Jernstedt Spices Up the 50th

Not everyone returning to campus in September for the Class of 1967’s 50th reunion will have a story to rival Tom Jernstedt’s.

When he graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in political science, the class president and self-described “weak-armed, slow-of-foot” third-string quarterback moved to California and took a job as a McCormick-Schilling spices salesperson, a position for which he admits he had zero qualifications.

“I didn’t know anything about spices,” Jernstedt recalls. “I barely knew how to turn on a stove.”

What Jernstedt did know, however, was how to put on an event. The UO athletics department brought him back to Eugene to help run the 1969 NCAA track and field championships, but he barely had time to unpack his boxes before the NCAA hired him to be its event director. By the time he was named the association’s executive vice president in 2003, he had turned March Madness into the month long spectacle it is today and earned the nickname “The Father of the Final Four.” When he rejoins the Class of ’67 on campus in September he will do so as a newly minted member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, having been inducted three weeks prior to the reunion.

Among those joining Jernstedt in the hall are seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady and WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Lobo.

“I’m excited about the reunion,” says Jernstedt, who will be the reunion banquet’s keynote speaker. “The university is a very special place. I would not have had the career and the good fortune that I’ve had if I did not go to the University of Oregon.”

Some of Jernstedt’s classmates—including reunion committee chair Ward Beck Jr. and committee member Char (Weber) Weichman—remained in Oregon after their graduations and are on campus on a regular basis, particularly during the fall when the Ducks are playing at Autzen Stadium (which opened the year the class graduated). Others are dispersed around the globe, and rarely make it back to Eugene.

“If you haven’t seen the UO in the last 10 or 20 years, it’s undergone a remarkable transformation,” says Beck. “We expect a large turnout for the reunion, and you can expect to see many people you haven’t seen in years.”

“Returning to your 50th reunion is more than just reconnecting with people,” adds Weichman. “The UO excels in so many ways, and so many changes have occurred. This gives you an opportunity to come and see what’s new, like the Erb Memorial Union.”

The reunion will be held from September 28 to 30, and the three-day program includes a welcome reception, campus tours (including special tours of the Lokey Science Complex and the renovated Erb Memorial Union), the Order of the Emerald Banquet, and a tailgate party prior to the UO vs. Cal football game. The class is also raising money to endow a scholarship for UO students, to give them the same opportunities and experiences the class enjoyed 50 years ago.

Members of the Class of ’67 are invited to register for their 50th reunion and make a contribution to the class gift at or by calling 800-245-ALUM.

—By Damian Foley, University Communications