Everyday huskies

The Class of 1958: Setting the standard for involvement with the UW

They were on the precipice of greatness with one major obstacle in their way.

At the start of 1958, the UW men’s crew team was in a tough a spot. The team was banned from competing for the national championship due to NCAA sanctions — brought on by football recruiting violations, not through any fault of their own. Led by legendary coach Al Ulbrickson, the team had dominated Pacific Coast rowing the year before. They searched for meaningful competition and were invited to the Henley Regatta in England.


UWAA Executive Director Paul Rucker with members of the 1958 crew team at the Class of 1958 60-Year Reunion.

There was still the question about how to get them there. Enter the Class of 1958.

“It was the first fund drive the UW ever had on campus that was any substantial amount,” said Artie Buerk, ’58, who co-chaired the “On to Henley” fundraising campaign. “We went downtown and sold buttons for $1 apiece, and we raised $18,000.”

With the money raised through the campaign, the crew team traveled to London and raced against teams from around the world. After they lost to the Soviet team, the Soviet Union invited them to Moscow, thinking it would be an easy win. The UW crew team went on to make history as the first American sports team in the Soviet Union, where they won all three of their races.

“Those are memories of something you did for the first time — a learning curve,” Buerk said of his first encounter with fundraising. “Those are experiences you never forget.”

A legacy of giving

It wasn’t the last time that the Class of 1958 would come together to support something they believe in. When they met for their 25-Year Reunion in 1983, they created the Class of 1958 President’s Endowment. The fund is now the largest fund of any undergraduate class and has helped many students get an education.

It also wasn’t the last time Buerk would raise money for a good cause. In 1968, he was hired as the UW’s first Development Director. He went on to become a successful businessman and, with his wife Sue, founded the UW’s Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

Buerk counts among his classmates other figures known for service to their community. Booth Gardner was ASUW vice president before serving as the governor of Washington from 1985 and 1993. Gerry Alexander was the longest running Washington State Supreme Court Justice in state history.

Buerk attributes his own success and that of his classmates to their involvement on campus, where he says he learned more outside of class than in the lecture hall. Buerk was the manager of the football and basketball teams. He trained with the Naval ROTC and was a leader on campus.

Through these experiences he learned how to “run something,” mastered the art of winning and losing, and gained skills he never could’ve gotten if he’d just stuck to class. And he built a network, which became the foundation for his fundraising work.


Choo Nisbet and Artie Buerk

In September, the Class of 1958 gathered together for their 60-Year Reunion. Everybody who came, including members of the storied crew team, was active on campus. Of the 52 attendees, 39 are UWAA members, and 31 of them are UWAA life members. They have a connection and a shared history, formed through time spent cheering for the team, working in student government and serving in mysteriously named clubs like Oval Club, Purple Shield and Fir Tree. This bond to the UW and cohesion as a class explain how they’ve been able to come together to support the university and help Husky students.

“Your class has set the standard for involvement, both with this great university and with your loyalty and friendship with each other,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in a taped message shown at the reunion.

“We’re gearing up for a new academic year and welcoming the largest class ever to your university. Your incredible legacy lights the way for these bright futures.”

Buerk is optimistic about students on campus today. Ninety percent of students live a mile or two from campus, he says, so they’ll be close to campus like he and his classmates were. When he was a student, he had to find ways to get involved. In the business school alone, there are opportunities ranging from sales competitions to the chance to start your own business. Since the time she was Provost, President Cauce has focused on building leadership skills, starting in students’ first year of school.

“Success on campus leads to success in life…” Buerk said. “I wouldn’t trade my experience at the UW for love or money.”

Around the world, UWAA members are making an impact. Read more stories about the Everyday Huskies that make up our community.