As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Mike Riley is leaving Oregon State for Nebraska.
(I’m trying not to take it personally that he bolted four days before I start working at OSU; photographer Mark Ylen suggested he and his salary were forced out to make budgetary room for my own enormous price tag, though I think the university could have afforded both Riley and me.)
Anyway, please join me in wishing Riley well in Lincoln (where, coincidentally, the Democrat-Herald and Gazette-Times are now being designed, along with a bunch of other Lee Enterprises papers; a colleague joked that Riley wasn’t really leaving OSU but just going to work at his new regional design center there).
I don’t know Riley super well but interviewed him several times during his first stint at OSU, the 1997 and ’98 seasons. He was just as you always hear he is: Friendly, welcoming, etc.
The last time I interacted with him was maybe eight years ago, at a Santiam Christian High School graduation featuring one of the kids I worked with through the paper’s Young Voices program (Riley’s daughter was also graduating).
Our eyes met as I took my seat, and we shared a wave and a smile; he seemed to remember me though it had been years since we’d spoken.
Not long after that day, my daughter Pam and some of her schoolmates were at an OSU football practice gathering autographs for a benefit auction. One of the people Pam personally approached was Riley.
When she said her name, Riley asked her, “Are you Steve’s daughter?” She was impressed that the Beaver football coach knew her dad, long since a former sportswriter, and I was sort of surprised he would’ve made that connection.
It goes to show that Riley truly does care about the people he crosses paths with.
One other Nebraska-related story before we get this week’s list:
In the early 1990s, then-Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne was scheduled to visit Corvallis to speak at fundraiser for the Beaver football program, then headed by his old assistant, Jerry Pettibone.
Naturally, the paper needed a story ahead of the legendary coach’s visit, so I called the Nebraska football office and left a message.
Not long after, my phone rang.
“Yes Steve,” said a calm, strong, unassuming voice on the other end. “This is Tom Osborne ... from the University of Nebraska.”
The inflection and the way he said it suggested he wasn’t taking it for granted that I remembered off the top of my head who he was. I thought his modesty was really cool, and we had a great conversation.
I didn’t get to meet Osborne in person when he came to the mid-valley (you can related the related post to find out why).
Had I met him, he likely would’ve earned a spot on this, my final Thursday list (as a DH staffer, anyway): the Top 7 famous people not named Riley that I met while on the job here:
1) Bob Feller (at a wedding anniversary party in Mehama; the baseball Hall of Famer was wearing one of those stick-on name tags that said, “Hi, my name is Bob Feller.”
2) Jim Brown (at an anti-gang conference in Jefferson).
3) Vanna White (at a “Wheel of Fortune” taping session in Portland; an Albany woman was a contestant).
4) Bobby Riggs (at a Mexican restaurant in Corvallis owned by his friend).
5) James Drury (at the state fair).
6) Ken Burns (at a lecture at Willamette University).
7) Doris Kearns Goodwin (also at a lecture at Willamette University).
Honorable mention: Barry Zito (at Goss Stadium), Dick Vitale (at Memorial Coliseum).
Follow Steve Lundeberg on Twitter, @AnyGivenLundy, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.