Opinion Columns & Blogs

30 years ago, I was a Fresno State cheerleader. Now, homecoming reunions cheer everyone up

Fresno State alum Jeannie Liao and former Bulldogs Foundation leader Pat Ogle enjoy reconnecting as friends during Fresno State’s Homecoming football game last week.
Fresno State alum Jeannie Liao and former Bulldogs Foundation leader Pat Ogle enjoy reconnecting as friends during Fresno State’s Homecoming football game last week. Contributed to The Bee

Reunions. People either love them, despise them or pay no attention to them. A reunion by definition is the act or process of being brought together again as a unified whole; and an instance of two or more people coming together again after a period of separation.

Fresno State’s last football game was homecoming; traditionally it is a time for players, band members and alumni to get together. And for the first time in 30 years, cheerleaders reunited. As an active member of our community, it was wonderful to return to Bulldog Stadium and relive the ’80s and the years of the Red Wave.

Time capsule back to 1985. There were many key people who impacted where we are today. Football Coach Jim Sweeney was bigger than life; the football stadium is named for him and honors his legacy.

Jeff Tedford finished up leading the team as a player. He now leads the team as head coach.

Kevin Sweeney was our quarterback. A few years ago, he was honored as a Top Dog recipient.

Dr. Harold Haak was our university president. He is deeply missed, as the Haaks and my family were dear friends. My father, Samuel Yu Liao, was a professor of electrical engineering during his tenure.

Longtime Bulldog supporter Harry Gaykian, along with many others, were influential in the conception and construction of Bulldog stadium. He has been loyal to Fresno State for over 50 years and continues to be a driving force in our community.

Pat Ogle was president of our Bulldog Foundation. His influence and presence continues as a supporter of the university.

These are just a few people whose influence has sustained over 30 years. For most, it has been a lifetime of dedication and commitment to making this community a better place. These are not people who dropped in for a few years and left during the hard years.

Consistent loyalty. These are people who believe in Fresno State throughout their lifetimes. This longevity speaks to the integrity and dedication of each individual. It is phenomenal. Impressive. And I thank them. The Valley is filled with good people. People who care. Make it happen, people.

When you walk around the stadium before the game, the sense of community is palpable. Over the past 30 years, there have been some ups and downs but now is the time to get back to old-school Bulldog spirit.

As my daughter and I walked around before the game, I tried to explain what it was like in the ’80s. The stadium was filled with the community, everyone young and old wearing red and the loud roar of the crowd when the entire stadium would do the wave. The energy was electric.

Tedford knows what it was like then and he has created positive momentum to establish that same energy and build a culture of success for the team and our community.

Thirty years ago, I used to see Pat Ogle frequently. He was one of my mentors and a source of consistent encouragement. Time got away from us, that happens to all of us. It had been many years since we last connected. But this homecoming reunion is what did it. We connected.

. He told me of his children and crew of grandchildren. I updated him on my parents’ passing, my family and five children and my writing. He said he has kept up on my life and was constantly supporting me.

I had no idea. This touched my heart; everyone needs this type of support. When we saw each other again, my heart felt at home.

Reuniting after many years apart is a beautiful thing. It may be at a Fresno State football game, a baseball diamond or any place. The bottom line is: Life is moving along at lightning speed. Now is a good time to reconnect with someone who matters to you.

Make time. Find them. Hunt them down.

Reunite. Create your own reunion. Your heart will thank you for it.

Jeannie Liao received a full scholarship during her two years as a cheerleader at Fresno State (1985-1987) She went on to cheer with the NFL and performed at two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers (1987-1990). She is a mother, educator and writer. Connect with her at jliaogleason@gmail.com.

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