Jim Warsaw, founder of the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, passed away April 22, 2009. He was 61.
"Jim has been a great friend of the Lundquist College of Business and will be greatly missed. He touched many of us here in a deeply personal way. Despite his long battle with Parkinson's, his spirit was indomitable," said Dean Dennis Howard. "His relentlessly positive nature, his self-effacing humor, his love for his alma mater and for 'his students' in the Warsaw Center were defining qualities of his personality. All of which made him such a special and endearing person."
University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer added, "With the passing of Jim Warsaw, the University of Oregon has lost a great friend and a true source of inspiration. Jim had an irrepressible energy and a spirit that made you believe anything was possible. We are indebted to Jim for his strong commitment to Oregon. Our hearts go out to the entire Warsaw family at this very difficult time. The entire University of Oregon community will very much miss its good friend Jim Warsaw."
Jim Warsaw's father, David Warsaw, founded Sports Specialties Corporation, which was the first company to sign a licensing contract with a professional sports team. Jim entered the family business in 1969 along with his brother Robert. Together, the Warsaw family grew Sports Specialties into the world's leading licensed sports headwear company. Sports Specialties became the first official licensee of the National Football League, and also was the first to be named as an official championship locker room headwear supplier for special sports events, such as Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, All-Star Games, and the NCAA Final Four. During the 1970's, Jim headed company offices in Hong Kong, Manila, and Chicago and from 1981 to 1993 he served as president. Under Jim's leadership, Sports Specialties secured the first "Authentics" license agreement in professional sports when the NFL "ProLine" was created in 1984. In addition, the company's signature 100% wool sized-caps, The "Pro", were the first contracts for "on field" authentic headwear for the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and Major League Baseball, and more.
In 1993, Warsaw founded the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, the first sports business program in the nation to be housed in a school of business.
"The Warsaw Center was his passion and the students his pride," noted Paul Swangard, Warsaw Center managing director. "He worked tirelessly to assist hundreds of students enter the sports industry and through them will have a lasting impact on the business he loved. As one of those former students. I'm forever grateful and was truly fortunate to call him my friend."
In addition to being a dedicated friend of the Lundquist College of Business and the University of Oregon, Jim served on many boards across the country, including the Los Angeles Sports Council, the Giving Back Fund, the University of California, Irvine Athletic Advisors Board, the National Board of Governors of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, the Brain Imaging Center at the University of California-Irvine College of Medicine, the Byron Scott Children's Charities, and more. He also founded the James H. Warsaw Foundation to Cure Parkinson's Disease, cofounded the Cure Parkinson's Program at the Giving Back Fund, and was a leading national patient advocate to cure Parkinson's Disease.
But that doesn't tell the real story of Jim Warsaw. For that, you need speak to anyone who came into contact with him. From students to alumni to faculty, he inspired many to pursue their dreams and passions with dedication and integrity.
"I meet Jim Warsaw as an undergraduate and have maintained close contact with him. He was the one that really encouraged me," said Josh Frankel, M.B.A. '06. "Jim advocated consistently that you have to do what you love because if you aren't doing what you love and your heart is not in it, you are never going to be happy. He helped me realize that I could dedicate my career to something close to my heart."
But perhaps Randy Swangard, special assistant to the dean, said it best: "There will be only one Warsaw--he will be missed, but the stories will live forever."