Sunday, September 11, 2011

University Days and Floating the McKenzie

Positive continuity and change, is how I'd sum up my thoughts on our overnight visit to Eugene, Oregon and the University of Oregon. The occasion was Allyson's 15-year reunion of her law school class. We started at the new, clean, and comfortable law school, directly across the street from Historic Hayward Field, the soul of USA's Track and Field.

About 22 people from various classes (not just Allyson's class) showed by 9:30 for a rafting trip down the McKenzie River. People came from Florida, California, and Colorado, among other places. Everyone was very pleasant, open and seemed comfortable in their own skins. I thought to myself that this is the reward for all of us going through the rigors of an education and then playing by the rules. We all were able to enjoy a Friday, around pleasant people, in a peaceful spot, excited about what was to come that day.

We drove upriver about 45 minutes and loaded onto 4 rafts. No wet suits, no helmets. The McKenzie at Fin Rock and below is no White Salmon River. Mostly, it’s a gentle float, where people can just enjoy conversation, the clean rushing water, and trees. This is the part of the Oregon people think of when they think of Oregon: Hills covered by green conifers covering hills cut through with and cold rushing water. An occasional splash of 50-degree water felt good on this 94-degree day. The McKenzie is where Herbert Hoover would come to recharge his batteries as he caught the daily limit of 75 trout. This is where the logging industry helped build this state and pay for the Universities. (Thank goodness Phil Night of Nike graduated from Oregon, because that's who pays for the university now.)

We returned to the school around 4:30, hustled to our hotel and cleaned up for the reception and banquet in the evening. Among the crowd was the class of 1961 for their 50th. 10 of 22 graduates were honored with the "Order if the Emerald," which, I guess, means you graduated, lived another 50 years, and showed up. Many of the men had distinguished careers. (Remember, I said "men.") It was a full room, and I found lawyers I knew to talk to, in addition to our friends from Allyson's class.

Following the banquet with all classes, the groups broke up into their own classes, and 16 women from the class of 1996 met in the law student lounge at the law school. (One man attended the dinner, but he went home to his wife and children.) 1996 was the first class when women outnumbered men. The 1961 graduates formed a fraternity – the 1996 grads formed a sorority. Continuity and change.

As an undergraduate, I was a bit bemused by middle-aged and older alumni who would put on Stanford gear and show up for games. On Saturday, I was happy to join alumni and other fans to fill Autzen Stadium to kick off the home season with a blowout featuring many big plays. Here's the first touchdown of the home season.

The University of Oregon is a happy place to be. The kids seem optimistic and energized. It’s hard not to recognize the personalities from my time at college. The faculty and staff are upbeat, intelligent and pleasant to be around. The campus is gorgeous, where the classic old brick buildings exist down the wooded paths from the new $200 million basketball stadium and alumni center.

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