Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pay Attention: The guy standing next to you may be interesting!

Bill Bowerman
Bill Bowerman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have I said this before. Pay Attention! The chatty Kathy in the plane seat next to you may just be interesting. Or not. I am just attention. You may learn something.

I have been on a quest the last few month to find out about a person I only talked to one time.  He was the brother of my roommate in college. He was a track runner at the University of Oregon in the late 1950's during the era of Phil Knight. He had graduated from Beaverton High School and went on to the university to begin his college career in track. Unfortunately Woodell's track career was cut short in an accident on campus.

But that is not the story. Woodell was not all about track. He was all about a business career. He was the first COO of Nike, Inc., co-founder of the Rougue Brewery and director of the Port of Portland.

This is an image taken from a videotape created at a Sept. 15, 1983,
event honoring Carolyn Davidson,
the Portland State University graduate who designed the Nike Swoosh.
Phil Knight on the left. Bob Woodell in the foreground.
In the six points of separation concept we are all connected in some way. When I was with my classmates this summer at a high school reunion, I discovered that a friend's husband had worked as an accountant at the Port of Portland when Woodell was the director of the port. I asked if he had ever run into him while working there. It turned out that his boss was Woodell. My friend told the story of sitting in Woodell's office, listening as he told about his experience with Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman.

But here is what is so unusual. The spider web can run to some very distant places. That is what happened to me while we were in Mexico when Bob Woodell came up in the conversation. My husband and I were talking with a young traveler from Alaska. Nike came up in the conversation because I happened to be wearing my orange tennis shoes that day. I mentioned Phil Knight's philanthropy and involvement in University of Oregon athletics. Naturally we discussed the UofO football uniforms.  That was when someone on the other side of the hot pool area asked how I knew Phil Knight. No, I did not know Knight...he is just legendary in the Portland Metro area. We talk about him occasionally.

"My husband ran track with Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman was his coach."

It is a good thing I was paying attention or I would have missed that voice. The man's name was Otto and he told about buying a pair of the tennis shoes Bowerman made from the trunk of Bowerman's car. He recalled the accident that Bob Woodell had been in and we talked about Univerisity of Oregon track during the Phil Knight/Bill Bowerman era.

Then this man went on to say that his brother ran for Bowerman too. He said the brother had won a Olympic medal but I could find no record that gave me a clue as to who he was. The man and his wife were from Canada. (It turns out that runner may have been Harry Jerome from from Vancouver, BC. Thank you to a commentor.)

Think of what I would have missed. The lesson here is pay attention. You never know who may be sitting next to you. People are very, very interesting!

Have a wonderful day!


1 comment:

  1. Perhaps it was Harry Jerome? He was a prolific sprinter in the Bowerman era. Bronze medal in Rome I think?


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