University of Oregon

Old Oregon
News of UO Alumni
Thinking about Space | New Digs for the Class of 2016 | Merchant of Groom
Remembering Yesterday’s War | The Busy Bees of Brewing
Brewer Among Beneficiaries of Scholarship Support | UO Alumni Calendar
On Beating Steve Prefontaine



Thinking about Space
Landscape architects make campus function better through thoughtful design.

 

Illustration: Architects’ rendering of the Global Scholars Hall
COURTESY ZIMMER GUNSUL FRASCA ARCHITECTS

New Campus Housing Architects’ rendering of the Global Scholars Hall

As students haul their favorite pillows and posters into the brand new Global Scholars Hall on East Campus come September, they may not pay much attention to the landscape around the building. They’ll be wowed by the roomy living spaces, state-of-the-art wireless, on-site performance center, and variety of dining options. Their parents will take happy note of the full-time, on-site librarian and the live-in faculty scholar.

But careful planning has gone into the exterior spaces too, thanks to Eugene-based landscape architecture firm Cameron McCarthy, one of the central planners for the project. “Our job is not just pipes and bushes anymore,” says Larry Gilbert ’86, senior partner in the firm. “The landscape architect is the unique bridge between the other design consultants, from the architect to the wetland consultant to the engineer.”

The collaboration is good news, says Otto Poticha, a Eugene architect who has taught at the UO since 1962. “Architects used to design buildings as though they were going to put them on a piece of black velvet, and then put a sculpture in the blank space,” he says. “But we’ve come to understand how important public spaces are. They’re functioning rooms, not just parsley around the plate.”

These days, the landscape architect often serves as project design manager. “They sort out the site and leave a bare spot to drop the building in,” Poticha says with a laugh. “They’re getting even.” Indeed, Cameron McCarthy orchestrated the design of PK Park (the UO’s new baseball facility) as well as the redesign of Hayward Field and the four nearby intramural student recreation fields.

Every space has a layer of intricacies that reflect the architecture of the building it surrounds, Gilbert says. The rhythm of the windows or a line of columns might be reflected in the outdoor design, as in a row of trees that mimics the column line. Brick or metal in the façade of the building can also be reflected in the landscape. “Geometry, form, and repetition,” Gilbert says. “It’s these little things that help people become aware of where they are in the world.”

Trees may be selected for their color, their silhouette, their bark, or their flowers. Then, of course, there’s solar aspect, wind direction, and choice of smaller plantings. In the Northwest, sustainability is key. “We think of the long-term health and vitality of the space,” Gilbert says. “There is more emphasis now on minimizing irrigation and mowing. Even for the larger grassy areas, we’re looking at alternative grasses.”

Exterior hardscapes merit equally careful consideration. Outdoor spaces must be welcoming and safe and should have central areas that are conducive to activity as well as quiet areas off to the side. They also need good circulation, with a front and back “door,” and should take advantage of the sun and provide shelter from the rain.

The Global Scholars Hall’s two courtyards are large and enclosed, with secured bike areas. One of them is connected to the dining area, so meals can be enjoyed outside on nice days. In a nod to today’s über-connected students, all the outdoor benches will have built-in power and data ports.

The complex boasts the largest green roof on campus, at 10,000 square feet. The rooftop garden on the single-story section of the building (which will house the dining areas, classrooms, and other common areas) will be planted mostly with leafy four- to six-inch-tall sedums. This living blanket will help cool the building in summer and keep it warm in winter. It will provide a pleasing view for students in the residential towers, too.

Cameron McCarthy incorporates into its projects natural materials such as stone or wood, reclaimed materials, and methods for draining storm water. “Our company is evolving to push the envelope of sustainability,” says Colin McArthur ’01, MCRP ’06, also a partner in the firm.

Previous UO exterior design projects include the Living-Learning Center, the Lillis Business Complex, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and the campus entryways at East 13th, 15th, and 18th Avenues, among others. The company currently has sixty to seventy active projects around the state. On the agenda at the UO right now are the reconfiguring of Moss Street near the child-care center, relocating the women’s soccer field, converting grass fields outside the Casanova Center to synthetic-turf practice fields, and the remodel of Allen Hall, as well as still-evolving ideas for redesign of the EMU and the Student Recreation Center.

“You can’t walk ten feet on campus without coming across a project I’ve worked on,” says Gilbert, who’s been involved in creating outdoor environments at the UO since earning his degree in landscape architecture twenty-six years ago. “It’s been a great ride and we’ve loved every bit of it.”

—Rosemary Camozzi ’96

New Digs for the Class of 2016

Photo: plan for the three-tower, five-story Global Scholars Hall
COURTESY CAMERON MCCARTHY LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS

Crews are in the final stages of completing the three-tower, five-story Global Scholars Hall. Designed to improve the student experience by integrating academics into residential life, the hall will be home to 450 undergraduate students beginning this fall. It is the first new residence hall built at Oregon in five years, the second in the past four decades.

Some details:

Location On the corner of East 15th Avenue and Moss Street (east of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History)

Square footage 185,000

Living units Single rooms, double rooms, and semisuites (three doubles and a shared bath)

Special features

• Learning Commons including presentation practice rooms with multimedia technology, study carrels, and five multipurpose classrooms

• Dining hall seating for 190 with an espresso bar and grab ‘n’ go option

• Multipurpose room seating as many as 300 for classes, performances, banquets, dances, movies, workshops, and more

• Full-time, on-site librarian and resident faculty scholar to direct the hall’s academic programs and provide curriculum leadership

Academics The hall will support classroom curricula and specific projects and programs for students seeking a comprehensive and scholarly academic experience, such as those enrolled in the Robert Donald Clark Honors College and honors programs in individual departments. The hall will also serve foreign language majors and others seeking a language immersion experience.

Total estimated cost $71.5 million

Funding sources State bonds, retired with student room-and-board income, and private gifts

Project team Designer: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects of Portland. Landscape architecture: Cameron McCarthy of Eugene. Construction: Hoffman Construction of Portland

 





Merchant of Groom
He guides guys through the mysterious rituals of matrimony.

 

Photo: Jeff Trinci

COURTESY JEFF TRINCI
Jeff Trinci, founder of TheGroomslist.com

There are two things you should know about Jeff Trinci ’02 and marriage.

First, he’s a romantic. When the Portland native decided it was time to propose to his girlfriend, Tara, a first-grade teacher, he wrote her a stirring (and lengthy) poem about love and—you single fellas out there might want to pay attention—read it to her on Valentine’s Day . . . in front of her class . . . on live TV . . . before asking her to marry him. She said yes.

“I’m very blessed,” Tara, now his wife, says with a laugh. “He’s way more romantic than I am.”

Second, Trinci is a businessman. He’s got the pragmatism, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit upon which success is based. When he put those two traits together, it was like love and, well, you know.

“I really love the idea of marriage and want to help guys succeed,” says Trinci, thirty-two, who has moonlighted as a wedding DJ around Portland for the past decade. When he was preparing for his own wedding, he noticed a serious lack of resources for grooms. “It’s really sad; there are a lot of websites oriented to guys that talk about marriage as a death sentence
. . . . And most of the wedding websites are bride-oriented, where guys are a side note.”

Sensing a void, Trinci started planning TheGroomslist.com, a website that lays out the marriage process from the guy’s point of view. As luck would have it—if you want to call it luck—Trinci was laid off from his job at an ad agency just before the site went live in January 2011, making TheGroomslist.com a full-time gig.

It’s safe to say that planning a wedding can be a full-time gig itself. And the sheer volume of resources available—both online and in print—can be overwhelming.

“I wanted something short and to the point,” Trinci says. “I did as much research as possible and tried to be that human filter that distills everything that’s out there to one site. I wanted to give guys a framework to work within as a way to insert themselves in the wedding process.”

The way the site works is simple. It’s broken down into five main parts: “The Proposal,” “The Wedding,” “The Honeymoon,” “The Marriage,” and “Vendors.” Each section has subsections that further break down the topics. For example, the proposal section actually starts before the decision to propose is made. The appropriately titled “Gut Check” lists fourteen reasons not to propose. (“I want couples to be successful,” Trinci says.)

But the service he thinks might be most useful to grooms is helping them find vendors—caterers, DJs, florists. The website provides a comprehensive list of vendors broken down by ZIP code. Trinci also publishes resource guides and distributes them by the thousands at wedding shows. They share similar properties to the website: short and to the point, with simple tips, a checklist for the groom, and compact lists of vendors for groom-oriented categories like bachelor party ideas, groomsmen gifts, and transportation, all vetted by Trinci.

“I see the woman as the CEO of the whole wedding process,” he says, “while the guy is the project manager.”

If that statement makes you doubt Trinci’s romantic side, consider that über-romantic proposal. Through a friend, Trinci got in touch with a Portland morning show that wanted to televise a Valentine’s Day proposal. Trinci already had the poem and ring, and after coordinating with the school’s principal, getting permission for the kids to be on TV, and convincing Tara that having a TV crew (under the guise of asking first-graders what they think about Valentine’s Day) in her classroom was a good idea, Trinci was ready.

“It was amazing, because he surprised me so well,” Tara says. “He’d always said he’d never propose on a holiday, and I woke up that morning and was blow-drying my hair . . . and I thought how cool it would be if he proposed today, but then I told myself not to think that because I didn’t think it would happen.”

But it did. The video is even posted on TheGroomslist.com for posterity.

—Matt Tiffany, MS ’07





Remembering Yesterday’s War
Ninety-four years after his death in World War I, a Duck receives a new honor.

 

Photo: Doug Sebranek, Tony Pasillas, and Cabot Clark recently placed the gravestone of World War I casualty Leslie Tooze in Pioneer Cemetery.
COURTESY QUENTIN HOLMES
Buried Memories Doug Sebranek, Tony Pasillas, and Cabot Clark recently placed the gravestone of World War I casualty Leslie Tooze in Pioneer Cemetery.

The night before Leslie Tooze ’16 died, his identical twin Lamar ’16 had a dream. In it, a bullet pierced his brother’s brain in the soft gap between the ear and the edge of Leslie’s standard-issue Army helmet. Early the next morning—just weeks before the Great War would end—Lamar warned Leslie not to fight. The brothers had recently been reunited on the edge of northeast France’s Argonne Forest, finally stationed together in the 364th Infantry after spending most of the war apart.

Despite Lamar’s warning, Leslie, head of his platoon, had no choice but to fight. Into the forest he soldiered toward what was indeed his last battle. The valor Leslie showed that day leading his men would earn him the nation’s third-highest military decoration, the Silver Star. It would also cost him his life. When Lamar received the news, he braved war’s infamous No Man’s Land to retrieve his brother’s body. A bullet had hit his twin exactly where Lamar’s dream had foretold.

Decades later, Mary Wood—Lamar’s granddaughter, Leslie’s grandniece—recites this story from memory. “In my family, we were taught to always, always trust your intuition. Always trust your dreams,” she says. An identical twin herself, Wood says the story went down in family history as a lesson to follow your instincts.

“Identical twins can be a powerful force as a duo, and that’s what Leslie and Lamar were,” Wood says. “They can’t even be thought of as separate from each other.”

Her grandfather never fully recovered from the loss of his other half, she adds. After the battlefields of Europe, Leslie returned home and completed the Harvard Law School education he and his brother had started before the war. He also continued to serve in the Army, where, by the end of the next great war, he was a two-star general. Upon retiring from the military, Lamar settled in Portland where he worked as a lawyer—a local firm still bears the Tooze name—and raised a family.

For the past two decades, Lamar’s granddaughter Mary has taught law at the University of Oregon (lawyers, like twins, run in the family). Wood knew her grandfather and great uncle were alumni, but she hadn’t realized her office in Knight Law Center was just a short walk away from a memorial to Leslie in the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery behind Knight Library.

Photo: Leslie O. Tooze ’16
COURTESY EDWARD T. BROWN
Leslie O. Tooze ’16

It was the autumn of 1921 when Leslie’s body returned from a hasty wartime burial in France to be reinterred near the campus he loved. The campus where Lamar had been student body president and Leslie had been editor of the annual YMCA handbook. Where their active participation in Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the YMCA cabinet, and Alpha Kappa Psi honor society had marked them as a dynamic duo other students and faculty members referred to as “the Tooze twins.” Many notable Ducks attended Leslie’s funeral; honorary pallbearers included the editor of the Eugene Guard, school deans Colin Dyment and Eric W. Allen, and University president Prince Lucien Campbell. As Campbell would say during the funeral, Leslie held a special place in the heart of the University.

More than ninety years later, Wood heard from the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery Association (EPCA) that her great uncle was going to receive another honor: a headstone commemorating his service. Made of granite, the stone came courtesy of the federal government and the year-long work of two dedicated researchers. Intrigued by records showing Leslie’s birth and death years, EPCA member Dorothy Brandner partnered with Randy Fletcher ’80 to verify that Leslie had served in World War I and thus qualified to receive a headstone from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Researching a Great War vet was a bit of a departure for Fletcher, a military buff whose primary interest resulted in the book Hidden History of Civil War Oregon (History Press, 2011). But, Fletcher says, the time was well spent for a fellow Duck.

With a day job as an emergency response officer at FEMA, Fletcher is no stranger to filing paperwork. Leslie’s case, however, proved particularly challenging. The military records typically required by the VA had been lost decades earlier in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center, a development that forced Fletcher to dig deeper. He eventually discovered a book coauthored by Lamar about the 364th Infantry. To muster a case strong enough to convince the federal government, Fletcher also collected state records proving Leslie’s enlistment and fielded follow-up questions from the VA. Finally, after months of work, the marker was approved and sent to Eugene.

It was only after the stone arrived that Brandner learned from Wood’s family that Leslie’s body had been moved a third time. Years earlier, Leslie’s mother had her son’s remains once again relocated, this time to their final resting place in Portland’s Riverview Abbey. Where Leslie is, however, doesn’t matter as much as his sacrifice, and so the EPCA elected to mount the marker to honor the price the young man paid so soon after graduation.

So it was on one particularly humid summer morning that three men set out to dig a hole. Cemetery volunteers Cabot Clark, Doug Sebranek, and Tony Pasillas had already placed one marker that day. Leslie’s plot, though, was up against a tree. After struggling through a century’s worth of gnarled roots, the men lifted the forty-inch, 250-pound marker into the ground.

When the Tooze twins still roamed campus, the cemetery sprawled on the far edge of the UO while McArthur Court was but a gleam in Ellis Lawrence’s eye. Nowadays, the cemetery’s western edge borders a busy bike path that runs from East 18th Avenue behind Beall Concert Hall and past Knight Library. The morning’s many passersby gawked at what looked like three poorly scheduled grave robbers. One large gaggle of students wrenched eyes away from smartphones and iPods to look at a token of a war that their great-great-grandparents had fought.

Winded from their exertion, Clark, Sebranek, and Pasillas stood back to look at their morning’s work before kneeling to take a photo by the tombstone of a man they’d never known but would always respect. The marker’s granite gleamed among the moss-covered stones of neighboring graves; it looks as if Leslie’s war just ended yesterday.

Weeks later, Leslie’s grandniece makes her own visit to the gravesite. Stopping by in the cool and quiet of an early autumn morning, Wood marvels at the monument. “What an absolutely perfect setting,” she says. “A lot of people in my family have gone to the UO. I’m just really touched that he was here.”

—Elisabeth Kramer





The Busy Bees of Brewing
Three students aspire to become mead moguls.

 

Photo: Ballet Fantastique’s rehearsal for “As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet” with Hannah Bontrager.
JACK LIU
Entrepreneurs Unleashed Three University of Oregon undergraduates dream big, launching Blue Dog Mead to take honey wine to the masses. (left to right: Simon Blatz, Chase Drum, Simon Spencer)

Eugene is home to many breweries, but Blue Dog Mead is unique among them. Its product is wine made from honey rather than grapes, an ancient beverage now gaining in popularity with a new generation of aficionados. You can find Blue Dog Mead at more than forty Oregon locations—and it’s all the result of vigorous effort by three industrious University of Oregon students.

“We all have different backgrounds but share the common interest of entrepreneurship,” says Chase Drum, a junior physics major. The other owners are Simon Blatz, a senior in business, and Simon Spencer, a senior in general social science.

Spencer says that mead currently commands a small market, estimating U.S. production at a couple hundred thousand cases annually (this compares to three quarters of a billion gallons of wine and oceans of beer). There are only about 150 “meaderies” in the United States according to industry watcher Vicky Rowe, a director of the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition, which bills itself as “the de facto standard for mead competitions in North America.” Mead can be sweet to dry, flowery to spicy, and even include carbonation like beer. The UO trio’s formulation yields a product similar to a white wine.

Blue Dog’s headquarters, a nondescript warehouse near the railroad tracks in an industrial section of Eugene, is a hive of activity. In the back room, large tanks bubble as yeast devours sugar, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. A fan bellows, keeping the room at 70 degrees, ideal for making mead.

This batch began on “brew day.” At the outset of the process, members of the team pour buckets of Sue Bee honey (the same kind you find in the grocery store) into large kettles—600 pounds of honey per batch to be exact. After adding water and a few other ingredients, the partners bring the mixture to a boil, causing it to foam. They funnel the mixture through tubes to a device called a chiller and then into fermentation tanks where yeast is added.

After thirty days, the fermentation process is complete. Using a semiautomatic production line, crews will subdivide the liquid into about 1,000 bottles. If you do the math, that’s more than half a pound of honey per bottle.

What ends up in the glass is important, but branding is also key to success in a business where customers may be unfamiliar with the product. “It was something I had never heard of, never tried,” confesses Drum. Many other manufacturers play up the historic roots of this drink (think of the stuff one might quaff from a flagon at a Renaissance fair), but Blue Dog brands its product with twenty-first-century attitude, the kind of hipness appropriate for the millennial generation and their billions in disposable income. Blue Dog’s bottle features a dichromatic image of Drum’s tough-guy German shepherd and the slogan, “The Original Liquid Sin.” The edgy tone continues throughout the company’s marketing materials with assertions such as “Blue Dog is more than a beverage, it’s a lifestyle full of swag.” One poster succinctly articulates Blue Dog’s freewheeling ethos: “Screw Leashes.”

The attitude is not all for show. The trio aspires to be the focused hard-hitter described by tech and business pundit Randall Stross in his book eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work: “A winner. Someone with integrity off the charts. Scrappy. A nail-eatin’, nut-crushin’ decision maker.”

This brash swagger is new to the company, which began a decade ago as a small enterprise run by Valerie Hiveley-Blatz, Simon’s mother. Overhearing some male colleagues at her work site talking about home brewing, Hiveley-Blatz decided if they could do it, she could, too. She named her mead after her dog Blue, an Australian Shepherd with big blue eyes. Though she sold her mead, it was mostly a hobby. She says she produced only thirty or forty cases annually, as opposed to the 100 cases Blue Dog now sells each month. Several times, she thought seriously about giving up—the brewing and the bottling and the selling were taking their toll. But her son saw a future opportunity for himself and asked her not to quit. “I saved it for him in a sense,” she says.

Time passed and the younger Blatz went to the UO, where he joined the Entrepreneurship Club, sponsored through the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. There he met his future partners, all of whom grew up around Portland and the Columbia Gorge. They became friends and teamed up for an entrepreneurship competition. The chemistry among the three worked, and they soon hatched the idea for entering the mead biz. They scraped together $50,000 in loans and investments to launch their venture.

Upon taking legal control of the company, the new owners revamped the product, tailoring the branding and tweaking the recipe to better fit the tastes of their target market.

“I think they might have a real edge,” says Drum’s mom, Peg Leslie of Hood River. “They’re at a time in their life when socializing and having drinks with friends is a big deal. They might have insight as to their audience.”

Running a meadery is not just an excuse to party, though. It is hard work and they make little profit from the fledgling business. “We have been paying ourselves what we need,” Drum says. “Most of it goes to cover basic survival.”

All three work twelve-plus-hour days tending to the responsibilities of both the brewing and business aspects of building a mead empire. In the beginning, they sacrificed a lot of sleep. Once, working at 2:00 a.m., they spilled some honey—not just a little honey, but a barrel of the sticky stuff. “It was upsetting,” reflects Spencer, hardly amused (though Blatz laughs at the memory). “It was hilarious, but we were too tired to laugh at that point,” he says.

Being students adds to and complicates their long list of daily jobs, tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. But the business, Blatz says, gives him the opportunity to directly apply what he is learning in his classes.

Drum concurs that the UO has been invaluable to the business, where “the big thing is connections,” he says. “And we got to meet Kurt Widmer [’78] of Widmer Brothers Brewing.” Drum encountered the pioneering Oregon brewer several times at Entrepreneurship Club events. “It’s a cool experience to meet the people behind the products,” he says.

The trio also built a close relationship with the Entrepreneurship Club’s faculty adviser, Dick Sloan, who serves as an instructor in the Lundquist College of Business. They still call him for financial and marketing advice.

Sloan’s take on the young businessmen: “They’re very bright, very innovative, and very driven.”

While working constantly to increase sales of their basic brew, the three have also recently added a second product, carbonated honey-apple-vanilla mead. Blatz, who prides himself on thinking and dreaming big, sees continued expansion and projects revenues of $14 million in five years.

Should they ever get to the milestone of those millions, it is easy to imagine bottles of champagne (or carbonated honey-apple-vanilla mead) being cracked in celebration. But for now, the challenge of cultivating the business is the task at hand—the thoroughly exhausting task at hand. And thus far, when the three have marked the smaller achievements and incremental accomplishments along their grueling path, the celebrations have been on a far more modest scale. “I think last time we went to [local eatery] Cornucopia and had some nachos and beers,” recalls Blatz. Between bites and sips, they discussed how tired they were.

—Melissa Adele Haskin

Web Extra: Entrepreneur Simon Blatz talks about Blue Dog Mead

Brewer Among Beneficiaries of Scholarship Support

Blue Dog Mead’s Simon Blatz is among the 415 freshmen who entered the UO in the fall of 2008 as the first cohort to receive aid offered through PathwayOregon, an innovative program to help academically qualified, lower–income Oregonians attend the state’s flagship university. The program guarantees four years of tuition and fees (and in some cases housing) while providing comprehensive advising, academic support, and career guidance.

PathwayOregon “made it possible for me to go to school and stay in school,” says Blatz, who graduates this June. “I was getting extremely helpful guidance from an adviser who guided me from day one. That was huge.”

The total number of students—freshmen through seniors—now benefitting from the program is near 1,500, with a new group slated to arrive in the fall.

Resources for PathwayOregon come from federal, state, and University programs, including funds provided through private donations.

Learn more at PathwayOregon.uoregon.edu.

 





UO Alumni Calendar
Go to uoalumni.com/events for detailed information

June 2
San Diego chapter
Padres game

Petco Park

June 7
Senior Send-Off 2012
EMU
Eugene

June 18
Commencement Day Celebration
Ford Alumni Center
Eugene

June 19
Duck Biz Lunch
Puget Sound chapter

July 15
Duck Biz Lunch
Puget Sound chapter

UO Alumni Association logo






DUCK TALES

On Beating Steve Prefontaine
by Paul Keller ’72

 

Illustration: Pre running up stairs behind author.
DAN PEGODA

It is spring 1972.

I am a senior at the University of Oregon.

I am pedaling my black Schwinn, as fast as I can, to my Radio and TV Writing class. The clock is ticking. And I am running late.

This mid-morning course—catering to fifteen students—is located up the old-fashioned staircase inside the third story of the wonderfully anachronistic, yet always dignified, Deady Hall. Christened in 1876—with her mansard roof towers and ornate nineteenth-century Italianate window bays bedecked in their finest Florentine tracery—this venerable rectangular Victorian is the oldest building on campus. She was, in fact, the University’s first. And now, after everything else that she has endured (including a couple world wars and a true hurricane), at almost 100 years of age, the grand dame is hosting—without complaint—the Woodstock Generation.

With a semipanicked eye toward my wristwatch, I negotiate East 13th and zoom lickety-split into Deady Hall’s park-like Old Campus Quad area with its crisscross pedestrian pathways beneath those big oaks, maples, and conifers; the chattering staccatos of so many western gray squirrels; and—suddenly, bam—that unmistakable, full-mouth, sweet-air ambiance gracing the atmosphere from nearby Williams Bakery.

As I quickly retro-boost for the bike stand—located directly in front of Deady Hall’s front entry steps—I now have exactly one minute to get into that building and up all those steps before the bell rings.

At the same time that I push my tire into the bike rack and jump off to fiddle with my lock chain, directly in front of me—right on the other side of those slats—a fellow classmate, who also knows he’s late, is hurriedly doing the exact same thing.

He is Steve Prefontaine.

Did I mention that the most phenomenal American runner of the twentieth century is also in my class?

Every last one of us in Radio and TV Writing knows we have the legendary Pre amongst us. But absolutely nobody bugs him. Likewise, our teacher has never drawn any special attention or lavished accolades toward him. To do so would be beyond inappropriate. Totally uncool. But, I must confess, during each minute of every class, I am constantly trying not to look over at our university’s and nation’s famously unpretentious, preeminent track superstar.

As luck—perhaps destiny—would have it, I get my bike locked up first. I spin and rush pell-mell for old Deady’s steps. You-know-who is, quite literally, right on my tail. One, maybe two, steps behind me.

A tremendous spike of adrenaline explodes throughout my entire nervous system.

All I can think is: My God, I’m in a race with Steve Prefontaine!

True confession: my overriding second thought is: He’s not getting around me!

So up the steps we fly, crashing through the front door and lighting out for that ancient stairwell to climb and climb up to that oh-so-distant top floor. I even start skipping stair steps, attempting to bound over more than one at a time.

As I try my Clark Kent best to stay ahead of our Oregon track phenom—who doesn’t want to be late to class any more than I do—I have two cogent thoughts:

One, I realize stuff like this probably happens to the poor guy all the time—goofballs who will never don a pair of track shoes in their lives suddenly trying to stay a few steps out in front of Pre as he goes about his daily public business.

Two, I truly already cannot wait to tell my grandkids some distant day that, yes, I beat the great Prefontaine in a foot race. Sure, I’ll also end up telling the truth about the extenuating circumstances. But the fact will always remain that I was blessed by the quirky hand of fate to actually beat cleats with the guy.

Pre, of course, lets this goofball beat him to the classroom door.

And, regrettably, we all know far too well how the rest of this story ends. Three years following our mutual impromptu romp up those Deady Hall steps, after Steve Prefontaine sets fourteen American track records, including grabbing every American best time in the two-mile through the 10,000-meter events, this promising young world-renowned runner will perish in a single-car collision. Today—this year—Pre would have been sixty–one.

That other kid on the bike back on that memorable Eugene March morning, remarkably to me, is now sixty–two.

Deady Hall, bless her soul, has turned a full 136 years of age. Let’s face it. Judging from her longevity and perseverance, this old girl is certain to beat all of us in our continuing, unguaranteed race with time.

Paul Keller lives and writes from his home near Mount Hood in the Oregon Cascades. His essa “My Blood Turns to Wine” appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Oregon Quarterly.


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VIDEO | Watch Leland Roth’s lecture “Marion Dean Ross: A Man Who Left a Hole in the Water.
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VIDEO | UO business major Simon Blatz talks about Blue Dog Mead, a Eugene company he helped launch.




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