Interview with Eamon McKenna, 04/26/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Bailey Gesteland, Interviewer | uwocs_Eamon_Mckenna_04262016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


BG: Alright today is April 26, 2016 and we are sitting here in Kolf. I am Bailey Gesteland, today I am going to be Interviewing Eamon Mckenna the head distance coach of UW-Oshkosh.

EM: Thanks Bailey, it's good to be here.

BG: Alright first question, umm tell me a little bit what your neighborhood was like growing up.

EM: Ummm, well I was born in Illinois actually, but did not live there long my parents were both librarians. Both actually met working together at a library In Zion Illinois, just south of Kenosha of the Illinois boarder. I was born there then I moved to the Oconomowoc area when I was one. I lived in Oconomowoc for a year then we moved out to a small town called Ashippun which is just north of Oconomowoc, and I lived there from when I was two until umm until I graduated 1:00from high school. That's really where I grew up in the very small Ashippun community and it's very small. At that time it had only about 600 people in it only, and it's grown since then, but I was in the Oconomowoc school district that has about 1400 students now. When I was there 1200 or so. Ashippun small pretty much a farming community at that time, but there was a couple little clumps of population my family was definitely not farmers. So as I said my dad was a library director when I was growing up in Oconomowoc public library. My mom was a stay at home mom, and at that point after she had kids. Now she is a school librarian so she ended up going back to work. So needless to say I read a lot of books growing up. The neighborhood its self was close knit you know we played in the street you know there wasn't a lot of traffic so we would go out and just play football, baseball, soccer whatever, ride our bikes up and down 2:00the street. We would go down, we had a marsh nearby go down there catch frogs other animals that we could. Kind of as I got older the umm you know as I started running more, if I ran a half mile in any direction I would be running past corn field or past farm fields so that was kind of the back drop of where I grew up. So we were definitely outsiders in that community umm since you know my dad's not very handy, I'm not very handy ummm you know so in that farm community we were a little bit different being loving loving books and being a little bit more on the academic side of things then you know the handy work or the manual labor that was more typical in that community. I read a lot and really I read whatever, I got kinda lazy with actually going to the library and checking out books so I went through a phase where I would just read whatever my sisters brought home. So I'm pretty sure I have read about 50 Sweet Valley 3:00Twins books, and 50 babysitter's club books. So people would look at me a little weird you know a ten-year-old boy walking around with his face his nose in a book about babysitting. You know I think that it definitely helps me out on the academic side of things.

BG: Awesome, you mentioned your parents were both librarians, what were they like as parents you'd say?

EM: Umm they were, they both come from Catholic families so I grew up Catholic and I am still practicing Catholic. My dad had actually gone to Catholic school his entire life, so every school that he ever went too was a Catholic school, through college even through his master's degree. My mom was Catholic did Catholic schooling through grade school then public High School then a University down in Illinois. My dad went to St. Joes College in [Rencilaring] 4:00Indiana. So they came from similar religious upbringings but relatively different family life styles. So they definitely appreciated the family unit, and you know that was one thing that in hind sight I really appreciate about my mom was being able to stay at home with us when we were little. Then even when we started school I don't think she went back to work until I was in sixth grade. Ummm you know those formative years we always had a parent at home, there wasn't any daycare or anything like that, that we were a part of and not necessary that I think that's a bad thing but I do think it lends itself to a closer knit family. Dinner together almost every night, you know as we got older and got into more activity's I had two younger sisters as well so I was the oldest of the three children. My one sister Erin is two years younger than I, and Shannon is four years younger than I so we were all relatively close. 5:00Once we got more into sports then the schedule got a little bit more chaotic, but for the most part we ate as a family unit every night of the week that was something that was important to them. Trying different things was important to them, you know I grew up and participated in band at school, I did tap dancing, outside of school I did soccer and swimming and baseball and track and ultimately cross country in high school. I'm probably missing other activity's that I tried but it was definitely a goal of theirs to hey let's introduce these children to as many things they can to expose them to a variety of things. So that was important to them and once a year we would take a family vacation as well, so we usually do that driving in the minivan. I think as parents they did a great job of supporting us of allowing us to peruse a variety of interest to see what you know what might end of being our passion later in life. And we 6:00always felt loved you know even though in the Oconomowoc area so I described Ashpin of a little bit more of a rural type of setting, Oconomowoc was really the opposite and that was the school district we were in. IN Oconomowoc there's a bunch of lakes and a bunch of lake properties and it's a pretty wealthy area. So we were, you know not only the outsiders where we lived in Ahpin but when we went into the schools we were kind of on the outside too, and I don't want to make it sound like it was difficult in either place, but sports definitely helped me the fact that I was able to play a bunch of different sports and be a successful athlete you know especially when you're a guy that definitely takes away some of the other pressures you might face or the other judgments you might face you know when your growing up. Cuz we were I didn't even realize it at the time but we didn't have a lot of money compared to most of the people that we were going to school with or growing up with. By no means were we poor but when 7:00your lower middle class in Oconomowoc you know your comparing yourself to people who you know are have multiple houses they are living on the lake you know and it's a little bit of a different world. But growing up I never, I never realized that really until probably until late high school and then after when you kind of look back and think oh yeah I guess we were a little bit different within that community. That I think is a huge testament to my parents the love and affection that they gave us it didn't matter if we didn't have stuff you know if we didn't have objects or the right toys or the right clothes because we had the right opportunities you know we had the love and support at home of a close knit family and we got to experience all the different things that we would wanna experience. It was a nice environment to grow up with and really I owe them a lot.

BG: Awesome umm continuing on with what we were just talking about, what kind of 8:00values do you think are the most important things that your parents wanted you, like maybe they, like family values I guess that they thought you should definitely have and carry out through your life too?

EM: Mhmm ummm like I said church was a big thing for both of them you know politics would come up at times and politically they were very different at that time my mom had grown up in a very conservative family. My dad had grown in up despite being Catholic they were umm you know they called themselves kinda JFK Catholic. JFK was the first Catholic president of the United States umm you know and that's more of a democratic liberal minded ideology, and I definitely identified more with that and really the family as a whole now kind of identifies more with that and we would talk about that and a lot of that was just being exposed to different ideas through travel you know to different parts of the country through you know reading books you know whether it be about 9:00someone like JFK or about ummm Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, we had a lot of books on Native Americans in our house. My mom was a very small percentage Native American, but her brother my uncle was a priest or is a priest still, but when we were growing up he served in pine ridge reservation in South Dakota working with Native Americans so umm I think that exposure to ideas and people that were different from us went a long way in kind of opening up our minds, and being excepting. You know and all of us as humans have different biases and different judgments you know we kind of place different values, and sometimes we even place values on people on the way they look or the way they talk or dress or whatever, and I'm no different than that but I like to think that like you know because of my parents and the values they instilled you know we try to do a 10:00better job at least of being more excepting of different people I remember that being very important to them, and still is important to them. The religion thing is still a big part of my life, going to mast weekly and having that faith and practicing that faith and that was something that was instilled by both parents very [inaudible] by my mother. Otherwise a spirt of giving really you know and even when I describe my job now as coach you I say that I am serving as the cross country coach or the track and field coach at UW-Oshkosh. To me is about service you know I'm here to help you guys you know the student athletes to have an awesome experience, and I'm here to help your experience be better and help you excel hopefully. And I know my parents I think they kinda always looked at things that way as well, they were very active in the community they us involved in different volunteer work whether it be through our Catholic grade 11:00school or other opportunity's. You know you go to soup kitchens or go on mission trips ummm or just simply just spend some time like doing some community clean up and things like that when it was available. So at a young age it was ingrained that you know that part of your life is about better the experience for others as well. I think that, that's probably the most powerful take away you know kind of from a stand point of values that you're discussing.

BG: Yeah I can relate to that being an eagle scout, it's kind of the same stuff yeah.

EM: I'm sure you got a lot of experience of helping and serving others.

BG: Umm you said you had to sisters, what were your relations like back in your younger years and are you guys still close now?

EM: Yeah umm we definitely were close you know, me being the only male of the three it was always a little bit different like those two, Erin and Shannon my 12:00sisters were closer to each other than either either was probably to me, but we were like I said those bonds through going on family vacation and I remember the three of us all sitting in the back seat of the mini-van you know crammed in there and playing games and being goofy with one another. We would get the neighborhood kids together and play you know different games weather it would be hide and go seek, capture the flag and have a lot of memories that way of kind of competing with them as well. I'd say we were close for sure and to this day I think we still are obviously umm you know were significantly older now and kind of have our own life's you know and Erin is married with one child and another on the way down in Champaign Illinois now so we don't get to see them as often as we use to. Shannon lives in Milwaukee with her son umm so I see them much more I mean they're a lot closer of course I see them often as well. So we 13:00try to maintain you know contact and try to see each other, Shannon and I usually see multiple times a month at least which is nice. Erin is a little bit hit or miss depending, and her husband is from Peru. So they kind of have a, umm his family is all over the place literally he has sisters that live in England, and he has a sister that lives in France, he has a sister that lives in Germany, and then he has a sister that still lives in Peru. So out of the 5 siblings only one of them lives in Peru, and all of the others have married foreigners and live in that country so that kind of unique, and kind of adds to the excitement of the family dynamic and actually my mom and I went down to Peru this past Christmas time and visited, you know spent the time down there with them my sister and and brother in laws family. So that was nice as well. We maintain a good relationship a loving relationship and I have a lot of fond 14:00memories spending time with them.

BG: Awesome, alright we are going to change gears a little bit and were going to go ahead and skip the the high school, middle school days here. So can you tell me a little bit what your high school life was like, you mentioned sports, and doing a lot of other things was there anything else your involved in? You said sports kind of took away some of that pressure of not fitting in as a guy so can you explain that?

EM: Yeah, umm you know so part of the upbringing was I did attend Catholic grade school K-8. A pretty small school, and a close knit community we only had 18 people, 18 students in my graduating class from 8th grade. So you know I was coming from a small school and then transitioning to Oconomowoc high school which we had over 300 kids in our entering freshman class. Which you know isn't enormous but it's sizeable especially coming from such a small you know Catholic school to begin with. And pretty much everyone I knew was either from St. 15:00Jerome my grade school or I had played sports with. So of the 300 kids I mean there were very few that I really, really knew going in. So it was a little bit overwhelming but like it said it makes it easy to get accepted when you know when your pretty good at athletics so you can stand out athletically and you know I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing, but it's probably the way our society kind of works, allowing you know kind of promoting athletics to a certain degree. Umm so that made the transition easier umm the high school level we take a bus to school then we get picked up everyday. So we would take a bus in my sisters and I to the school, and then we all typically had practice after school or if we didn't we would just walk to the library where my dad worked, and when my dad got off at 5 he would pick us up at practice from the high school or if we were already at the library we would just go home with him. 16:00So we wouldn't ride the bus home in the afternoon which was probably a little bit unique now that I think about it just riding it one way. But right away in high school I mean I made the decision to do cross country in the summer before high school, cuz I had grown up playing soccer and loving soccer. Basketball was always my favorite sport growing up. But I was pretty good in middle school track now granted I was running at a small Catholic School so I didn't really know what the competition would be like out there. I always thought that running came pretty easily, the thing that I didn't like about soccer was I had some exposer to select teams and stuff like that and I didn't always have a great experience with you know parents being overly involved, or the coaches of these select teams, and their picking kids and your like well I don't know if this is fair you know. So the running kind of intrigued me because it's like well if you run fast it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. So I ended up picking that and I did cross country my freshman year and I was varsity 17:00for four years in cross country umm I played basketball all four years in high school. Just the last two years on varsity there and then track and field I was varsity all four years of high school as well. Umm athletically like I mentioned I was busy every season I was in a sport umm for all 12 seasons during high school. I did band, I started band in 6th grade at St. Jerome and I played the trumpet, and I thought I was pretty good at St. Jerome I thought I was pretty good at the trumpet I wasn't super dedicated umm practicing my mom was actually a piano teacher so I had some exposure to that growing up but didn't take that that serious enough either which is a regret of mine, I wish I could play the piano it would be awesome to sit down and play but, my mom was not in the mood to force me to do that stuff you know it's always a little bit of a different dynamic when your trying to teach your won kid your know cuz my mom does teach piano still out of our home. But I had some musical background so I 18:00started high school with the trumpet and I realized in a hurry that I was bad, like our school district was considered pretty good and it's a large school district of course band wise. And when I started competing against those public school kids I was like man these kids actually know how to play like these kids are good at their instruments. So I only stuck with that one year, I kinda wussed out I was like I'm just not going to practice that enough to make this worth it. So I did just the one year of band. Umm other activities in high school you know some of the volunteer work and stuff we were still active in you know and service projects and that when we did the mission trip, when I was in high school. We went out to a Native American reservation and did a mission trip there, painting and painting houses and playing with kids and just kinda getting to know people and do some warship activities as well. Umm I did choir 19:00my last semester ever so had never done singing or taken singing lessons umm but the last semester I was actually valedictorian of Oconomowoc high school and after the seventh semester that's when the grades are locked in place that's when I knew I was going to be awarded the valedictorian. So then I was like oh now I can take some different classes because we had weighted grades at Oconomowoc so I was like never in the positon to take non honors classes because it would affect my GPA so I wasn't in the position to like try different stuff. So that last semester I tried radio TV film class it was pretty fun that we offered and I did choir, and I kinda just messed around singing in the past but ended up being a lot of fun. I made it to state what they call state at least there's like 8 states I think but got to try out for like a scholarship and stuff so that was kinda cool cuz I realized I had a hidden talent that I had never worked on of singing which made it fun. Other than that I mean I was active in like a youth group at my church throughout high school, but like you 20:00said sports were always kind of the big thing and when I was thinking about college I'm sure you will get into some college questions here soon. When I was thinking about college I wanted either you know be a sports broad caster which is why I tried the radio TV and film class. Umm or be a teacher coach you now I knew that I wanted the sports to be part of life moving forward even at that age.

BG: Yeah absolutely, at Oconomowoc what was the student body like you know you said it was large with a little over 300 kids in the freshman class. It's a public school was it cliquey? Or what would you say it was kinda like?

EM: That's a good question and to be honest I'm probably a little bit oblivious to it because it was like I said I didn't say I was sheltered but you may have gathered that. You know I mean my family was very structured you know my family 21:00life was very structured and umm and I would say that I did grow up quite umm oblivious to the social things in my immediate surrounding. You know like I said we were exposed to different ideas and different people but I never felt like a pressure of fitting in, in my community which probably made me a little bit oblivious to some of the cliques or other things going on. To me life's always been kind of a competition so it's like hey I wanna be the smartest kid in the class or I wanna be the fastest or I wanna be the best at basketball or whatever I'm doing I wanna try to excel at. It was kind of a single minded focus that way of hey just let me compete you know I'm not going to worry about anything else. If I get to compete at what I do it will be fun enough. But in Heinz sight I ended up going back and working in that district for a couple of years after I graduated Oshkosh and got to have a little bit better feel for it then as an adult. There's definitely some judgments out there you know you 22:00would have kind of the farmer crew that would be coming from the areas directly around Oconomowoc and you knew that those kids kind of grew up farmers and we had FFA classes. You kinda had the late dwellers you know and not that they were very exclusive but you could tell the people that had money and their parents grew up on the lake or whatever it maybe and you know they would sometimes get a little bit judgmental. So I'd say certainly there were like cliques there and like I said It definitely helped me because sports tends, sports in general tends to kinda bridge those gaps because I mean no matter where you grow up people tend to like sports or want to try sports. So that was definitely saving grace but my sisters all though they did sports umm they probably weren't as successful as I was athletically. They would face a little bit more, and I remember them coming home sometimes with stories or frustrations of you know some of the other girls in their class that would be making fun of them for what they were wearing or you know what they look like or what they 23:00were doing and you know you're kind of frustrated with that, and you're like man that stuff just doesn't matter you know like why do these people care. I guess that exist and that probably exist anywhere. So I wouldn't say Oconomowoc was particularly like I don't look at it as being a real different community but there is, because of all the lake homes and the lakes there there's a pretty wide distribution of wealth. There are some people that are very very wealthy there and you have some people that live in the more rural areas that are on the opposite side of the fence.

BG: Definitely umm, in high school what were your goals academically, you kind of answered that question, you said you wanted to excel at everything. Was that the mental attitude you had towards everything even the clubs and stuff you were involved with?

EM: Yeah you know and like I said I feed of competition, I get bored if were not competing you know really. I don't like to sit around and do stuff just for fun 24:00I would rather be like well hey if we're going to sit here and talk let's play cards or let's play Nintendo or whatever you know lets add some competition to this. Umm when I went into high school again I didn't know exactly what to expect coming from such a small Catholic grade school. We actually had like we named a valedictorian at our grade school and I was our valedictorian, but that was out of 18 people you know. So going into high school I kinda knew that that was a think then you know, cuz I don't think most middle schooler's leave middle school like knowing what it is to be valedictorian, but I kina knew it existed but in the back of my head at first I was like oh you know being top 10 in the class would probably be pretty good you know there's probably a bunch of smart kids. After my first semester I was ranked third in the class rank and that when I knew, I was like okay I'm close let's go for this you know and then that kinda turned into a competition academically. Otherwise the courses I was taking I didn't have real clear directives like I said I was just taking you 25:00know knock out my math, science, English, social studies every year and you know just kinda adding the electives. But I did, that is when I started taking Spanish my freshman year of high school. They recommended taking a language if you were going to be on the college track so I chose Spanish, and really kinda fell in love with it right away. One it came pretty easy and obviously learning a language in high school is very memory based you know and what you can memorize you know and mostly due to all the reading I had done growing up my vocabulary was strong and my memory was good. I would say well above average and it made it pretty easy, pretty fun and then you learn a different language and its kina cool to be able to practice that. So I progressed through that and that probably became the class that was most like unique that I kinda got into. I really liked history too and I was good in the other classes you know I got a 26:005 on the AP calc test and took AP lit and got a 4 on that. So it wasn't like I was a slacker and obviously I was getting A's but umm Spanish was probably the thing that excited me the most academically. You know and again for the most part it was just about competing like I wanna just get all A's. I didn't go to classes thinking like oh I can't wait to see what we learn today. Maybe that's healthier but that never was really my motivation, but Spanish was the one that at least was kinda like that, where it's like oh yeah like let's see how much let's see how good I can get at this other language. That of course shaped the rest of my life and what I ended up majoring in and ended up doing for a number of years before I came here as well.

BG: Okay umm, can you tell me why you wanted to got to college like your main reasons and kind of what your family's feelings about higher education.

EM: Umm, they were always pro higher education so there wasn't really ever a 27:00time growing up you know and I know that's not the case in every family umm I think it's pretty common in Oconomowoc. But sometimes I guess I underestimate the good fortune that I had you know growing up in a family that it never was even a discussion, it was like oh hey what college are you going to not or are you going to go to college. Growing up it was always a thought that yeah I get that higher ed is the the next step and then you go get your job and then we'll see from there where life kinda takes you. So it definitely was you know there was never any issue if they wanted all of us to go to college and I felt the same way and I was excited to see where I could go. Growing up I kind of always wanted to go to Notre Dame that was my favorite school as an Irish Catholic growing up and I ended up applying there thinking that maybe oh I'll get accepted, I wasn't really planning on going there cuz it would have been really 28:00expensive. I kind of wanted that acceptance letter umm but they evidently they lost it. This is like pre-online registration of course so you have to mail stuff in umm so we called there probably about 2 months' after we mailed it in, and they just had to record of it so I was a little bit bummed but I'm like ohh whatever it won't change my life too much. That was always where I wanted to go was to Notre Dame but that was more of a you know just kind of a childish dream. Oh I love the fighting Irish (In sarcastic voice). And then as we got closer and running became much more important to me it kind of became I can compete at the college level and then that became a much more powerful driving force in my college search.

BG: Absolutely, umm taking the next jump here in topics were gonna go onto Oshkosh basically. So what was it like when you first go here to UWO, 29:00atmosphere, feelings how it differed from anything else you had ever seen?

EM: Umm well I'll address a little story first of how really I came to choose Oshkosh unless you have that as a different question.

BG: No go head.

EM: It kind of fell into my lap umm fortunately, we had my senior in high we had a guy who was finishing his masters in counseling and he had gone to Oconomowoc and he had run for what is now my former coach, coach Zupanc who we call Zup at UWO. And he was then back at Oconomowoc essentially like a student teacher for counseling so mirroring or shadowing counselors there, and he ended up being our track coach that year, one of our track coaches, so he was telling me about Oshkosh like how awesome it was how awesome Zup was, and that kind of peaked my interest he gave my contact information to Zup umm and Zup would call me once a week you know pretty much every Sunday he would call and we'd 30:00chat for five minutes and check in on how my races where going or whatever was going on. I ended up setting up a visit and really no one else was recruiting me hard. The other school that I looked at were you know I kinda reached out more to them, Norbert, Lawrence Marquette and Madison were the other schools I was looking at. So when I came here I kinda got a good feel from Zup he said you know I think we can win a national championship during your years here we got some good pieces here and some good pieces coming. And at that point I had kind of narrowed it down to a sports broadcasting or education and even though my grades are good and I could of gone to most places around the country. I was thinking I don't need to go play 30/40 grand a year if I'm just going to be a teacher you know I'm going to be paying off debt for ever. So umm that was kind 31:00of another draw and then winning a scholarship as valedictorian to a state school was a draw so it kinda came all together nicely for me to choose UWO. And then kind of referring to your question, once I got here I was nervous, I was scared you know I probably cried my first night here my mom still tells the story she went home and cried like after they had dropped me off that day being the oldest son and like I said really growing up a sheltered life style you know up until that point. I was nervous about it you know making another jump and being on my own and being at a school that's sizeable it's the third biggest school in the state. Umm and again the nice thing was you have a team you know to come in and be part of a team so you kinda have that built in group of hey at least I know these guys at least I have part of my day everyday that I know is like controlled and I'm comfortable with it you get to go out and run, you get to go out and compete. Umm but I still remember those first couple of days you 32:00know on campus going through some of the odyssey stuff you know being a little bit clueless being a little bit nervous you know, looking forward to practice but even being nervous that way cuz you don't know the guys that well yet and at that time we didn't have a team camp. Now we have a team camp for cross country the week before school starts so everyone knows each other before day one of class, but at that time we just came up and you know [inaudible] show up for practice you run and then you go back so you get a very brief glimpse of who everyone is really So kind of learning in that way. And it was yeah it was different and at that time too I was dating someone that I started dating in high school and she was still in high school so that was a pull to go back home on weekends which I probably did every other weekends. So that first year was kind of a transition year where you know where your trying to figure things out here both academically, socially while also what's the connection with the family now how the roll there. But the campus I enjoyed I still like it now you 33:00know it's a small campus even though it serves a lot of students it's a small campus it's easy to get around. Kolf its and old building and now my office is in here which is nuts, never thought that would happen back then but, umm you it just kind of feels like home sometimes walking inside this building even though there's no windows. But it yeah I guess I don't have anything that really stands out more so than just those early years just getting use to the campus, going to eat at Blackhawk. You know I lived in Taylor for three years in Taylor hall so a bunch of us my year we had eight guys decide as juniors to stay in the dorms because we all wanted to live by each other still instead of moving off campus so we all just signed up for Taylor for one more year and we had like 34:00four rooms like right in a row all next to each other so It was like a fun little environment there. So it's both fun and kinda weird of course to be back older in a place you have so many memories from when you were younger umm but it was I never really had any negative experiences at UWO.

BG: That's good, umm kind of talking about the campus as a whole what were some controversial you know topics going on at school politics, cultural, educational stuff. I know I think it was in 2002 they cut the UW's funding by like 50 million so that probably something that the students were upset about, but I'm sure there's a lot of other things.

EM: Right, some of the things that kind of stood out to me one I think and I don't know if it was after my freshman or sophomore year but we had a change of chancellors while I was in school which now of course you will have that same 35:00kind of memory. [John Kerrigan] was the Chancellor when I first got here then [Richard Wells] became Chancellor while I was here so that was kind of a big deal you know when [Kerrigan] announced you know he was retiring and bringing in a new Chancellor and you never really know. As a student you're not worrying about it that much of course you're like well whatever business as usual but he's still kind of all over the school papers and people are talking about it. That was one of the bigger things umm my let's see must have been my junior year may have been sophomore year but I think it was junior year Blackhawk closed for renovations and we ate in the old Elmwood commons

BG: Where was that?

EM: which is now where the student success center is. So there was a different building there umm which was called the Elmwood commons which was a backup eating place I guess so for one whole year we ate there for the whole year so it 36:00was a lot different. It was not as cool as Blackhawk cuz just the variety was smaller you less because it just wasn't as big as Blackhawk. That was I mean that was kind of a unique thing I mean I have lots of memories from there we use to have our own room in the Elmwood commons there was like a room in the back room like a almost like a formal dining room and the cross country and track team would take that over.

BG: [laughing]

EM: like that was our room no one else would go in there and eat so kind of like now you guys have the long table in Blackhawk that you eat at. You know when we were in Elmwood we would sit in there for hours until they came and kicked us out.

BG: Still happens [laughing]

EM: one guy I remember hid a piece of ham underneath like you know like those fake fruit decorations it was like a bowl and he put a piece of ham under it and like we forgot about it and then months later probably like 3 or 4 months later we were like hey we remember and we go and look it's just covered in mold it's 37:00just this white and green blob sitting under this thing it was so gross [laughing]. We were like oh wow that is nasty. We would take the they would have cream pies sometimes and we would like take it and throw it on our faces in the commons you know we were nuts. We would just do things out of boredom the cafeteria was usually our place to entertain. I'd carry a basketball around with me and we would do around the waste challenge so I would make people take the basketball around their waste as many times as they can in 30 seconds and we'd time them. So we would just walk around the commons just trying to get random people to do this, there like why and I'm just like why not you know let's try it. And the table thing is funny too because at that time they would move the tables back every day so we would always, whoever showed up we would just add another table. So at the end of every meal at night you know we would have 8 to 38:0012 tables depending on how many people were over there eating and we'd leave it and everyday they were back every single day they were pushed back and every night we would do the same thing, we would push them all together again. So when I came back as coach it was awesome so I went over and I was like so they keep this table together now? Like that awesome [laughing] they don't make you rearrange it every day. So yeah lots of cool memories from the variety of commons but that was kinda one issue before Blackhawk was redone and now it's pretty much in the same state as it was my senior and fifth year. Towards the end of the career we had to vote on whether or not to pay for the REC. The REC was not here when I was a student it came about a year or two later after I graduated but we were in on the voting process for approving like student funding to go to that. So I remember being for that and obviously part of you is kinda bummed because you know that your graduating right before you're going to get to use it but that was a big deal. The union got redone when I was here. 39:00My first year there was still a little commons Algoma commons which when you go into the union off of Algoma like right there it's off to the left there's like a credit union or something right there now.

BG: Yeah they moved that actually down the hall a little bit.

EM: But in that area there was a room and that was the commons where we ate during interim. There weren't enough people during interim so instead of Blackhawk being open we would have our interim meals in that tiny little room and we only did that for one year. So lot of kind of random changes like that were some of the bigger issues and the other thing that I really remember not that it was a university issue but you know I still remember 9/11 you know that was when what 2001 one so yeah that was the first couple weeks of my junior year and I remember coming back from a class it must have ben and 8 am or and 8 to 40:009:30 or something and coming back and my roommate and some of the other runners who were all in Taylor hall like I said were sitting around the TV and like what's going on, there like I don't know a plane just flew into the trade center I'm like what and like the second one I wasn't even paying attention I was like oh okay whatever like I'm dropping my stuff off you know going to the bathroom or whatever settling in and I come back in again and they're like they just did another one I'm like what? So I just remember how weird that was you know I mean not that it has affected my life. To be honest I think that sometimes we as Americans are kind of spoiled as far as our national security I mean no one ever really attacks us you know that's why this was such a big deal you know for it to unfold that way. It's a horrible tragedy for those involved but the campus was I just remember it just being so quiet, you went to class and people 41:00were just quiet just like nobody knew what to think all day long. You're just kind of going through the motions, I remember the workout we actually had a hard workout that day at garbage hill the day that 9/11 happened we ran over there for the warm up and umm just nobody saying anything you now Zup's telling us what the work out is and even he's kind of somber and normally at work ours were kind of joking around we're kind of trash talking each other you know and that day it was like nope everyone is just kinda walking around head down, you do one hard effort you take your break you do your next hard effort and everyone just kinda went home. So that was kind of the big social thing that went on while I was in school.

BG: Yeah I was in Kindergarten when that happened I'm pretty sure watching it on the TV not knowing anything, I don't know I was little. But umm 2000 that was an election year too your sophomore year right?

EM: Yepp I remember that voting in Albee that was our voting hall. I remember I 42:00definitely lean towards the liberal you know not that it effects my life all that much one way or another. I remember I had a button that I think one of my buddies had gotten and it said and that was the Gore right the Gore verses George the second. And it said Al Gore supports working families so me and my buddy would walk up and down the voting like hey does anyone in your family work? [laughing] because obviously they were going to say yes and they were like yeah yeah why and then we would hold up the button and be like oh well Al Gore supports working families and people would just roll their eyes so we had some fun with that but umm yeah that was both those Bush elections were interesting. The second one was in the fall right after I had graduated In 04 so that one I wasn't on campus for but yeah both of those elections were big news at the time 43:00cuz they were recounting votes and they were both so close so yeah it was kind of interesting being around. One of the other big things was the badgers made the final four in 2000. I still find this so odd so this is my freshman year and one of my buddies runs outside so the badgers win this game I think against LSU to make the elite eight so this wasn't even to make the final four it was just to make the elite eight and there were like an eight seed this year so it was like a pretty big deal that they made this run and l'm a badger fan but I'm not like a badger it's not life of death for me it's like whatever I'm not a badger you know. And one of my buddies is like it's really loud outside after this game and I'm like what's going on. So we walk outside and the students are rioting there's like students climbing telephone poles down down where horizon is now like across from the Scotts. There's people climbing telephone poles and 44:00there's like hundreds of kids out in the streets celebrating that the badgers made the elite eight, and I was like I don't get it they didn't even make the final four yet. So that was anther random little memory now that I'm thinking about that in 2000.

BG: What was it like Trayvon Jackson was that the stud basketball player or that might have been 08?

EM: Trayvon was still on their team I think last year wasn't he? They had like Mike Kelly this is old in 2000 I think they had a guy named Mike Kelly he's from Milwaukee [Pias] and who were some of their other guys back then, I should remember more of the names they had some decent guys [Doc Dwaney] maybe I don't know if he was on that. But yeah they weren't favored to do much and that was [Dick Bennits] team he use to coach at Stevens Point and then he went to coach 45:00for the badgers and then he coached Washington State. But his son coaches at Virginia now.

BG: Getting back on here what you say it was like to be part of college sports, track and cross country? How did that impact your college career and like what do you think you took away ultimately from everything?

EM: Umm it was awesome really it's the reason I love this place UW-Oshkosh was great to me in so many ways academically and socially you know and allowed me to grow into a much stronger leader than I was coming in a much more confident person than I was coming in. Umm but the thing that really did it for me was being a part of those teams on the cross country and track and field teams. Just having great guidance with coach Zup you know who I actually just had 46:00lunch with earlier today you know a change to catch up with him and his wife Deb who was the women's coach. Umm the ability to grow and compete the ability to run at nationals those are just some of the great memories the road trips that we had. You know I got to run nationals three times in cross country our team trophied twice my sophomore year we were third in the country. My senior year I was all American for the first time in cross country and we won the national championship I mean just kind of a dream finish to my career here as a cross country runner. In track and field I think I was a part of three trophy teams I was a three time all American between indoor and outdoor and kind of those achievement memories are awesome umm but just as much I remember the times with the other guys walking around Naperville outside of North Central umm racing at 47:00La Crosse where I had raced the state meet for conference. We didn't have a regular season meet there back in the day we didn't get over there as much as we do now. I remember that being a cool thing when we got to go back there when they hosted conference. Umm we hosted cross country nationals my freshman year and I didn't make nationals that year as a freshman but just being a part of that and seeing that. And of course this past fall we got to do that and I got to be on the other side of things coaching the men and the women as they competed at a home nationals meet. I competed upstairs at nationals we hosted indoor in 2001 my sophomore year, yeah we hosted indoor nationals so that was my first track nationals as a sophomore I didn't run great but umm still just kind of cool environment and then you just throw in all of the stories I mean the bus rides the road trip you know getting Zup to say goofy things you know messing around with him. I remember we were on a road trip to Augustana for a last 48:00chance meet and it was maybe just like 6 distance guys going there so Zup was driving a van and Eminem was pretty hot at this point this was like early Eminem. It was the song cleaning out my closet "now I said I'm sorry momma" [singing] so we had found this edition where the whole track just simply played the refrain on repeat so Eminem sings this on repeat 21 times. And Zup's listening to this and was like and he's like "hey what the heck is that like aren't there any other words to this song? This is stupid" [imitating Zups voice] We were like come on Zup this is awesome [laughing] so then later were at the meet and we see Zup like he does this thing where he's always kicking the grass and stuff when he's nervous before races so we see him walking around the infield at Auggie kicking the grass and we walk over to him and his mouth's moving and he's just alone, and we come up and he like "I said I'm sorry momma" 49:00he was singing it to himself we had gotten it in his head so much that he was singing it and we called him out on it. We were like Zup we thought you hated that song! He was like "god ding dang it guys, I can't believe this songs in my head" [imitating Zups voice] and you know probably hundreds of little memories like that that just you know just going at him. I remember when 50 cent first came out too like our last year and then I had this buddy Dave go up to Zup and he's like hey Zup did you get that new 50 cent album and Zup was a little bit notorious for if he didn't understand what you were talking about he knew, he knew just to get out of it before like he didn't even wanna say something dumb, so he just looked at us and went "heh!" did his little giggle and walked away no conversation at all he was not going to talk about it at all. He Zup you get the 50 cent "heh!" and left. Couldn't get him.


BG/EM: [both laughing]

EM: But yeah it was lot of good mems with with the teammates, hanging out crazy, crazy stories with the teammates we will have to do a remix if you want sometime we'll come back and just do a pure stories session Bailey a pure college stories session because I could go for hours.

BG: Oh yeah I know, umm back tracking a little bit umm what did you major in again and why did you choose that?

EM: So I ended up majoring in secondary education and Spanish so I double majored the education and the Spanish and then a history minor. So once I got here I kinda asked some different questions umm looked into some different things as far as sports broadcasting cuz like I said that was one of the things I was thinking about. Most of the people that I talked to said It was kinda, cuz I'm not really interested in or ever was in behind the scenes type of thing like I want to be like a play by play or something you know, and most of the people 51:00where like well it's who you know. Because half of the people who do that don't have a degree probably more than half or at least the big time people that you see on TV. Like they're just former athletes you know so it's kind of who you know and the connections more so than the degree, and that's when I decided that I don't really want to go through this degree because I don't really care about the technical side of you know that's not what interest me about it, I just wanna talk the sport. So at that point I was like K that's probably not worth it, I'll go onto education I know I like working with people umm I find it rewarding and I'll be able to stay involved with sports and through that as well so it will be kind of nice and at that point you know I knew I was good at Spanish obviously I'm not a native speaker or anything but I knew that would be something that would kinda interest me to share that love. And one of my teachers in high school [Senior Mall] was probably you know one of my top 5 favorite teachers of all time and I loved the way that he taught his class I had him for Spanish 2 I was like yeah that would be kind of fun to be that guy 52:00someday. Yeah so that kind of caught my attention umm I've always liked history too and that you know a decently like a smooth minor to pick up umm so that started me down that path and you know ended up going through the education program umm did a clinical at Meryl here in town did a student teaching assignment both at South Park umm where I actually ended up student teaching one of my future athletes here at Oshkosh John Dewitt so when he was in seventh grade I actually had him in class which was kind of cool and I came back here to teach and was like hey do you remember, he didn't even remember me his older brother did though who was in eight grade at that time. Umm but yeah had kind of cool connections that was and then I soon taught at Neenah high school as well and that was you know some nice memories and some good preparation for me that way I enjoyed the teaching and enjoy you know kind of being able to interact with people in that way.

BG: Yeah absolutely, umm kind of continuing off of what you were just talking 53:00about what were the, there had to be some most memorable professors and coaches you said Zup was probably the most memorable coach. What would you say for professors is there anyone you remember as a stand out or anything?

EM: Umm yeah I had quite a few people that Identified well with umm [Elizibeth Alderton] who I think still does some work here at the University was one of my education professors she would always tease me cuz I was as you probably noticed I don't really care that much about my appearance. So I would come to class in like the same sweats every single day you know just long shaggy raggedy hair, and she'd be like how are you going to get a job? I'm like if they don't wanna hire me based on what I look like then I don't wanna work in that district anyway. So we would go back and forth so I remember so good give and takes with her I got her to lend me her pumpkin sweater one day that was cool. She would come in these ridiculous teaching sweaters and finally one day I went like let's 54:00say I take that the next two days before we have class and she like what I'm just like let me borrow your sweater she's like what are you going to do with it. I was like I'm going to wear it, it's not a big deal, she's like you're not going to wear it and I'm like I'm going to wear it right now if you give it to me she gave me the sweater and I wore it around for the rest of class she's like your nuts I'm going to wear it the next two days I'll see you on Thursday and I'll give it back and she's like okay. Umm {Dr. Margary Parks] she's still on campus as well. She was my teacher for multicultural education which ended up being my masters and that class was really the [inaudible] for that like I love that class that I had with her. Umm and that kind of got me motivated to pursue that as a post grad area of study and I ended up getting my masters down at UW-Milwaukee in that. Umm I had some great Spanish teachers here as well you know some of them are still here [Catherine Brian] umm {inaudible name] is still here [Isabel Alveraze] was one of my favorite professors she's still here I had 55:00her for phonetics that was a class that I loved in Spanish umm so I'm sure there's going to be a bunch that I forget as well but you know there were a lot of people that I made strong connections with and it's kind of cool to be back and still see some of them here.

BG: Definitely umm where would you say you spent most of your time on campus I mean?

EM: Now?

BG: Back then, back then

EM: Umm well definitely the dorms the first three years you know I mean yeah were hanging out at Kolf but for the most part were hanging in the dorms you know and joking around playing video games you know if it was nice outside play catch, football or baseball you know joke around that way. Umm the Union the Union was never a hot spot for us honestly for you know it was so it was you 56:00know and sometimes I see groups of people over there but I think we kind of provided, we had our own group our own clique already which makes it probably a little bit less necessary to go to a place like that. Blackhawk I mean hours a day we set the record I told these guys now our record was 8:47 when we got kicked out so, I can't remember if Blackhawk stayed up until 7:30 back then so there would be a half hour difference but umm I think some of the kids were going to try it at some point this year to set a new record but yeah we just loved sitting in there eating, joking, talking, fooling around until they told us to leave, you we gotta clean up get out of here and then the library was popular back then too you know I mean I think it still is with a number of our student athletes go there almost every night so that would be a place to go and hang out. I was notorious for not doing homework until everyone else was like 57:00gone to bed, so I was a horrible procrastinator so if I went to the library I was just going to talk people until they gave up they would be like okay Eamon go bother someone else and I was like alright sorry and then when everyone else went to bed I would be like well I guess I should do a little studying now.

BG: Are you still in contact with your college friends you made here?

EM: Umm quite a few of them yeah. One of my college roomies [Jason Fast] is actually the head coach at Lawrence University for cross country and track and field. [Mike Wherely] another one of my roomies off campus so I had three roommates when I lived off campus cuz I lived three years on campus. I lived with a teammate [Chris Anderson] for two of those years umm he lives out in South Dakota so I am still in contact with him and we actually stayed at his dad's house in Platteville when we went down there for the meet. So I have connections with his family still and then [Fast] is still up in Appleton like I said [Mike Wherely] is my third roommate from the house and he's down in the Oak Park area and I saw him a couple of weeks ago. So those are probably the 58:00closest guys umm otherwise I still see quite a few of them at alumni events or reach out to them via text, email or whatever and hang out. I served as best man at one of my old teammate's weddings umm stood up for another he wasn't a teammate but he was a buddy of ours. So yeah those connections are kind of cool and life changes quickly you know I kind of tend to live in the moment with whom you know with or who I'm working with. Umm so I'm not great at maintaining relationships if I never see you but there certainly 5 to 10 guys that I would consider you know great friends from about 10 to 15 years ago.

BG: That's good umm how would you say UWO changed you as a person if at all?

EM: Umm I think it really allowed me to grow confidence as a leader was the 59:00number one thing that it did for me and most of that like I said came through athletics but it was kind of a combination you know I became more confident in the class room you know school for me here was relatively easy and again I got good grades and I was competitive with it but I became much more comfortable kind of in my own skin in the class room. Cuz even through high school although I got good grades I was quiet like I was a quiet kid in class you know and UW-Oshkosh just the success that I was able to have both through running you know and making a larger friend group and umm academically I mean those things really allowed me to come into my own as a leader and kind of find who I wanted to be personality wise. It allowed me to go in and make some great memories for eight years as a teacher you know and as coaching both at the high school and assistant at the college level umm and now it really affords me the same 60:00opportunity back here as a head coach to stand in front of groups of people and maintain relationships and hopefully serve as a positive mentor for you know a large group of student athletes.

BG: Yeah absolutely, what would you say overall your years here, your college years here, was probably the most defining moment or the best thing that ever happened to you here?

EM: oh man the best thing that ever happened [under his breath]

BG: Or you can choose a couple and share about them.

EM: I'd say I mean number one for sure was winning nationals as a team in cross country my senior year. Running was such a big part in why I came here to begin with and kind of having that goal coming in knowing hey this maybe can happen at some point while we are here and going through the journey of freshman year we didn't make nationals and I wasn't in our top seven anyway sophomore year we 61:00finished third in the country but we lost three of our top 5 to graduation that year so we thought we were going to be down. Zup comes in with another great recruiting class we basically reload we have a great year junior year were ranked second in the country going in and we had three guys just bomb unfortunately just run horrible on that team and we finished sixth and just remembering that disappointment that year as a junior and looking into the faces of the two seniors we had that year and just like how distraught they were with how things ended. I remember that team meeting after that and I remember standing up and thanking those guys for everything that they put in and I said hey this is not going to happen next year like we are getting back up on that trophy stand and at that time I didn't know if we could win or not but I knew we could at least be top 4 in the country again. And then just watching how things just came together over that next year and you know as were competing senior year and just getting that realization of we can win this thing you know and the 62:00trip to nationals watching [Bravehart] on the bus on the way, you know just getting amped up and winning watching Zup skip around all excited after we had won and taking those pictures with the trophy and that was kind of a accumulation of man this is like why I came here, get to do this with awesome friends that I have made and you know it's just such a memorable experience. In the grand scheme of life is it better than some of the friendships I made no probably not you know there's lots of other awesome memories that I have both you know both in classes but I think that, that was probably the most significant memory that stands out from my years here.

BG: I'd agree, umm so fast forwarding to now adulthood how would you say your time here at UWO had affected your life, I mean obviously you work here now but 63:00I kind of asked the same question earlier but how would you say your time here has affected your adult life?

EM: Umm like I said it's given me a lot of confidence you know at UW-Oshkosh I really came to the realization that you know life is supposed to be fun you know like you should find things that you wanna be good at and peruse those things and it should be a joy to do those things. And I try to bring that into my teaching when I was teaching you know you know like this isn't supposed to be somber you know like we shouldn't be sitting in class with the kids bored out of their mind you know like it should be whether they're the ones doing the entertaining or I'm the one doing the entertaining sometimes like that should be part of the day you know like relating to one another as human beings and I think UW-Oshkosh went a long way in hammering that home for me in that life is 64:00better when your hanging out with people that you enjoy and your chasing your goals or dreams or passions that are important to you umm and I was hopefully able to reach a number of people through teaching you know I taught in Heartland for four years and I taught in Milwaukee public schools for four years and I coached high school for four years and I assisted at a couple of different colleges for a three year span. Umm lot of good relationships were built through those times as well with students and parents and families and athletes. So umm UW-Oshkosh really provided the corner stone for me to kind of be one a leader but also taught me to enjoy these experiences even sitting right here with you know you now it's fun to relate some of these stories and I see it on your face now when I'm telling something there's things that are running through your head like oh yeah that reminds me of this you know or what not and 65:00hopefully you will have a lot of these same stories that you can pass on regardless weather you go onto coaching or not later in life but you'll have these stories to share of when your teammates are being goofy or your being goofy or a meet that goes awesome or a class where somebody does something crazy you know you just have all of these memories built in and that's what life's kind of about like cherishing these opportunity's and moments that we have.

BG: Mhmm umm, if you could do the whole college experience over again what would you do differently now that you're an adult.

EM: Umm, I probably more confident earlier in my running but that would probably be the only thing like I was good but I don't, honestly I wish I had thought that maybe I could even win a individual national championship I don't know if I could part of it was our teams were so stacked back then I never even was our 66:00top guy one year in outdoor I was our top guy in the 10k and the 5k umm but for the most part I'm getting beat every day by guys in practice which is good and bad. The good is you know you're on an awesome team and you get to chase a national championship as a team you know and it's not necessarily a bad but I don't think I ever really considered the possibility of like man can I win individually you know which is tough when you're getting beat by guys every day in practice. So that would probably be the only thing is I wish that just a little bit sooner I would have developed a little bit of more confidence in running wise you know because I think it would have potentially make me even better not that I could have enjoyed it a whole lot more but you get better a little bit earlier and you figure things out. But otherwise not much I enjoyed I wouldn't change much at all about the experience.

BG: Umm you mentioned a lot of teaching and assistant coaching jobs but was 67:00there anything else you did as jobs after college or was that pretty much it.

EM: Umm that was pretty much it. In school I worked at essentially at a boat launch just kind of monitoring it these are summer jobs that I had while I was in school. I worked like for a rec department like coaching youth sports. I worked at daycare a low income daycare in Waukesha I got some crazy stories from that as well, working with a bunch of you know you children a lot of whom you know did not have great guidance at home it provided some good guidance for me obviously but you know at the same time some tough situations at times. Umm and I worked for UMOS United Migrant Opportunity Services one summer too and they have an office here in Oshkosh. You teach migrant children whose parents move around the county depending on the season and farm like pick crops and stuff, 68:00some of them are Mexican citizens and they come up here for part of the year and then back to Mexico. Some are American citizens and there in Texas, California whatever in the winter and up here in the summer kind of along the lines of I mean I obviously I value that type of thing whether it be you know learning about people from different cultures you know getting my masters in multicultural education, going into Milwaukee public schools to teach you know I kind of value those different opportunity's to work with people who are different from you I think it kind of opens yours eyes to the world a little bit.

BG: Last question actually, what advice could you give to current student now that you have been removed from being a student for a few years. What if you're looking back what would you say what is the best advice you could give someone just starting their college journey.

EM: Umm, probably decide who you want to be as a person and that something that 69:00can change you know and may even sound cliche' cuz its you're always going to be formulating new ideas and new opinions and trying to figure out who you want to be. But I think at a baseline level you can kinda decide the type of person that you want to be and then try as hard as you can to be that person. It may sound obvious but I think that a lot of struggle with in our society in general I feel like a lot of people do things based on other people's expectations I'm sure I still do there's times there's decisions that I make or things that I do during the day that it's like I'm only doing this because I think someone else wants me to do it you know. On some of the bigger decisions in life like if you want to go and travel before you work go and travel cuz your probably not going to do it later you know and traveling just opens up your eyes to so many different things, that would be like a secondary piece of advice that I would have is go see different places whether it be in the U.S or around the world just go see places and meet different people and just kind of experience 70:00different things. Umm and maybe it's even social decisions like don't be in a relationship just because you feel like you're supposed to be in a relationship don't go out drinking just because you feel like you're supposed to go out drinking. All that stuff I feel like a lot of people kind of give into the social pressure of this is what I have to dress like, this is what I have to wear, this is what I have to say, this is what I have to do, and I don't know that stuff bothers me I think that people should be okay with being weird, people should be okay with being themselves and if sometimes you get teased because you're being who you want to be that stuff should just eventually just roll off your back. You should learn to almost kind of laugh at it like yeah that person thinks I'm weird cool it's a good thing because I want to be weird, I want to be me. You know just like hopefully you wanna be you, hopefully all of these student athletes we work with wanna be who they wanna be you know I don't want you to be me, I don't wanna be you I wanna be who I wanna be. The 71:00sooner you kind of come to an idea of the type of person that you wanna be the sooner you can start chasing that person. A lot of people delay that, a lot of people I know delay that their whole lives they live a whole life without ever having decided this I kind of what I want to live like instead their like well I got to live like this because I feel like my buddies want this or need to meet a girl or whatever it is. Be who you wanna be and have fun doing it.

BG: Awesome well thank you for your time her Eamon.

EM: No problem it was pleasure.

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