It’s Saturday, September 24, 2016. Around Bean East and the Willcox dorm on the University of Oregon campus, freshmen are settling in, making friends, and looking ahead.
At the same time, Bob Warsaw, Rich Burk, and Greg Quesnel are looking back—way back.
“Yeah, 50 years ago to the day,” said Quesnel, remembering what it was like to step into this same dorm and become instant friends with fellow members of the 1966 freshman class. “It was an immersion--to come from the farms and fields of Salem and learn that there was a lot more out there.”
“For a while I thought he wasn’t serious about school because he always had so much free time,” Burk said of Quesnel. “Then I realized he was so diligent he finished his work on time while the rest of us majored in creative avoidance.”
“Rich, he was the stat guy,” said Warsaw. “He always had a pencil over his ear.”
The one-time freshman dormmates were in Eugene to tailgate with the Lundquist College of Business before the Ducks played Colorado and celebrate the 50th anniversary of their freshman year. Walking through the dorm and reminiscing, the friends acknowledged a lot had changed.
“For one, the football team’s a lot better,” said Burk.
And where there’s now Matthew Knight Arena, there used to be Williams Bakery, where they could buy fresh hot bread for 25 cents a loaf, slathered with all the butter they could pocket from the cafeteria.
But some things hadn’t changed at all.
“Hey, look at that,” Warsaw joked, walking into the Willcox lounge, and pointing at the furniture. “It’s the same couch.”
These days they see each other almost every game. But after the first few years of school, they lost touch for a little while. Their college lives took them in separate directions—Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity for Burk and Warsaw and Beta Theta Pi for Quesnel, who later returned to Willcox as a resident assistant. Warsaw transferred to finish his degree at USC. They went on to different careers, and 35 years ticked by until a corporate golf outing at Pebble Beach.
Burk was there for AT&T and Quesnel for Con-Way Inc., a global logistics company where he rose to become CEO. Out on the course, Quesnel saw Burk’s Oregon cap. They did a double take.
“Rich kind of peered his eyes,” remembered Quesnel. “He said, ‘I know you,’ and I said ‘I know you,’ and we eventually figured it out.”
Back in the clubhouse, by chance, their wives Linda Burk and Michelle Quesnel also met and discovered they had something crazily in common. Both families were building retirement homes in Bend, Oregon—by the same builder, on the same golf course, two blocks apart.
“We were on the 14th fairway, they were on the 15th,” said Michelle.
College mates in the ’60s and neighbors and close friends in 2016, Burk and Quesnel are now regulars at Lundquist College tailgaters. Three years ago they reconnected with Warsaw, who has close connections to the business school through his family’s support of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, named for his brother Jim.
But back in the day, how did they “throw the O” to show support for the university?
“We won just about every intramural championship on campus,” recalled Quesnel, who graduated in 1970 with a finance degree. “In our dorm, we had all kinds of football jocks, basketball jocks, track-and-field jocks, and when they weren’t playing their sport, they were allowed to play intramurals. We won everything.”
“We had guys in our dorm who later played in the NFL,” noted Warsaw. “Tom Blanchard, Andy Maurer. We were called the Superjocks.”
The T-shirt proves it. Quesnel’s wife Michelle pulled it out of a deep corner of a closet for the 50th reunion trip. Practically threadbare from hundreds of washings, it’s screenprinted with the Superjocks name emblazoned over an image of—you guessed it—a jockstrap.
“It was an extraordinary group. Just amazing,” said Burk, who earned his degree in marketing.
“I’m from Bakersfield, I had never set foot on a campus until I walked into this dorm. There was the pain of having to put yourself out there and meet people, but making new friends on your own, that was pure joy. We were all unique, but found great comfort in the friendship.”
Each succeeded in business, and all credited the classes they took from faculty legend James Reinmuth—and former UO business school dean—for challenges that prepared them well for careers.
Today, when the three former roommates “throw the O,” they do so in a new way—by creating opportunities at the place that was their first home away from home.
“I know that with the personal attention from professors, your potential was encouraged and enabled,” said Quesnel. “Without the experiences I had here, I wouldn’t have had the self-confidence to do things I didn’t know I could do. The teachers here made that possible. So knowing that, we endow graduate and undergraduate scholarships to give that opportunity to others.”
Warsaw owns a headwear and accessory company with clients in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL. He supports the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.
“If you’ve been fortunate enough in your life, if something was important to you, I think it’s always important to give back,” he said.
“It was an experience that’s stayed with me forever,” said Burk. After serving Fortune 100 customers in a 34-year career in the information technology industry, he now mentors Lundquist College MBA students. “By contributing your time, or whatever you can, maybe you can create that special thing for someone else. You want to keep it going.”
—George Evano, University Communications