Alumni of SDSU come together for fellowship

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

SDSU alumni had three opportunities to get together in the name of fellowship and supporting Jackrabbit basketball during the winter.

On March 20 just before the first round of the Women’s National Invitational game against Creighton University, a group of alumni gathered to examine the campus and changes that have been going on. What they saw pleased their eyes.

“It is great to re-live the past and see great things from the university,” said Joan Ellen, an education major of the class of ’76. “Brookings has always been a home for me and number one in my heart; I have missed it.”

Even non-SDSU graduates had great things to say about the campus.

“I am pleased to be here for the game. I sent three daughters here, and a lot of family have graduated from State; I have the most respect for it,” said Mike Blanchester, who went to SDSU for two years before transferring to an out-of-state college. In all, a majority of the 4,999 fans in Frost were non-students as the game occurred during Spring Break.

One gathering that was solely for alumni was the men’s basketball reunion luncheon at the SDSU Foundation Center on Feb. 9 before the doubleheader game against Western Illinois. Head coach Scott Nagy, along with assistants Rob Klinkefus, Deryl Cunningham, Brian Cooley, Alex Focke, Tim Hill and Luke Cardona, were on hand to meet and greet alumni from the 1940s to present-day.

About 40 ex-players, along with friends and family from all over the region, came to the gathering. The number would have been higher if not for harsh winter weather.

The players appreciated the chance to gather. “It felt good to see the guys and see Coach (Nagy); we are a family, and for a day, we were together both young and old,” said Derrick Schantz, who played for SDSU from 1999 to 2004.

Fred Oien, SDSU’s athletic director and class of 1972, gave a report on the status of the campus of their school.

“If you haven’t got a chance to look around the campus, I would recommended it,” said Oien. He made mentions of the new Northern Plains Biostress Building, Caldwell Hall and the new athletic faculties on the north side of the campus. Oien alerted the group that the current student-athletes have the highest G.P.A. of all-time.

Nagy was pleased with the turnout, called the get together “a long time coming” and made plans to meet more often. He also told the alumni that the basketball team would get better in the coming years. The gathering paced the Jacks to a 66-62 victory, and the alumni were honored at a half-time ceremony.

Two weeks later and 800 miles south on Interstate-29, an SDSU alumni gathering occurred at the Genessee Inn (a bar a few feet from the historic Kemper Arena) in Kansas City, Mo. The get together, which happened just before the women’s and men’s basketball games, gave the alumni a chance to socialize and chat together.

Except for two locals, everybody who was at the function was wearing the yellow and blue. The bar was loud and even a cowbell was showcased, giving graduates and a few undergraduates a chance to share memories of yesteryear.

Two undergrads had their faces painted, and a raffle of all shapes and sizes showcasing Jackrabbit gear was awarded through a drawing by the alumni association. Two separate groups of alumni boasted that they traveled to every SDSU men’s basketball game in the season. Even a sympathy card for Mohammad Berte was signed by the alumni on the behalf of the senior center’s season-ending injury occurring earlier in the season.

An ’87 grad was thankful the gathering occured in Kansas City, which was only 300 miles from his home and was excited to see so much support for SDSU.

Alumni Association Executive Director Matt Fuks was proud that he could hold a function for alumni from all over the Midwest. “This is what a D-1 school does, it can provide gatherings for people outside of the surrounding states and can get 120 people together in fellowship,” he said.

Sartell, Minn., native and sophomore forward Stacie Oistad was thankful for the group that made the trip to Kansas City and made the Kemper Arena almost like home for the women’s basketball team. “They even brought us brownies,” she said.