Monday, September 23, 2013

Westhem: Lasting Legacy

Last week a member of the Stanford football 1952 Rose bowl team passed away. In addition to being a three-year letterman from 1950-1952 in football, he competed in the 400m hurdles for track and field and was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity. Basically, William Storum  ‘53 was your typical jock-frat-wonder boy during his time at Stanford.
            Bill was my grandfather and taught me how to Fear the Tree the moment I entered high school. He was an Indian and then a Cardinal until the end. I was already on campus when I got the call from my mom. I had known that my goodbye to him before I left might have been my last and, as usual, he had been wearing a Stanford shirt as we talked about the upcoming football season. When my mom called, she made sure to tell me that he had wanted me to know that he was proud of me for carrying on the Stanford tradition and that he was reppin’ the Card on his final day.
            The evident alumni spirit and their love of Stanford is what prompted me to write this column. Especially seeing all of the recent graduates and alumni at the first home football game made it clear that Stanford loyalty runs deep, whether its supporting athletics, mentoring current students, or helping recent graduates network. 
            While academics have raised it to the level of the Ivy’s, it’s the athletics that have propelled Stanford into another level all its own. The superb athletes and their staunch loyalty to the Card throughout their entire careers are part of the glue that holds this amazing university together.
            For being such a young school, Stanford graduates have certainly established themselves in the nation, and the older alums hold the memories and traditions of their era near and dear to their hearts.
            The stories that Bill shared with me will forever be ingrained in my memory and I will share them with my own kids when it comes time for me to inculcate them with Stanford pride. I’ve always been a huge college football fan ever since I went to my first game when I was eight (it pains me to admit that it was a USC game at the Coliseum), so I loved hearing about his time on the football team at Stanford.
            One story in particular emphasizes how much has changed in 50 years. Whenever the Big Game was played at Cal, all of the Zetas on the team (which was the football frat at the time) would stay together with the rest of their brothers in the same hotel--no separation was imposed between players and students. Bill and the guys would play football in the hotel hallway to get pumped, with each room having a different point value if someone managed to break into it.
            Then when the Big Game was played at Stanford, there was the huge bonfire at Lake Lagunita and the whole student body would gather with the band to join forces against the Golden Bears. During football season, he emphasized that the entire energy of the school was focused on beating the opponent for that weekend and dressing up like Indians to intimidate them. Oh and singing the infamous Stanford drinking song--“For it’s wine, wine, wine that’s makes you feel so fine on The Farm!” --of course.
            While we don’t dress up like Indians today (although the band does still have a few original numbers that involve the Dollies dancing like Indians), that same school spirit--Nerd Nation!--still permeates the campus year round despite the excessive work load that most students impose on themselves.
            The alumni have taken that same spirit with them all over the country and into the lives of their families, just as Bill did with me. My grandfather instilled in me a love for my school and a love for life that I will take with me forever and hopefully pass on to another generation of Trees.
            As I walked up to his gravesite to say my final goodbye, I put down a cardinal rose and gave him my promise to do him proud at his alma mater. And before I left, I know he was with me when I told him “GO CARD!”

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