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Foxes: Friendships and loyalty to UIU stand test of time

The Foxes pictured in the Fall of '69 are (front, l-r) Bob McKenna, Bob Kast, Mike Vescio, Ken Klein, Greg Keller, Denny Lures, Tom Beecher; (second row) Ken McKenna, Mike DiCaltdo, Larry Hodson, Bob Maher, Rich Nessling, Jim Lattimere, Mark Haltof; (third) Ron Hainrihar, Dick Buenneke, Greg Samata, Jim Buol, Tony Schultz, Lane Ellis, Larry Laroque, Tom Vischer; (back) Bob Christian, Dan Vogler, Ken Kenniston, Doug Clayton and Mel Meiers.

Some 45 years ago, when the men in The Foxes prowled the Upper Iowa University campus, they were infamous throughout the area for being on the edge of trouble most weekends. As new UIU students, the original members of the Foxes found themselves “through the looking-glass” in tiny, rural Fayette after leaving their homelands in Iowa, Chicagoland and the East Coast. They turned to each other and built friendships that, for most, have lasted a lifetime. Along the way, they developed the skills that are virtually a “must-have” for today’s professionals and which led each of The Foxes to success in his career.

Today, The Foxes are giving back to UIU. Their college experience not only forged fierce friendships among most members but also inspired their affection for the Fayette campus and UIU. Several individual Foxes have given generous gifts to the University over the years. As a group, they are currently working with the UIU Office of Institutional Development and Alumni Relations to support the rehabilitation of the President’s Home on Washington Street.

“There was not much going on in Fayette when we started school here in the ‘60s,” reminisces Ken Klein, an original Fox. “The Greek system was falling apart in those Vietnam War years, and you had to make your own good time. There were about 1,000 kids on campus in 1968, but at least a third of them went home every weekend. So, we put together a charter for the Foxes and wrote down on a napkin a list of people to invite. We had 21 charter members.”

Klein, retired from Dunn & Bradstreet, along with Tony Schultz, who is retiring from Kangaroo Pockets, and Jim Buol, whose career was with Hormel, came to Fayette to talk with The Bridge about those years.

They remember annual trips to Oktoberfest in LaCrosse, renting a party house on weekends “around” Fayette and tussling with the UIU administration about their anonymity and their antics. They also recall the out-of-classroom lessons they learned that served them well throughout their careers:

The importance of relationships and networking – “Before there was Internet and cell phones, there was face-to-face communication, mailers, letters and phone calls. We developed bonds with our alumni and the younger generation. Everybody had your back.”

Essential social skills – “We knew how to interact before we graduated, how to walk and talk and think independently.”

The value of creativity – “The choice was college or Vietnam. We had UIU, and you needed to be creative to have a social life on a small campus. Knowing each other is what made the difference.”

What Fayette did have was athletics. Members of the Foxes who weren’t athletes themselves were avid supporters and filled the intramural squads. Although no one sorority or residence hall housed all the girlfriends, the Foxes dated by their own rules. “There was a protocol to be followed,” laughs Schultz. “Someone had to announce they’d broken up, and then you had a two-week cooling-off period before any other member could ask the girl out.”

Over the years, the Foxes probably had 70 members with “no hazing, no discrimination, no pledge week.” Since graduation, most of them have maintained their ties and met over fishing trips, poker tables and golf courses. In fall 2014, they had a reunion on the Fayette Campus.

Some of the members include UIU Hall of Famers Rick Knipper and James Parsons; Carl Laib, elected to the Caddie Hall of Fame in 2002 after 20 years on the Ladies Pro Tour; Dick Krapfl, who lost an arm in a 1973 car crash, but still competes athletically in the National Amputee Golf Championship; A.J. Bakunis, a professional stuntman for Burt Reynolds and George Kennedy, among others, who was killed performing a stunt; and Mark Haltof, a successful artist from Maine, who will be the UIU artist-in-residence in September 2015. Steve Harms, who gave the gift to fund the new UIU stadium, is also a Fox. His wife, Diane, endowed a gift to bring back Peacock cheerleading as a varsity sport.

“We are all over the country, and we will be active in the new UIU alumni chapters that are forming. We’ll help spread the word about UIU,” Klein says. “It was so sad to look at UIU in 1984 and see how neglected it was; it’s been an absolute thrill to see it come back.”

And as for all the rumors about stranding a pig on the tennis court, clothing the Green Goddess, or stealing a water tower? No one’s talking, at least on record.

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