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Furrer and Olliges
Photo courtesy of Webster University

Stroll into Grant Gymnasium on the home campus of Webster University during a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader or volleyball match. Drive to World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton when the Gorlok men’s and women’s soccer programs host back-to-back contests. Head to GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill. or Blackburn Park in Webster Groves for a baseball or softball game, respectively. Odds are strikingly high that either Larry Furrer or Ralph Olliges — or potentially both — will be spectating and cheering from their customary seats.

Furrer, who has worked as an adjunct professor at Webster for the past 26 years, began routinely attending Gorlok athletic competitions at the turn of the century. His friend and colleague, Olliges — who has taught at Webster since 2001 — started to regularly attend WU sporting events about seven years ago. Combined, the super-fan duo estimates they’ve frequented a staggering total of 1,400 Webster games — 1,000 for Furrer and 400 for Olliges.

“You kind of get hooked on it,” Furrer said. “You know how we all follow our baseball teams and things like that. I got into where I follow all the sports here at Webster.”

Furrer — who teaches management courses and has instructed a “Seinfeld”-themed First Year Seminar the last 11 years — has attended nearly every home Webster basketball game since 2000. One of his students, Webster Athletics Hall of Famer Paul Zellmer, requested Furrer come watch him play. He hasn’t stopped going since.

Furrer and Olliges have also made a habit of regularly traveling to nearby conference schools such as Fontbonne and Greenville — and periodically going as far as Blackburn, Westminster, MacMurray and Eureka — to watch the Gorloks compete on the road. If Furrer doesn’t attend in person, he watches the games on YouTube.

Larry Furrer
Larry Furrer
Photo courtesy of Webster University

Furrer caught all the home men’s and women’s soccer games this past season and typically gets to almost every volleyball match. He is a regular at softball contests, will occasionally accept offers from Olliges to drive him to baseball games and has sprinkled in some tennis matches throughout the years. He vows to get to track meets and golf tournaments but has had a challenging time working them into his schedule. Furrer said he probably attended 75 Webster athletic events in 2017 alone.

Meanwhile, Olliges — a professor of educational technology and chairman of the multidisciplinary studies department — began trekking to Webster baseball games in the early 2000s at the urging of one of his students, standout pitcher Tom Hermann. Olliges has long been passionate about sports, as evidenced by him and his father holding St. Louis Cardinals season tickets the last 17 years.

But it was Hermann’s influence that drew Olliges into becoming a diehard Gorlok baseball fan, and he has attended about 170 games through the years. He said he thoroughly enjoyed watching another Webster pitcher — 2017 Tampa Bay Rays fifth-round pick Josh Fleming — dominate on the mound. Olliges demonstrated his super fandom by twice heading to Wisconsin to watch the Gorloks contend in the College World Series.

Beyond baseball, Olliges is a consistent presence at men’s and women’s soccer and basketball games, as well as softball contests. He’s mixed in some volleyball matches and will often bring a camera along to sporting events, so the athletics department can utilize his photos to promote and recruit student-athletes. Olliges’s photography abilities come in handy with another passion of his: plants and gardening. He has taught a First Year Seminar, Global Gardens and Tea, since 2002 and belongs to three plant societies.

“It’s just a way of giving back to the community. And that’s the way I view the endowment funds — it’s a way of giving back. I’ve been Santa the last four or five years at the church. It’s fun. It makes the people happy. What you can do to help someone is just nice.”
— Ralph Olliges

“Sports and plants are hobbies. I try to make the most of my time by spending it on hobbies as well as whatever teaching and serving responsibilities I have to try to do as much as I can,” Olliges said. “When students see me at their games then they know that if I can spend time there, they can spend time doing the assignments. If I can make your game, you can do my homework. I enjoy having student-athletes in my classes. They are very good students academically. Rarely are they absent from class. When they have to miss a class they make up for it as soon as possible.”

In addition to showing up at games, Olliges and Furrer have augmented their support of student-athletes by each developing an endowed fund for the Webster athletics department’s usage. The Ralph Olliges, Sr. and George Engel, Sr. Endowed Fund for Athletics, as well as the Pam & Larry Furrer Endowed Fund for Athletics, will enable both gentlemen — and other donors — to contribute in an area of significance to the professors.

It’s far from the first illustration of Olliges being a giver, as he has already funded the Frances Olliges and Helen Engel Educational Technology Endowed Memorial Scholarship during an eight-year period. He is the president-elect of the Society of Philosophy and History of Education. Once a month since 2001, Olliges — often accompanied by Furrer — has fed the homeless at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church via Sodexo’s donations of ice cream and beans.

“It’s just a way of giving back to the community. And that’s the way I view the endowment funds — it’s a way of giving back,” Olliges said. “I’ve been Santa the last four or five years at the church. It’s fun. It makes the people happy. What you can do to help someone is just nice.”

Ralph Olliges
Ralph Olliges
Photo courtesy of Webster University

Olliges — who was born and raised in St. Louis and spent a quarter-century studying and working at Saint Louis University before his time at Webster — served on the search committees that eventually selected President Elizabeth (Beth) Stroble and Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon. His time spent on the latter led to Olliges receiving the Student Athlete Advisory Committee Appreciation Award in 2015.

Furrer received the same award the year prior for his dedication to Webster athletics. He grew up in West Orange, N.J. and graduated from the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College in the mid-‘50s. Furrer worked at Monsanto Company for 34 years in various capacities; then started his own consulting service in quality management in 1991.

Though he said “it was not even a thought at the time that I would be teaching,” a year later he began doing just that. A 30-year theatre veteran — mostly with the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves — Furrer made a connection via his acting and directing who helped him land a teaching gig at Webster University. Furrer blended in seven years of visiting teaching at Dartmouth while simultaneously instructing at Webster.

“I really like teaching,” Furrer said. “I like being around the students. When you get old like me, you find it keeps you young hanging around young people. I like the interactions with the students and trying to bring some of my own philosophies into whatever it is I’m teaching. I wish someone had told me these things when I was younger. That’s it in a nutshell — what I wish someone had told me, I try to tell these students.”

Both Furrer and Olliges said they have no plans of discontinuing their attendance and support of Webster athletics. The two men are often asked by Kilgallon to frequent athletics department functions, and women’s soccer coach Luigi Scire requested they attend the team’s banquet the last two seasons. Kilgallon decided to name the Wall of Fame that commemorates Webster Athletics Hall of Famers in honor of Furrer and his deceased wife, Pam.

“I’m just very touched by it, that Scott decided to do that,” Furrer said. “You don’t donate to the program and do things like the endowed fund for recognition or anything like that. You just go along doing them. And then when somebody comes out of the clear, blue sky and says, ‘Hey, we want to do it.’ It’s pretty nice when it happens. It’s an honor.”