Rick Stephens ’71 to bicycle more than 550 miles for WSU

His ride will honor those lives lost in the 1970 plane crash, while raising funds to ensure the 1970 Football Memorial Scholarship endures.

Rick Stephens
Rick Stephens will be biking to Colorado at the end of September to honor those lives lost in the 1970 plane crash, while raising funds to ensure the 1970 Football Memorial Scholarship endures. Stephens recently retired in 2009 from a 33-year career in education. He earned multiple degrees from WSU, including a bachelor’s in sociology in 1971, master’s in secondary education in 1986, master’s in education administration in 1996 and an educational specialist certificate in 2001.

“To say the plane crash changed my life is not enough. The grief, regret and the gratefulness — all these emotions were strong and have remained with me throughout my life. My perspective requires me to live every single day knowing what a blessing it is to be alive and have the opportunity to make it meaningful,” said Richard “Rick” Stephens ’71, former starting offensive lineman for the Shocker football team.

On October 2, 1970, Stephens’ rough exterior and humble upbringing was abruptly exposed to the life-altering effects of surviving the plane crash that ended the lives of 31 others, among them football players, coaching staff, boosters, university officials and spouses. One of only nine to survive the crash on Mount Trelease in Colorado, Stephens emerged injured both physically and emotionally.

Forty-one years later, Stephens will pay tribute to those lives lost near Silver Plume, Colo., by riding his bicycle from Wichita to the crash site. He will leave September 25 and arrive at the gates of Mount Trelease on October 2, the anniversary of the tragedy.

“My hope is to have enough energy to climb the mountain when I get there,” said Stephens.

On three separate occasions, Stephens has ridden his bicycle more than 1,000 miles on trips to Winnipeg, Manitoba, one as a fundraising effort for breast cancer research. This time his ride is much more personal. Stephens will dedicate specified miles throughout the 550-plus route to each person who lost their life on the mountain. His final miles will be dedicated to former teammate and fellow survivor, Randy Jackson ’75, who died last July from pancreatic cancer, as well as close friend and teammate, John “Mike” Knol ’72.

In return for this formidable challenge, Stephens is asking for support in ways of donations to the 1970 Football Memorial Scholarship, established to provide scholarship support for the immediate family members of victims, as well as the survivors of the crash and their families.

If you are interested in joining Rick Stephens on the memorial trek, please contact Natalie Olmsted, WSU Foundation planned giving associate, at (316) 978-6842 or natalie.olmsted@wichita.edu.

To make a donation in support of Stephens’ memorial ride honoring those who died in the crash and the 1970 Football Memorial Scholarship, go to wichita.edu/foundation to make an online donation. Mail checks to the Rick Stephens 1970 Memorial Bike Ride c/o WSU Foundation, 1845 Fairmount St.,Wichita, KS  67260-0002. For contributions by phone, or if you have any questions, please contact Olmsted.

“My own children benefited from the memorial scholarship, but more importantly, it provided scholarships for many of the children who lost family members in the crash. I want to make sure the fund is solvent for the next generations and the remembrance continues.” 

Stephens also encourages any fellow riders to join him for all or part of the trip. The WSU Foundation will be following the progress of Stephens’ trip on its Facebook page and website. You will be able to view updates and pictures, as well as post comments of encouragement on facebook.com/wsufoundation.

“I would love to have riders join me on the trip,” said Stephens. “And I especially want others to know this is not about me, but about remembering that day and the wonderful people lost. I want to make sure we never forget.”

Rick Stephens at crash site
Two years ago, Rick Stephens ’71 participated in the KPTS documentary “Black and Gold: Remembering the WSU Plane Crash,” that included a hike to the crash site with former teammates and fellow survivors, Dave Lewis and Randy Jackson.
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Wichita State University Foundation

1845 Fairmount St., Wichita, KS 67260-0002
Phone: 316-978-3040 | Fax: 316-978-3277 foundation@wichita.edu

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