WAXING NOSTALGIC WITH JACKSON MUECKE
For the better part of two decades as both a student and administrator, Jackson Muecke ’69 was Alcalá Park’s unquestioned crown prince of conviviality; a freewheeling force-of-nature committed to connecting his fellow Toreros with the benefits of participating in the university’s then-fledgling campus recreation program. And if ever there was a natural-born recreator, it was Muecke. Many of his madcap escapades have become the stuff of USD legend — but there was always a method to the mayhem. Muecke was, is and always will be an ambassador of Torero spirit, and USD Magazine recently had the chance to gather his recollections (at least the ones fit for print) on what a long, strange trip it’s been.
It was love at first slide
“It was 1965, and I was sitting in class at BrophyCollege Preparatory in Phoenix. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker that a recruiter named Father Eagan was on campus to show slides about the San Diego College for Men, and whoever wanted to get out of class next period to see those, could. My next class was algebra and I’m not a math guy, so I was outta there. Then I saw those slides of USD, the palm trees, the sunshine, and you could walk out on your deck from your room and see the Pacific Ocean. That was it. I was in.”
All sports and all play make Jack a fun guy
“I love sports. Always have. Always will. I played baseball for John Cunningham when I first arrived at USD, and ended up playing nose tackle for the football team my last three years there. This was so long ago that you could be a nose tackle and weigh 235 pounds. I think that’s what receivers weigh these days. I also announced football, baseball and basketball games while I was director of campus recreation. I definitely had a full plate, but I loved it.”
If the job fits, take it
After graduation, Muecke began to trudge the well-worn path of the recent college graduate struggling to find a niche in the working world. As it turned out, the road was circular: “I came back to USD after spending some time in New Mexico trying to figure out if I was going to settle down with the girl I was dating at the time. It didn’t work out, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened. I got the job as campus recreation director, and the rest is history.”
Best thing about being campus recreation director?
“I got to drive around in my ’59 Cadillac with a bull horn, usually around 11:30 at night, yelling at all the coeds to close their books and come out and join me for some recreational fun, which, at that time, meant piling in a van and heading down to Pat and Mike’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Rink in Chula Vista. It started out slow, but got really popular pretty quickly. In fact, I got a call from Pat and Mike’s saying they couldn’t accommodate our numbers anymore.”
Worst thing about being campus recreation director?
“Trying to get everyone back to campus in one piece after a night out at Pat and Mike’s. We’d get back around 3 a.m., and everybody was pretty … well … you know. That certainly didn’t help class attendance the next morning.”
Do these flippers make my feet look big?
Getting students to lead active lifestyles was priority one for Muecke, and he wasn’t afraid to try — or wear — anything to make that happen. “We had scuba classes in the pool, and I wanted to get people to sign up. We didn’t get a great turnout at first, like, basically zero, so I decided to dress up in scuba gear one day (mask, snorkel, tanks, fins, the whole deal), and walk into the cafeteria. I walked through the line, carrying a sign, and people started to sign up. Sometimes you’ve got to go the extra mile to accomplish your goals.”
People pleaser extraordinaire
In just a few short years, Muecke grew the USD recreation program from four or five sports to more than 30. Clearly he had a knack for bringing people together, and that talent did not go unnoticed by the other big man on campus, then-President Author Hughes. “I had just gotten married, and he wanted to see me at my earliest convenience. I immediately thought I was in trouble, because, well, Art really only called me when I was in trouble. But he congratulated me on my marriage and offered me the position of director of athletic fund development, which I happily accepted. Shortly thereafter, I became the alumni relations director as well. I thought more responsibility would mean more opportunity, but it actually meant I had to travel all the time. I was grateful, but I bit off way more than I could chew.”
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
While Muecke’s made a host of meaningful contributions to his beloved alma mater, none have been as enduringly impactful as the USD Sports Banquet, which he started back in 1979 and has since become the principal (and most successful) fundraising event for the USD Athletics program. “I never thought the sports banquet would become what it has. We made $13,000 the first year, and we were thrilled to death. Now it makes between $150,000-$200,000 a year. I’m really proud of what it’s become, and a lot of good people have helped build it through consistent support. I missed one for my daughter’s wedding, but I still bought a ticket. So, technically, I haven’t missed any!”
All work and no play? No way!
Surprise! Muecke’s advice to future Toreros involves finding the right balance between being studious and social: “I’d tell them to work hard and play hard. It’s as simple as that. You can’t focus so much on academics that you don’t enjoy at least some component of the social experience at USD. If you do, you’re really missing out.” — Mike Sauer