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Gentleman Flyer Taxis In - Clete Oberst '52
Gentleman Flyer Taxis In - Clete Oberst '52
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile Gentleman Flyer Taxis In - Clete Oberst '52

FOREWORD by Jeff Oberst "88flyer"

Today we remember and honor a Flyer great from the class of ‘52, Cletus (Clete) Edward Oberst. Clete passed away peacefully on Sunday, September 10, 2017, at his home in Centerville, OH, in the presence of his loving wife and family. He was a longtime member and quiet but loyal lurker of our UDPride community under the name "CEO52".

Clete was born in Owensboro, Kentucky on March 7th, 1930. Upon graduation from St Joseph’s in 1948, he took his “A” game, with his visionary jump shot, and hitchhiked to Dayton. He enrolled at the University of Dayton and earned a scholarship after walk-on tryouts. By the time he graduated in 1952, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he had traveled to Madison Square Garden twice under Coach Tom Blackburn, to compete in the National Invitation Tournament championship game.

Clete’s athletic prowess was foreshadowed by his uncle, Eugene Oberst, who won a bronze medal for javelin in the 1924 Olympics. Eugene was also one of Notre Dame's "Seven Mules," the offensive linemen who blocked for the team's legendary Four Horsemen in the 1920s.The trend continued with Clete and his children. The Oberst family, starting with Clete, '52, Jeff, '88, and David, '90, are the only family in UD sports history with 3 varsity letterman in 3 different sports; basketball, baseball & football, respectively. To cap his formal athletic career, Clete also won a medal for free throw shooting in the Ohio Senior Olympics (1992-1993).

After graduation, Clete served his country honorably as a First Lieutenant in the US Army. He then worked for two other Catholic Universities, and in 1975 Clete returned to his alma mater. At UD, Clete served as Director of Development & Planned Giving from 1975 until his retirement in 1992. During those years, he founded both “The President’s Club” and the “John Stuart Society”, which are avenues where UD alumni, parents and friends express extraordinary generosity through their gifting. Clete continued to serve UD after his retirement as a great ambassador. He and his wife Dee could also be seen cheering at the Arena for just about every UD home game for 25 years.

Off the court, Clete was remembered for how he conducted himself. In a UD Quarterly article from 1991, his classmate Mark Smith ’52 was quoted saying; “When we were at UD, Clete was kind of a symbol. It would probably be boring to kids today, but you’d talk about the gentlemanly thing to do… the proper way of conducting yourself on a date. The terminology of the whole group that we used to run around with would always be ‘Do it Clete’s way’ or ‘Be a Clete Oberst.’ We just assumed because of his actions and the way he conducted himself that what Clete did was the proper way of doing it… To this day, he’s still the same.”

Clete was preceded in death in 1990 by his first wife, Betty. He is survived by his loving wife of 25 years, Dee, seven children, one stepson, 24 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Five of Clete’s children are UD graduates.

If you are interested in helping Clete continue to support our beloved Dayton Flyers, there is a memorial scholarship at UD, which supports student athletes; “Cletus E., and Betty A. Oberst Family Scholarship”. Donations can be made to “University of Dayton” with reference to the scholarship as listed above.

The entire UD family has benefited through Clete’s contributions. As a student, athlete, alumni, employee, fan, ambassador and much more, he was loved by so many, and will be deeply missed in the days and years to come.

For more on the story of Clete and his UD connections, a pair of articles written by UDPride member “redbengal” based on interviews with Clete in 2003, and Deborah McCarty Smith from UD's Dimensions in the summer of 1991, are reposted here for your reading enjoyment.

By UDPride Member "redbengal"

They say that history has a way of repeating itself.

The general consensus is that the University of Dayton men’s basketball team is on the verge of something great. Many believe that Brian Gregory is ready to build on the tremendous work Oliver Purnell did in resurrecting the UD program from the laughingstock of college basketball to a perennial Atlantic-10 power and regular NCAA Tournament competitor. The Flyers are about to take off. Which can lead a fan to wonder… what must it have been like when the Flyers took off for the first time some 50 years ago?

Clete Oberst knows. As basketball season dawned in 1948 and Tom Blackburn was in his second season at the helm of a UD program that had begun to turn a corner, Clete was a bright-eyed freshman on campus. Having heard that UD was a good place to go to school and that they had a promising basketball program, he had hitchhiked from Owensboro, KY with friend Dave Ford and enrolled at Dayton. “At that time it was a 14-hour bus ride… now a 4 1/2-hour drive,” says Oberst. One day Clete saw what he was looking for: a sign announcing freshman basketball tryouts. Full of confidence, and unaware that some 200 young men had already worked out that fall for Coach Blackburn, Oberst attended tryouts and played his way into a spot on the freshman team (At the time, frosh were not eligible for varsity play.).

The men on that 1948-49 freshman team would later give Dayton its first national recognition and begin a remarkable record of more wins than any other college program over the next two decades. Oberst made the most of his situation as he became a starter on a freshman team which boasted the likes of Pete Boyle, Chuck Grigsby, Don Meineke, and Junior Norris. That talented group went on to win the Ohio AAU tournament and to compete in the National AAU tourney in Oklahoma City.

As the freshman team was collecting wins that season, Blackburn’s varsity squad was turning in the first winning season (16-14) for UD since the end of World War II. The future was looking bright for the Flyers. The future was looking bright for Clete Oberst.

But Oberst was a player ahead of his time. His overhand free throws and one-handed jump shots did not sit well with Coach Blackburn. Says Oberst: “I was probably UD’s first jump shooter and one-handed free throw shooter. But Blackburn did not like either and told me not to shoot them. It was his way or the highway. (It was) like playing tennis against a good player and having to serve underhanded.” Oberst’s cutting-edge style earned him a trip to Blackburn’s bench where he spent much of the next two seasons.

The Flyers would go on to post a 24-8 record in 1949-50 including a 16-0 record at home - one of only two seasons ever in which the Flyers have won every home game. Oberst even earned a start in front of his hometown fans in Owensboro when Dayton played Evansville there that season. 1950 also brought the opening of the new University of Dayton Fieldhouse. No longer would UD have to play games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum or, in at least one case, the Oakwood High School gymnasium. Oberst remembers it like this: “Watching the Fieldhouse go up was great. I used to sit at the front of the building and watch the workers throw red hot rivets that would then be placed in the steel beams. When the UD Fieldhouse opened it was, to us, like the Taj Mahal. What a luxury to walk to practice and games.”

The 1950-51 season did not get off to a promising start. The Flyers were upset by Central Missouri State 50-47 on their new home floor. After six games, UD’s record stood at 3-3. But a 12-game win streak began and the University of Dayton had taken off and were soaring to new heights. Clete, meanwhile, had become the best sub, the best practice player, the best supporter he could be. Did he think about transferring? Absolutely. He always knew he had the talent to compete with the best.

A native son of Owensboro and son of a grocery store owner, Clete fashioned quite a high school career for himself. He was honorable mention all-state his final two years in high school. As a junior, he led his St. Joseph’s team to victory against future NBA Hall-of-Famer Cliff Hagan’s Owensboro High team. The win snapped Owensboro’s 20-game win streak as Oberst scored 21 points to Hagan’s mere six.

He knew he could have played – and started – somewhere else. But Clete Oberst had other important things to accomplish in school. And in life. Unlike many players today, he realized that he had a future beyond basketball. He also knew that, in the spring of ’51, this bunch of Dayton Flyers was on the cusp of something special. After a 76-73 loss to Youngstown State, UD ran off nine straight wins and was selected to play for the first time in the National Invitation Tournament. At that time, you may recall, the NIT was a much more prestigious tournament than was the NCAA tournament. Clete and the Flyers headed to Madison Square Garden along with 15 other teams. Wins over Lawrence Tech, Arizona, and St. John’s (in a virtual home game for the Redmen that Dayton won in overtime) landed UD in the Championship game against BYU. But Roland Minson and BYU proved to be too much for the Flyers as they fell 62-43.

Oberst played in that Championship game in ’51. He had a taste of what it was like to compete against the best that college basketball had to offer on the sport’s grandest stage. And he still had one season of eligibility remaining. But the bends in the road of life can seldom be seen coming.

As Tom Blackburn was mulling over his roster before the 1951-52 season, he was excited at the prospect of having freshman recruits eligible for the first time. He called Oberst into his office. “My last year, they were bringing in guys like John Horan, Jack Sallee, Chris Harris, and Don Donoher,” Oberst recalls. “Coach said, ‘I need another spot. I also need a manager.’ I knew what the situation was, and I said, ‘Tom, does the manager make all the trips and have a scholarship?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘Where are the keys?’” Clete was rewarded by being part of a Dayton team that went 28-5 and became the only Flyer team to compete in both the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same postseason.

So what did the future hold in store for Clete Oberst beyond basketball? He wed his high school sweetheart Betty Hayden in a marriage that produced seven children. He served his country in both the Korean War and Berlin Crisis. As Director of Development at three different universities including the University of Dayton he helped raise a total of approximately $100 million for education. He also spent twelve years as Director of Planned Giving at UD and started the first UD President’s Club. He is enjoying retired life with his second wife Dee (Betty passed away in 1990) and remains a proud member of the Flyer Faithful.

The Oberst tradition at UD that was started by Clete was carried on proudly by the youngest five of his and Betty’s seven children. Tom (class of ’80), Gail (’81), Matt (’86), Jeff (’88), and Dave (’90) all graduated from Dayton. Jeff was an outstanding UD baseball player while Dave was an All-American for Mike Kelly’s football Flyers. In addition, the family established an endowed athletic scholarship – the Cletus E. and Betty A. Oberst Family Scholarship – which is designated for UD athletics and is to be used as the athletic department determines. It is currently being used as an annual scholarship for a baseball player.

Is history about to repeat itself at the University of Dayton? Are we seeing a return to the glory days of the 50s and 60s? Is this current crop of Flyers on the verge of something special? Perhaps so. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a Clete Oberst in the middle of it all.

By Deborah McCarty Smith
UD's Dimensions, Vol 9. No. 4, Summer 1991
Reprinted with permission

“The seeds are planted now. You don’t know when the harvest will come in,” said Clete Oberst ’52, Director of Planned Giving at the University of Dayton. “But when the time is right, people will act.”

The seeds that Oberst has planted during his UD career will someday yield a harvest worth about $60 million in gifts to the University. In the 16 years that he’s worked to advance UD’s development efforts, he’s cultivated and tended relationships with the University’s friends and benefactors. He does it without fertilizer and without force.

“People have a sense of well-being around Clete. He generates trust,” said Gerald VonderBrink, UD’s vice president and treasurer. As a salesman, “He’s not ‘get your money and gone.’ He’s just the opposite.”

“I think I’ve been able to relate well to people, to sense their needs, to be concerned about them, and to make sure they feel comfortable with what they’re doing,” said Oberst, who majored in psychology.

Oberst makes people feel comfortable with the plain vanilla kind of courtesy you’d expect from a son of Owensboro, Kentucky – handwritten thank-you notes, doors held open, and coats helped on.

I’ve always said when people come to the University, we’ve got to iron our shirts, press our slacks, and put our best foot forward,” Oberst maintains. “You never know what it’s going to lead to.”

He didn’t know what it would lead to in 1948, when he chose the University of Dayton, partly because his bishop insisted that college-bound students attend Catholic institutions, and partly because the Medley brothers recommended UD’s basketball program. In Oberst’s hometown, UD grads Tom ’31 and John ’33 Medley enjoyed a measure of fame for their football play and for their Five Brothers bourbon, made at the Medley Distillery.

Mark Smith ’52, whose father was a friend of the Medleys, remember being eager to introduce himself to Oberst. “I wanted to meet him because, being a young college freshman, I thought everyone from Owensboro made whiskey,” Smith said.

Oberst tried out for Coach Tom Blackburn, earned a spot on the team and, after his first semester, a full scholarship. He played on the 1950-51 team that won its first bid to the National Invitation Tournament in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

A self-described “jump shooter ahead of my time,” he played three years.

“My last year, they were bringing in guys like John Horan, Jack Sallee, Chris Harris, and Don Donoher. Coach said, “I need another spot. I also need a manager.’ I knew what the situation was, and I said, ‘Tom, does the manager make all the trips and have a scholarship?’ He said yeah. I said, ‘where are the keys?’

“Sure, playing was a hard thing to give up. But I wanted to be a part of the team. Instead of being on the outside looking in, I’d be in a lesser role on the inside with the rest of the guys,” Oberst said.

The team photo taken that ’51-’52 season, which returned the Flyers to the Garden for another shot at the NIT, hangs on the wall outside the UD Arena Associates Lounge. On the far left is Oberst, number 18, smiling broadly and kneeling on one knee in his manager’s uniform and street shoes.

Tom Frericks, who today serves as UD’s vice president for athletic affairs, also appears in that 40-year-old photo. Frericks, formerly vice president for university relations, hired Oberst to take charge of UD’s expanding development office. “I always respected Clete for being a high-principled person. … He’s just as Christian a person as you’d ever find,” Frericks said.

“When we were at UD, Clete was kind of a symbol, classmate Smith recalls. “It would probably be boring to kids today, but you’d talk about the gentlemanly thing to do … the proper way of conducting yourself on a date. The terminology of the whole group that we used to run around with would always be ‘Do it Clete’s way’ or ‘Be a Clete Oberst.’ We just assumed because of his actions and the way he always conducted himself that what Clete did was the proper way of doing it. … To this day, he’s still the same.”

Oberst’s way was to take on plenty of responsibility and tackle life head on. He served as senior class vice president, married hometown girl, Betty Hayden, in February, graduated in June, and reported for military service in July. By Thanksgiving, he was a new father and an Army officer enrolled in the Psychological Warfare School at Fort Bragg, NC. The intervening years brought six more children and two tours of duty during the Korean conflict (1952-54) and the Berlin crisis (1961-62).

Although Oberst knows the ins and outs of tactical and strategic psychological warfare designed to “soften up the enemy, lower morale, and lessen their effectiveness,” those are techniques he uses to win friends and funds for the University. You may feel his arm around your shoulder, but never his hand in your pocket.

“I’ve gotten many, many gifts without asking,” Oberst admits, “just because people were comfortable with the situation and with the person and the institution they’re dealing with.”

One reason that Smith, now vice president of Flexicore Systems, joined UD’s President’s Club for donors of $10,000 or more was “because Clete is who he is – a true gentleman and a friend.”

The University has benefitted enormously from such friendships. Otto Zolg ’55, arguably UD’s most faithful Flyer fan, left $523,000 to the University for scholarships, including $50,000 for athletic scholarships. “Otto, God bless him, he’s deceased now. He would come to the office and tell me where his safety deposit boxes were and what his approximate worth was and would say, ‘It’s there, the will’s made out,’” Oberst said, noting that he worked with Zolg and his attorney to plan the bequest.

Thelma S. Hein, who established a $100,000 gift annuity at UD, thinks the annuity program is “probably one of the smartest decisions for an ‘old lady’ to make.” In a letter to Oberst, Mrs. Hein said, “Thanks to all of you there at the University for making it possible for me to help accomplish my financial needs as I grow older. I’m happy and grateful to be financially able to be one of the University’s little helpers.”

Inn helping folks plan gifts to the University, Oberst believes, “If you try to take care of their interests and you’re sincere about it, good things happen for both sides.”

“Clete has worked with the University on many major gifts, particularly ones that were complicated. He has a lot of patience in dealing with all the details – major and trivial,” said VonderBrink, UD’s treasurer.

The Mumma Radio Laboratory, the electrical engineering department’s new satellite communication facility, was made possible through a gift from Retha Mumma in memory of her husband, Marvin A. Mumma, a friend of the University who had a lifelong love of electronics. That gift, which the family attorney facilitated with Oberst’s help, began with a letter of recommendation Brother Louis Rose, S.M., an electrical engineering professor and a ham radio operator, had written for Mumma years before.

In Roesch Library, a $500,000 pledge from Bob Werner ’36 and his wife, Laila, has provided more than 12,000 new books. Each month, UD librarians select the titles, the supplier ships the books, and Werner pays the bill.

“The guy that really deserves all the credit in this whole thing is Clete Oberst,” said Werner, who formerly owned a chain of 125 bookstores in the South and around the country. “He happened to be a person that we took a liking to. He came down here a few years ago. He was on a fund-raiser, making connections with old alumni. He just happened to call me and came into my office and got acquainted with me. That’s what probably started our gift giving.”

It didn’t hurt that Oberst visited a couple of Werner’s bookstores before he went to see him. “I like to know the people who are making large gifts to the University … and whatever business someone is in, I take an interest in it also,” he said. Werner recalled another visit when “Clete brought his wife down and they stayed up in our cabin in the mountains. They were very nice people. When you like somebody, you unconsciously react in a way that adds up in their favor.”

Everybody liked Betty Oberst.

Longtime friend and President’s Club member Dave Pfeiffer ’52, who doubled with the Obersts for the senior prom, remembers Betty “as the sweetest, most wonderful person and mother who loved to tell a good joke.” She was “a true typical Southern belle, a true delight,” said Smith, recalling meeting at a picnic 40 years ago when he and Oberst had a weekend pass from ROTC camp.

A tireless hostess who frequently entertained donors and benefactors, she attended homecomings, reunions, dinners, and countless other University functions with her husband, “so we could spend more time together,” Oberst said.

When Betty died last year, a lot of the fun went out of fund raising.

Oberst is phasing into a retirement planned for March 1992 and is in the process of turning over the care and tending of the more than 300 gifts on the University’s books – and the relationships they represent – to his successor, Tim Wabler.

Tennis, fishing, and reading – Thomas Merton, Matthew Fox, and other works in philosophy and spirituality – are among Oberst’s plans for retirement.

“I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I’m pretty eclectic in my interests,” he said. “I like to learn and see what other people think about things. Maybe I’ll take a few courses.”

Although gardening is one of Oberst’s interests, “I’m not anticipating doing too much ‘flowering,’” he said, noting that his front yard is planted with evergreens, his backyard with zinnias and marigolds. “I’ve got that pretty well settled.”

His garden is in order. The harvest will come in its season.

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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By jack72 on 09-20-2017, 04:22 PM
Clete sounds like a great Flyer and solid human being. He had a positive effect on many people he never even knew, which is the definition of a great person.
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By 88flyer on 09-20-2017, 07:12 PM
Originally Posted by jack72 View Post
Clete sounds like a great Flyer and solid human being. He had a positive effect on many people he never even knew, which is the definition of a great person.
Thanks for your thoughts... Peace.
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