New scholarship remembers those killed in 1970 WSU football plane crash
Rick Stephens, a survivor of the 1970 crash, rode a bike from Wichita to the crash site near Silver Plume, Colo., in 2011 to raise money for scholarships for relatives of crash victims.
How to Contribute
There are several ways you can make a gift to the Football ’70 Memorial Scholarship. For more information, contact Lynette Murphy, WSU Foundation senior director of development for the College of Health Professions and University Libraries, at (316) 978-3441 or email@example.com.
Tim Buckley remembers vividly where he was when he heard the news that a plane carrying players, coaches and fans of the Wichita State football team had crashed in the mountains of Colorado.
“I was in my car, driving to Shepler’s to buy some jeans, and I heard on the radio that one of the planes had reportedly gone down, and it was like someone dropped a brick wall on the highway in front of me,” he said. “I was just stunned. I couldn’t believe it.”
It was Oct. 2, 1970, a Friday afternoon. Thirty-one of the 40 people died on the plane headed to Logan, Utah, for a game with Utah State University. Eight players on the plane, as well as the co-pilot, survived. A second plane carrying other players, team officials and supporters landed safely in Logan.
In the 42 years since the tragedy, several friends of Wichita State have stepped up to create scholarships for the children and other family members of those who were killed and those who survived. But no one had established a general scholarship to memorialize the crash victims. Until now.
Buckley said he was moved to create the Football ’70 Memorial Scholarship after reading a story about crash survivor Rick Stephens and his efforts last year to ride his bicycle from Wichita to the crash site near Silver Plume, Colo., in part to raise money for scholarships benefitting family members of crash victims.
“When I found out there wasn’t a scholarship for the general student population, I thought we ought to have this for students who need help. And someday when they’ve accomplished something they will say, ‘I was able to get an education because some people remembered those people who were on that plane and cared about them and wanted to keep their memory alive.’ ”
Buckley, who is vice president and co-owner of the Polyplastics division of Buckley Industries, enlisted a few friends to make initial contributions to the endowed scholarship. They are John Morse, ’72, who lives in Sanibel, Fla.; Bill Moore, ’74, who lives in Wichita and is chairman of the WSU Foundation Board of Directors; and Ed Field, ’72, of Topeka. Buckley, who lives in Austin, Texas, and Morse also serve on the WSU Foundation board and Field is on the WSU Foundation’s National Advisory Council.
Buckley Industries also made a contribution, as did Steve Sutherland, a WSU friend enlisted by Dr. James Rhatigan, who was dean of students at the time of the plane crash and today serves as a consultant to the WSU Foundation and the WSU Alumni Association.
While talking with Buckley about the scholarship idea, Rhatigan said, they agreed to write to members of the graduating class of 1971 to invite them to contribute, too. If reaction is positive, they will extend the invitation to alumni who were freshmen, sophomores and juniors at the time.
The sense of community that engulfed Wichita State in the days following the tragedy is certain to resonate with many of those alumni even today, Rhatigan said.
“There were no personal agendas, only an overwhelming feeling of sadness and a willingness to be of help,” he said. “It is for that reason, perhaps, that the graduating class of that year and the years following would want to offer smaller gifts in recognition of their presence at this unique time in the university’s history.”
“This isn’t my scholarship,” he said. “It’s for everybody to remember those folks and to memorialize some people who never had a chance themselves to make an impact like this.”