The Raider-Knight Connection….The Hun/SA Ambassador

Written by Wendy A Varisco

By: Mick Meisel ’76

Enticed by the qualities of a new college campus, athletic opportunities, small classes and an exceptional faculty-student ratio, Craig Hannas arrived in Laurinburg as a freshman in the fall of 1967. He graduated with the St. Andrews Presbyterian College (SA) Class of 1971 and returned to New Jersey where he taught at The Hun School of Princeton for a decade. In 1982, he returned to his Alma mater as Dean of Students. Craig’s education laid the foundation for him to teach English Literature, Grammar, and Composition at multiple grade levels at Hun, where he also served as a coach and administrator during his tenure. Above all, he became the unofficial ambassador between Hun and SA. As a result of Craig’s endeavors during his years at Hun, no fewer than 20 students were recruited from the small, private prep school based in Princeton, to enroll at SA. I was his first recruit.                                   

As a teenager growing up in Cranbury, New Jersey, Craig had a true love of sports.  He was a three-sport athlete at Highstown High School, where he played soccer, basketball and golf. While Craig excelled in all three sports, he was scouted by Division I schools for his talent on the basketball court.  None of the schools that recruited him for basketball wanted him to play soccer or golf in addition to basketball. However, SA offered not only the opportunity to be taught by full professors, but it allowed him to participate in multiple, intercollegiate sports. He became a three-time All Colleges and Universities Team (NSCAA) All-American as a goalkeeper and he once grabbed 33 rebounds in a single basketball game! He played collegiate sports all four years every season except for a year of golf which he took off to get married. Hannas majored in English while cherishing the “in and out” of class experiences the college afforded all SA students.

Left: The Hun Raider    
Middle: Some things never change: Hannas, far right, hanging out at the front of the Student Union in 1969
Right: Hannas, #40 goes up for a rebound against Greensboro College

Craig is proud of his participation as a scholar-athlete in what was the heyday of athletic excellence in the history of St. Andrews. Even though the institution was less than10 years old, SA athletic teams excelled in a variety of sports. Craig remembers an eclectic group of teammates from the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Asia. He recalls soccer teammate, Yank Albers, as one of the finest soccer players in the country. Albers still holds the SA scoring record for a season and career and was an All-South player for four years. Another teammate, Ralph Nesbitt, once scored six goals in one game. The Knights were ranked seventh in the nation in 1968 and went to the national championships that year.

During the late 1960s, many other athletes received regional and national recognition in soccer, basketball, baseball, wrestling and golf. Kemp Gregory and Jim Timmons were All-American baseball players. Several SA students went on to become All-American golfers and wrestlers. Peter Garner was one of the leading scorers in the nation for the basketball team during the 1968-1969 season. Unfortunately, the noteworthy accomplishments of past athletic teams  are often forgotten today as a vast majority of St. Andrews University students participate on intercollegiate athletic teams.

After graduating from SA, Craig began his tenure at The Hun School of Princeton. Hun was founded in 1914 as the Princeton Math School, by John Gale Hun, a professor at Princeton University.  The school’s motto: “Seek Knowledge and Honor”.  In 1926, the campus relocated from the Borough of Princeton to the Edgerstoune estate in Princeton Township. The name Hun generated a lasting mascot and theme for athletic teams: The Raiders which includes an exaggerated likeness to Attila. In 1971, women were admitted to the school for the first time and a young man who was  a recent college graduate was hired to teach in the English department. In 1974, a middle school was added at Hun and the institution now serves approximately 600 students from grades 6 to 12 as well as post-graduate students.

Craig’s fond reflections about his SA experience aside, the fact that “Presbyterian” was in the name of the school was critical to my parents’ support of my decision to enroll at SA in the fall of 1972. At least 300 new students arrived in Laurinburg that August as part of the 900-person student body. I quickly met two students with connections to Hun after arriving in Scotland County. Rick Judge and Curtis Sawyer were former Hun alumni. On my first night in Laurinburg, Rick and I commandeered a canoe from Lake Moore as part of a contest being held by WSAP. The challenge? See who could bring the largest item up the steps of the student union in five  minutes.

I’m not sure how Mr. Judge was referred to St. Andrews from New Jersey. Curt Sawyer was directed by a family friend, Debbie Cooper (Williams). Both she and Curt grew up in Chestertown, Maryland and attended different boarding schools. Curt had played football and baseball at Hun and returned to teach for a year in 1980. He recruited me to play baseball for the Knights in the Spring of 1973. My career lasted seven games before recurring knee issues forced me to the sidelines.

The real migration of Hun School graduates began in the mid-1970’s and coincided with Hannas’s first years at the school. Jane Schwab and Brent Bystrzycki, members of the Hun Class of 1974, are a truly remarkable story. They were high school sweethearts who attended SA and graduated in 1978. Jane was a Theater and Education major who taught high school and served as a youth program director for her church. Brent was a Business major who initially sold computers and moved on to sales of computer software. They have been married for forty years, have one daughter, three sons and currently have five grandchildren. They are now retired and have settled in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

Left: The Bystrzycki Family-3 generations
Right: Brent Bystrzycki and Jane Schwab in 1974                                                   

The number of Hun School graduates who matriculated to St. Andrews peaked in the late 1970s just prior to Craig’s return to campus as Dean of Students in 1982. Following are the Hun graduates who spent at least a semester at St. Andrews:

John Loughlin                                   Joe Kasian                              Marc Heurtematte

Jane Schwab Bystrzycki                  Gary Baggaley                        Paul Franzoni

Brent Bystrzycki                                Tom Dunn                              Dana Gilbert

Mike Dunn                                         Mark Lutz                               Bill Kostrub

Sue Kain                                             Robin Richardson                 Denise Kostrub

Donald Meisel                                   Keith Duvin                            and there were more…


Many other Hun graduates were accepted to SA but chose other institutions of higher learning.

L to R: Whit Rutter, Susan Gidding and Craig Hannas at the Hun Class of 1972 40th Reunion 

Craig’s stint as Dean of Students at SA was relatively short. It coincided with the heyday of St. Andrew’s Basketball. The SA basketball teams were prominent in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, as part of the Will Peterson era. Peterson was from the Virgin Islands and was a graduate of the Laurinburg Institute prior to playing for SA. After serving as Dean, Craig took a position with IBM in 1984 and except for a brief flirtation with Hun in the late 1980’s, he remained in private sector until his retirement. The flow of students from Hun to SA essentially ended with Craig’s departure from Princeton in the early 1980’s.

Craig is the father of four children and grandfather of five.  He is now retired and lives outside of Baltimore. His role as an ambassador, advocate, and nexus between the two institutions was unique, and unprecedented.

Left: Craig in 2012
Right: Craig and past St. Andrews President, Paul Baldasare, Jr. ’77 

The success of the 1960’s SA athletic teams played a role in the evolution of the institution. Today, close to 90% of the on-campus student body at SA participate on at least one athletic team. Today’s student-athlete tend to focus on one primary sport. The era of the three-sport athlete is gone in the age of athletic specialization and year-round training. However, it was the opportunity to participate and play on a variety of sports teams through the fall, winter, and spring, that inspired Craig to leave his roots in New Jersey for a unique athletic, cultural, and academic opportunity in North Carolina. It is safe to say that those opportunities still exist on campus today