PROFILE: UC Employee and Former Student-Athlete Larry Elsasser Retires After 35 Years Of Service At UC
A celebration of Larry Elsasser’s career will be held from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, in the Great Hall of Tangeman University Center.
Date: 3/7/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Jacob Dirr
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Other Contact: Dawn Fuller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
Larry Elsasser, 62, has worked at the University of Cincinnati for 35 years. On March 31, the UC graduate whose career has spanned seven U.S. Presidents and five UC presidents will drive to work for the last time.
“I am looking forward to retirement very much,” he says. “With the major changes on campus being accomplished, it’s just time.”
Elsasser will be the guest of honor at a celebration in Great Hall from 3-6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. The event is open to the public.
Although he has spent most of his adult years managing the Tangeman University Center (TUC), Elsasser has a life that is woven with different experiences. Notorious among his co-workers for his stories, he was a member of the 1962 UC NCAA national basketball championship team, played professional baseball for Kansas City, was a Cincinnati Public school teacher, has positively impacted countless Bearcats and has been married for 40 years to his wife, Donna (DAAP ’65). Their son, Erin, graduated from the College of Business Administration.
“When you get to this point in your life, you look back and just wonder where all the time has gone,” he says.
At his office in Dabney Hall, where he now works as the associate director of Food Services, sits boxes stuffed with keepsakes from more than three decades at TUC, where he served as director from 1976 until it was renovated in 2001.
Elsasser looks forward to hitting the links with old golfing buddies, fishing, spending time with his family (who eagerly await the arrival of his first grandchild), and “whatever happens.”
Certainly, he never guessed that when he arrived at UC in 1960, he would spend the latter half of the 20th century serving the UC community. “It was a much smaller campus back in 1960,” he says. “There have been some tremendous growth spurts since then.”
Recruited to play baseball and basketball, Elsasser spent the next five years immersed in sports and working towards a bachelor’s degree in education.
A year before he arrived on campus, UC basketball legend Oscar Robertson had brought national attention to the university, leading the men’s basketball team to three straight Final Four appearances in the NCAA tournament.
But it was not until Robertson departed for the NBA that the largely forgotten Bearcats attained the NCAA national title. Because freshmen were ineligible to play varsity basketball, Elsasser played on the freshman team the first year UC claimed the crown in 1961. However, in 1962, Elsasser was a varsity guard when UC defeated Ohio State, 71-59, successfully defending their national title. The next year, the Bearcats again made it to the national championship game, only to lose it by two points.
“It was once in a lifetime thing,” he says. “It was a great thing for everybody, and for the university.
“The team members get together once a year or so and keep in touch, but maybe since we are all heading towards retirement we’ll be able to keep in touch a little more.”
Elsasser found even greater success on the baseball diamond. “Baseball was my favorite sport, but winning the basketball championship was certainly the greatest memory.” Immediately after Elsasser graduated, he became a professional baseball player and signed with the Kansas City Athletics organization, forerunner to the Oakland A’s. He traveled from ballpark to ballpark on cramped, hot buses and worked in the off-season to make ends meet. The experience was unforgettable, he says. “I had fun. I never made it to the major leagues, though.
“Too many good curveballs, I guess,” he says with a laugh.
In 1966, Elsasser traded his dream of big-league ball for another one: working with young people. Taking a job as teacher in the Cincinnati Public School system, he had no regrets. “I gave baseball my best shot and moved on,” says Elsasser, who was enshrined in the UC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. “I enjoyed teaching – that is what I had studied for.”
Three years later, in ’69, Elsasser took a job at Raymond Walters College, splitting his energies teaching math and serving as the assistant director of the RWC Campus Center.
Elsasser moved to what would become his second home, the Tangeman University Center, when he came on as assistant director of TUC in 1970. “The longer I stayed, the more I liked it,” he remembers. “It was always a very exciting, active place to be.”
At TUC, Elsasser says he made more friends than he can count and helped spearhead an innovation in student services: bringing off-campus food and retail vendors on campus. “We were the first in the country to offer a multiple food-service program,” he says with pride.
However, while vastly enjoying working with students and staff who all focused on serving the UC community, the nation had plunged into turmoil over the Vietnam War. During his first year in Tangeman, four students at Kent State University were shot dead during a protest, only four hours away from UC. “We went though periods of civil disruption on campus,” Elsasser recalls. “In fact, our campus was closed down for a time after the Kent State incident.”
Elsasser and his staff responded by transforming TUC into a place where there was a certain comfort level for students, an ethos that continues to this day. “It was our role to work with students and develop a rapport to get them through those times,” he says. “It was a difficult time for students, faculty and staff, because in the time of Vietnam, the events causing the problems were just totally out of our control. It was very, very trying.”
One year after U.S. forces began the evacuation in Saigon in 1975, Elsasser became the director of TUC and oversaw a complete renovation of the facility. He looks upon the renovation as a highlight of his career at UC. “The renovation in ’76 affected about 70 percent of the building,” he says, “and remained that way until it was torn down in 2001.”
The last 15 years at UC seemed to have flown by, Elsasser says. While obtaining his master’s degree, the ever-changing events at TUC had kept his job exciting and rewarding. “I enjoyed meeting lots of people and the always changing daily schedule,” he says. “I always viewed it as fun, so I didn’t think of it as stress.”
Janet Wolf, now a supervisor in TUC, met Elsasser 25 years ago, when she worked in an ice cream shop in TUC. “He led by example,” she says. “He would always joke around with students, but could be serious when he had to be serious.”
Elsasser made an effort to get to know his staff, she says. “If one of our kids were sick, he would be right there asking if they were all right,” Wolf says. “He knew all of our kid’s names.”
Remaining at TUC until it closed down in 2001, Elsasser says he had mixed feelings about the loss of old TUC. “There were certainly a lot of good memories from the old TUC, but it did need renovation,” he says. “I think MainStreet is great.”
Elsasser’s new office in Dabney Hall is right down the hallway from where his freshman dorm room used to sit, which is now a lobby. “I guess you could say I’ve gone full circle,” he says. “There have been lots of people and lots of activities and the majority of them have been very, very rewarding. There are many fine people who work and study at the university.”
Elsasser says he looks forward to seeing friends he has made at his farewell celebration. “I look at it as an opportunity to see some folks I have worked with over the years,” he says. “I have been blessed with a dedicated staff for many years in the Tangeman Center. It’s a pretty sentimental time.”
For more information about the event contact Kathleen Armontrout, UC administrative support specialist, at 513-556-2442.