As tradition would have it, Homecoming has become a special time of year for anyone involved with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. On February 5, Homecoming will take on an even deeper meaning for two talented individuals.
The Department of Athletics announced that Frank Caradonna ‘61 and Ron Miller ’63 were selected as its 2005 inductees into UNC Pembroke’s prestigious Athletics Hall of Fame.
Since 1980, UNCP has honored 61 former athletes and administrators by enshrining them on its Wall of Honor. All inductees created a higher standard for Brave athletics and were selected based on accomplishments in sport and coaching.
A native of Waldwick, N.J., Frank Caradonna enrolled at Pembroke State College (PSC) in the fall of 1957. He was recruited by coach Dick Lauffer to play basketball and baseball for the Braves. He was the first student-athlete from the northeastern U.S. to attend Pembroke State.
“Coach Lauffer was from my home state, and I saw him every day either as a coach or a teacher,” said Caradonna. “He became more like my father while I was at Pembroke.”
Caradonna lettered in basketball and baseball for four seasons at PSC. On the hardwood, he started at guard in every game from 1957-1961, displaying leadership qualities that significantly contributed to the Braves’ success.
A gifted shortstop, he brought the same passion and leadership to the baseball diamond. Highlights from Caradonna’s career include scoring a career-high 28 points on four separate occasions in basketball. He batted a career-best .380 during a 1959 baseball season that saw the Braves post a 16-6 record.
When asked to identify a favorite athletic moment at PSC, he mentioned travel.
“The College was mainly a commuter school during that period, but we had our good times,” he said. “We made several trips to schools from Georgia to Massachusetts, including nearly every school in the Carolinas.”
A .350 hitter during his four-year Braves career, Caradonna signed a professional contract with the Washington Senators in 1961. He did so in front of Old Main immediately following his graduation, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in business with a minor in physical education. As a student, Caradonna was a member of the Monogram Club and Student Government Association. He was voted “most athletic.”
During his professional baseball career, Caradonna set a Carolina League record with 11 consecutive hits. He was batting .298 when a severe ankle injury on a play at second base ended a promising career.
Caradonna returned to New Jersey and began a successful career as a teacher and coach. He also officiated several high school athletic events. True to black and gold, Caradonna approached a talented pitcher after having officiated his game to inquire about his baseball future. Upon Caradonna’s recommendation, the pitcher enrolled at Pembroke State. That same pitcher, Ron Norman, holds several UNCP pitching records and is also a member of UNCP’s Hall of Fame. Caradonna could not be happier to join him in such an elite class.
“Naturally, I am very honored to be recognized in the Hall of Fame,” said Caradonna. “The group of guys I played with were pioneers for UNCP athletics.”
After 25 years as an educator, Caradonna is now retired. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in New Jersey. The Caradonnas are the proud parents of one son, Tim, and two daughters, Mary and Cathy. Tim carried on the Pembroke tradition in the mid-80s, graduating from Pembroke State University and lettering in baseball for four seasons.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Ron Miller joined the Pembroke State basketball squad in the fall of 1961, transferring from Edwards Military Institute in Salemburg, N.C. While at EMI, he averaged over 14 points and seven assists per game, while garnering most valuable player honors on the baseball field. During his two years with the Braves, Miller netted seven points and dished out five assists per contest. He was best known for his hard work, dedication, desire and leadership. Off the court, he was a two-year member of the Monogram Club.
A student of the game, Miller graduated from PSC in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education and went on to become one of the top high school coaches in North Carolina. Over his 35-year coaching career, Miller won an astounding 624 games, including one state championship with Fayetteville’s South View High School in 1993. Miller attributes much of his success to the connections he made at UNC Pembroke.
“The Pembroke family took me in, and coaches like Dr. Dick Lauffer and Dr. Howard Dean had a major influence on my career,” said Miller. “We have all consulted with one another on many occasions and made each other better. I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of that UNCP circle.”
Other coaching highlights garnered by Miller include being named Coach of the Year on eight occasions in various conferences. He has also been honored to coach the North Carolina East/West All-Star game (1980), South Carolina’s Pepsi Classic (1993), and the North Carolina/South Carolina Classic (1999). Miller’s squads won over 25 conference, tournament, and sectional championships in basketball, while 50 of his players went on to play collegiately.
When asked of his fondest coaching memory, he responded: “Coaching is a series of great memories, and around every bad moment, two good ones are waiting. It’s difficult to isolate my best coaching memory, but I have to say that winning the state championship at South View was very special.”
Having also coached baseball, track, cross-country, soccer and tennis, Miller served as a board member for the North Carolina Coaches Association for eight years, including stints as vice president and president. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and is a member of its Wall of Fame in Chapel Hill.
Miller has also been an advocate for his community. He received the Cumberland County School’s Sports Service Award, served as a director for the Hope Mills Recreation Department and directed numerous summer camps for area youth. On Feb. 7, 2003, the Cumberland County Board of Education named the gymnasium at South View the “Ron Miller Gym.”
Being elected to the UNCP Athletics Hall of Fame is a special moment for Miller.
“I’ve had many honors bestowed upon me during my coaching career, but to be recognized by my alma mater is so important and special,” he said. “It is truly a privilege to be enshrined with such an elite class of people at UNCP, and I only hope that this same recognition can be extended to all those that are deserving.”
As a head coach, athletic director and assistant principal, Miller continues to be a well-known face within the community and is an active member of the UNCP’s Braves Club. He has two children, Ronald Jr. and Joyce, and three granddaughters.
The official induction ceremonies for Caradonna and Miller will take place at the annual Awards Banquet in the James B. Chavis University Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2005. Caradonna and Miller will also be introduced before the men’s Homecoming basketball game at 4 p.m.