete of the Year Award in 2008.
Richard recalled the “May season,” with the stresses of the academic semester and ODAC championships over, as particularly enjoyable for fun times and bonding with teammates. She also enjoyed road trips to meets at DI schools “where even just making the finals or semifinals was an accomplishment.”
She says the relationships and support of her teammates and EMU athletics staff in general made all the difference in her career: “I would not have been able to get as far as I did without the support of teammates, the individual attention and individual practices from coaches, and the athletic training staff keeping me healthy/pain-free.”
One of her more poignant memories was getting to the second hurdle in an indoor 55 m race ahead of the defending DIII national champion and being so surprised at this that she “clobbered the hurdle.” Though she didn’t finish, the quality of her start from the blocks over the first hurdle was “a real confidence booster.”
Richards lives in Lewiston, Maine, with her husband and children ages 7, 5, 2. “After teaching high school Spanish for two years in Maine, God called me away from my teaching career and toward the nearby refugee, asylee, and immigrant community,” she said. “During this transition, I got involved with The Root Cellar, a non-profit organization committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus in the most impoverished neighborhood of our city.”
In 2013, she and her family moved into the same neighborhood. “We have since been trying to figure out what it means to love our neighbors and to build bridges across cultural, language, religious and socioeconomic lines,” she said, which includes overseeing a volunteer-based adult English program at The Root Cellar.
Richards enjoys staying active with her children and walking in the community “where relationships are often built on the street.”