My experience with the man

Andy York

I felt it necessary to add my sentiments to all the others that are being expressed in this issue of The Lawrentian. Rik Warch is ending his tenure at LU after a good long 25 years. Our president has made his mark many places on this campus, and not only in the buildings that have popped up. As you will read – or have read – in Tariq Engineer’s article, Rik Warch has been a busy man when it comes to LU athletics as well. This is my story of how he and I ended up together quite randomly, and had a discussion that shaped my view of him.It was right after the end of the Lawrence University men’s basketball team’s run to the NCAA Division III Elite Eight. I had been in Tacoma broadcasting the games back to Lawrence on WLFM, and to the rest of the country over the World Wide Web. I had taken a flight from Seattle to Chicago, and was awaiting my return flight to Appleton from Chicago when the plane was delayed. I sat back and read the book I should have read five weeks ago for class, since my final on that book was the next morning, and waited for what would be my plane to arrive.

I was sitting back, when he came out of the corner of my eye and sat down next to me. I don’t know if he recognized me at the time, but we soon acknowledged each other’s presence and got to discussing all sorts of things. It turns out he was flying back to Appleton on the same flight I was, as he was returning from the West Coast leg of his Farewell tour. We started discussing the games that had occurred, and he told me a story that I will remember for a long time.

He was giving a speech in San Francisco the night of the game against Sul Ross State. He was talking about how well the team was doing, and how they were playing right as he was speaking. He kept on speaking and then took questions from the audience, to which one LU alum suddenly spoke from the back of the room. He said only six words, “Lawrence 86, Sul Ross State 79.” He told me how the crowd erupted in that auditorium, and I could see I was talking to a man who genuinely cared how the team he represents was doing, a man who was genuinely excited, just like the rest of campus, by how well the team had fared.

I discussed the rest of the weekend, including the Steven’s Point game, and he asked me just how close Jason Hollenbeck’s shot was to going in, and I told him honestly that I could have sworn it was going in from my vantage point in the broadcasters’ booth, and he asked me more questions about my studies, and actually cared about getting to know me better. Now he could have been just killing time, waiting for a late airplane to finally arrive, or it could be that this man, though many thousands of students have graduated under his watch, actually cares about each and every one of them.

So good luck with retirement Rik; it was great to get to know you as I have. I just hope that next winter, when LU returns to the NCAA basketball tournament again, I will see you there sitting in the stands cheering for a team you truly care about.