The Fresno State class Kevin Goessling thought he would use least is the one he ended up needing most.
Goessling’s course load during his senior year included Social Entrepreneurship, which explored techniques executives at start-ups and other companies use to promote a business intended to create social or ecological value – not solely for profit.
“I thought I would never use anything from that class, ever,” said Goessling, a standout kicker from 2008 to 2011 who finished his career as the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer.
“I liked the class, but it wasn’t anything I could see myself doing.”
Five years later, Goessling finds himself as point man in a start-up venture with a definite social mission, except this start-up has existed for almost 60 years: the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
Goessling is not among this year’s class of inductees, which will be enshrined Nov. 3. The 27-year-old is the newly hired (as of Sept. 1) Director of Development, heading up a fundraising effort toward construction and operation of a new home for the FAHOF inside the Save Mart Center.
We believe there’s a need for a place that teaches the next generation of local athletes what they need to be successful.
Kevin Goessling, FAHOF Director of Development
The project is a three-way partnership between the FAHOF, Fresno State and the Fresno County Office of Education, which have finalized a Memorandum of Understanding.
Establishing a permanent home for the FAHOF has been a longtime goal of the organization and in particular Pete Mehas, the California State University Board of Trustees member and former Fresno County Office of Education Superintendent who died in 2013 after serving more than two decades as president.
Mehas’ death sparked the FAHOF’s Board of Directors to fulfill his vision, according to current president Walter Byrd Jr.
“When (Mehas) passed away, suddenly, we re-energized around what the core values of what the Hall of Fame are: presence in the community and inspiring the future,” Byrd said. “This is by far the biggest effort the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame has ever made to establish a presence in this community.”
Every year since 1959, the FAHOF has held an enshrinement dinner to honor the newest class of inductees. However, there has never been an actual Hall of Fame for people to visit.
Every year since 1959, the FAHOF has held an enshrinement dinner to honor the newest class of inductees. However, there has never been an actual Hall of Fame for people to visit. Access has been limited to exhibits, including one (since 2015) at The Big Fresno Fair Museum that houses photos and memorabilia displays representing the 300-plus inductees.
Establishing a presence at the Save Mart Center, specifically in the spacious southwest corner of the arena that sits mostly unused, would change all that.
“It makes us real,” said Gena Strang-Behrens, FAHOF vice president and a 2005 inductee. “We’ve always been just a dinner; people identify us as a dinner. Now there will be a place to go to really experience the Hall of Fame.”
What the FAHOF and its partners have in mind isn’t a typical Hall of Fame that stands as a monument to the past.
Instead, they’re aiming to build something that benefits future generations.
Of course, there will be photos and memorabilia representing Fresno County’s rich athletic tradition. However, the primary thrust is educational. What’s envisioned are learning modules with video and audio designed around character-building traits such as perseverance, teamwork and goal-setting taken from the lives of past inductees.
For example, a group of junior high students could “study” Rafer Johnson by watching highlights of the 1960 Olympic decathlon. After that, they might view a video of Johnson himself talking about the perseverance required to go from living in a railroad boxcar near Kingsburg to the gold-medal ceremony. (Hall of Famers still living in the area would be invited to appear in person.)
There’s going to be some memorabilia, but it has to be something that stimulates an eighth-grade kid.
Walter Byrd Jr., FAHOF President
The students would then take a quiz, based on curriculum designed by the Fresno County Office of Education.
“It’ll be more than a shrine to our athletes,” Strang-Behrens said. “Of course you’re going to be exposed to all these great athletes, but it’s really about the next generation and sharing with them how important sports are, what we can learn from them and how they build character so you can be a good citizen.
“In that way, it’s really more of a community project.”
Kicker turned closer
For such an undertaking, the FAHOF had to stretch a little outside its comfort zone. The project was deemed too large for the organization’s all-volunteer Board of Directors. Raising the estimated $1.5 million needed to build and operate the facility required a full-time development officer.
That’s how Goessling entered the picture.
Since concluding his Fresno State career with 373 points, Goessling has been in NFL camps with the Bears and Raiders. He also had stints in the Arena Football League with the Portland Thunder and LA KISS. (“I walked by Paul a few times. Never saw Gene.”)
373 points scored by Kevin Goessling during his Fresno State football career
Goessling has some business know-how. He ran his own clinics and camps teaching youth how to kick, punt and long snap. For two years he worked as national sales and implementation director for Academic Gameplan, the education company co-owned by John and Jill Baxter.
Despite Goessling’s lack of fundraising experience, he was deemed a potential candidate because of his outgoing personality and background as a Bulldogs athlete. Before being offered the job, he passed a series of three interviews (driving back and forth from his parents’ Orange County home) by the FAHOF’s hiring committee, development committee and finally the full 24-member board.
“He has the youthful enthusiasm, and we think he has the ability, to go out and be that link to our community,” Byrd said.
Strang-Behrens added, “Kevin has all the skills we can’t teach him, like relationship-building.”
Kevin’s definitely going to have to go out and open up some doors and tell the story of why this project is important for the community.
Walter Byrd Jr.
To help instruct Goessling in the mechanics of fundraising and steer the Board through the largest capital campaign in its history, the FAHOF also brought in veteran development officer Mike Ford, formerly of the Community Medical Centers Healthcare Network, as a consultant.
Still, it’s up to Goessling to be the point man. It’s up to him to convince current FAHOF supporters, and new ones, that this is a project worth backing.
The goal, according to Byrd, is to raise the money and begin construction within a year.
That’s a tight timeline (the FAHOF conducted a feasibility study that came back positive), but one that Goessling sounds eager to tackle.
“This is going to be unlike any other Hall of Fame in the country,” he said. “It’s going to be innovative. It’s going to be dynamic, and it’s going to be trend-setting, to have an educational component using audio-visual displays and recordings.
“It’s going to be a living, breathing part of the community with tangible benefits to the next generation and not just a monument or a museum.”
See? Those social entrepreneurship skills do come in handy.
Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame
58th annual Enshrinement Awards Dinner
- Nov. 3: Fresno Convention Center, Valdez Hall
- Event schedule: Social hour, 6 p.m.; dinner, 7 p.m., followed by induction ceremony
- Details: www.fresnoahof.org
- Induction class: Billy Volek, football; Ron Adams, basketball; Bill Glasson, golf; Yvette Roberts, basketball; Paul Schechter, athletic trainer; 1968 Hoover High baseball team