1985 Hall of Honor
"Jimmy” Laffin was an outstanding basketball forward who played a major role in Beloit’s domination of the Midwest and State conferences in the early 1920’s. After starting on the road to hardcourt fame at Beloit High School, he became a prominent cog in the College’s offensive machine that rolled to three consecutive undefeated championships in both leagues while recording 39 victories and losing only twice. The 1922 and 1924 teams on which he starred were perfect, winning all 12 games in the former season and 14 during the latter. Team captain as a junior, Laffin tallied 133 points, slightly more than a third of Beloit’s total, and was the leading Midwest Conference scorer as Coach Tommy Mills club posted a 13-2 record. He was an accurate shooter, fine ball handler, and excellent defensive player on teams noted for their speed. In baseball, he was a slick-fielding shortstop and a consistent hitter; he also captained the 1924 team, the last to represent Beloit on an intercollegiate level for three decades. After college, Laffin participated in both sports in the Rockford Industrial League, playing on championship clubs sponsored by Mattison Machine Works, for which he worked 34 years as a production engineer-manager. He died at age 68 in 1969.
A versatile swimmer who excelled in both the sprints and distances, John Van Slyke expanded upon his high school reputation as a Kansas state champion during a brilliant three-year varsity career at Beloit. He not only won all but 10 of his 84 collegiate races, but he also captured four Midwest Conference titles and the NCAA small-college 200-yard individual medley crown and was the Buccaneers’ most valuable performer and high-point man each year. Along the way, Van Slyke established 16 records, many of which withstood all challenges for nearly 20 years; they included two conference, 11 school and pool, and three opponents’ pool marks. A three-time conference individual medley champion who also won the butterfly crown as a junior, he was proficient in all individual strokes and was clocked in times that were outstanding in his era. Bob Nicholls, who has guided Beloit’s swimming program since 1952, regards him as one of the two best all-around competitors he has ever coached. Founder and president of the American Management Company, a consulting and financial software firm, and a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School, from which he holds an M.B.A. with high distinction, Van Slyke remains active athletically in competitive alpine skiing, soccer, and windsurfing.