Res Hall Alums Celebrate 40 Years of Tailgating

For one weekend a year, Serota, Space, Boston, Duper, Wick and Mighty Manfred are just guys grilling food and watching football. After spending the other 360 days as successful CEOs, doctors or financial gurus, they unwind for a long weekend in West Lafayette, just like they used to as 20-somethings kicking back cold ones in the shadow of Ross-Ade Stadium.

It’s now a 40-year-old tradition, depending on whom you ask. Officially this group of former res hall counselors and residents first tailgated together as a graduation celebration for the older guys in 1976, but there is an account that the year before, the group of counselors found 12 cases of a certain beverage in the hall and confiscated it from their residents.

“Nobody would claim responsibility for it, so we took the cases and disposed of it through ‘official channels.’ That was our first tailgate party,” said Randy “Space” Patterson, who has made a career as a financial consultant turning around businesses and currently lives in the John Hancock Tower in Chicago.

Regardless of how it started, the impressive part about this tailgate is that it has kept going. The core guys have come back to Purdue every single year since, for four decades.

Scott Serota
Scott Serota, right, and his son tailgating at last year's Purdue-Michigan State game.

“It is more than a simple reunion, more than a simple party, more than a football game,” said “Boston” Don Larnard, an electrical engineering Ph.D. who lives in New Hampshire but lost most of his trademark accent while living in the Midwest. “We have all been successful in our own areas and have moved on to other areas of the country, but that reunion weekend, we all once again gain back our nicknames, drink beers with each other, and continually tell the same stories – in fact, several years ago, the wives even stopped coming, not able to hear the same stories yet another time.”

Patterson and Larnard were counselors in Cary Quad, and have an interesting story about their first interaction with Scott Serota, the once-Cary Club president who is now national president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield out of Chicago.

“There was a young man on Patterson’s floor who was kind of a derelict,” Larnard said. “He came out of his dorm one day with a knife and came at Randy. It turned out a couple doors down, Scott Serota was coming out of his room – this was our introduction to Scott – Scott saw this guy with a knife, came down and picked him up and knocked away the knife and threw him through these swinging double doors. The guy ended up getting taken out of school.”

Larnard said Craig “Wick” Wicker, now a vice president for a multinational technology corporation from Orlando, was with him when he talked a student out of jumping from a fourth floor window in Cary.

“We have a lot of shared experiences,” Larnard said.

The others, Jim “Mighty Manfred,” now a pharmacist in Nashville and Gary “Duper” Dupre, a physician at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, round out a group that has seen a lot change at Ross Ade in 40 years.

Larnard used to subscribe to The Exponent for years to keep up with Purdue athletics, news he can now easily find online. Patterson is working on getting satellite TV for next year’s tailgate, the next big addition after the battery-powered margarita machine they recently added to the mix.

The guys used to gather at the now-defunct The Pub every tailgate weekend after a round of golf, but now they head across the river to Walt’s Other Pub. Early on they all came back for the game with the best opponent. Now it’s the week with the best weather. But as much as things change, some things are still the game.

“We all get together and it’s like we’re back in college again,” Patterson said.

Tailgate Family
The core group of tailgaters is joined every year by various family members and familiar faces passing by.

A lot of people have passed through the tailgate over the years, from wives and kids to professors and classmates. Some year’s it’s up to 25 people under their two tents. Wicker has been bringing his daughter Kayli long enough that she paints her face black and gold even though she didn’t go to Purdue. Helping her standing in the group, the second-generation tailgater is rumored to be the best golfer in the group too.

Generations of fathers and daughters, classmates and teachers, are brought together once a year by friendships forged in Purdue’s residence halls.

“My residential experience was quite fabulous. That’s where I learned a lot of my life long skills of leadership, problem resolution, getting along with people, and commitment to diversity,” Patterson said.

All the guys have moved on to successful careers all across the country, but one bond keeps them together.

“Did being counselors bring us closer together? I think it did. I don’t think you can question that,” Larnard said. “We did a lot of stuff together, and we do a lot of stuff together now outside of the university. We’re all pretty close.” 

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Elizabeth Hartley, Tammy Loew, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Elizabeth Hartley | Inquiries Contact: studentlifemarketing@purdue.edu