Back to campus, 50 years later

As Rick Leroux (BSc ’72) gears up for a milestone celebration with classmates, he recalls the experiences that bonded them together

By Megan Vander Woude Office of Advancement

In August 1967, Rick Leroux (BSc ’72) could have been at Expo 67. His mother won tickets for the iconic Montreal event and offered them to Rick and his brother.

But Rick wasn’t at Expo 67. He was at training camp with the rest of the University of Waterloo football team. "It was brutally hot. I remember sweating on the football field. My brother had a wonderful time, but I was dying."

Looking back, training camp was worth it. Rick made life-long friends on that hot football field, and when classes began in September, he made even more. As an early graduate from Waterloo’s kinesiology program, Rick’s class was small and tight-knit. Only 39 crossed the stage at convocation.

"One thing about our class - at least the group I became very close with - everybody had nicknames," Rick recalls. "Frequently, you couldn’t remember a person’s real name. Peter Dallas (BSc ’72) was Otis. Dave Schlei (BSc ’72) was Doc because he was the trainer for just about every sports team at Waterloo. And we called Dave Shalof (BSc ’72) Tex. Doc named him because he was from Oil City. We assumed that was in Texas. Turns out it’s in Pennsylvania."

If you were a student between 1967 and 1972, you might have known Rick as Lash. His surname reminded classmates of movie star Lash LaRue, known for his role as a cowboy in 1940s westerns.

Rick’s class was small, but their bonds were big - and those bonds continue decades after their graduation. Every five years, they descend on Waterloo to reunite, visit their favourite student hangouts and cheer on the Warrior football team. This year, Rick and his classmates will join the Alumni Black and Gold Day celebrations to mark their 50th anniversary. Some will fly across the country to attend.

"Traditionally, what happens is we all meet Friday night at one of our old haunts - the Blue Moon or the Breslau."

This year, the group will spend the evening at the Heidelberg. Another beloved haunt is the Heuther Hotel. In the last 50 years, there have been some changes to the businesses in that building, but Rick says they spent a lot of time in the basement, where you can still find a bar and restaurant. In Rick’s day, that bar was a battleground between students from UWaterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, then called the Waterloo University College (WUC).

"There was a big rivalry as to whose tavern it was. We basically won for a number of years, but I think it finally went back to Laurier. One of the things that really got to them - if any of their players showed up in a jacket, we would flap our arms like chicken wings and call out ’wuc, wuc, wuc.’"

No word on whether Rick plans to re-live the squawking tradition at this year’s celebrations. One experience they will re-live is a football game. Alumni and guests can gather at the Black and Gold Day VIP tent on the East berm of Warrior Field. With a BBQ buffet, paid bar, alumni swag giveaways and more, this football game might feel more luxurious than the ones Rick played in as a student.

To bring back their student memories, Rick’s class plans to dig out their old leather jackets and Waterloo apparel for the game. But like the hot days at training camp, the stressful exam periods and the challenging labs, it’s the people who will make Rick’s 50th celebrations worthwhile.

"You always want to keep in touch with friends. Over the years, friends slip away for no particular reason. This gives us an opportunity to get together again."