Fields of Dreams

'I can't wait'

Former quarterback Pete McHugh relives his football days and plans to root for the new Bruin team in 2013

by Lynn Otto

Choosing a favorite football moment is easy for Peter (Pete) McHugh (G67):

Pete McHugh during a preseason game in 1965

McHugh breaks through the line of scrimmage and prepares to stiff-arm his opponent from Concordia during a preseason game in 1965.

“Homecoming 1966,” the former George Fox College quarterback says. “It was a great day by Oregon standards because it wasn’t raining, and it was our first game in the newly constructed football stadium, where the track is today. We were playing the Seattle Cavaliers, a semipro team that played a lot of small colleges in the Northwest. Fortunately, I played a pretty good game. Bruce Ankeny, a blue-chip frosh from Idaho, made a long run for a touchdown, and I threw a touchdown pass to Mike Livingston. We won 14-0. The best part: at halftime it was the tradition for the football captain to give flowers to the homecoming queen. The football captain was me, and the queen was Debbie Stewart (n69), my soon-to-be fiancé.”

The former captain and homecoming queen have been married 42 years and have kept close ties with their alma mater. They have two children, Matt (n92) and Brittany (G96), and a son-in-law, Jason Gardner (G97, MBA05), a former Bruin soccer player, and three granddaughters.

Recruited in 1963, McHugh lettered in football all four years and played basketball and competed in track.

Long retired from his quarterbacking days, McHugh now looks forward to being a Bruins football fan. “I can’t wait,” he says about the university’s plans to reinstate its football program in 2013. “I think there will be a lot of old timers in the stands, cheering for the Quakers — oops, I mean the Bruins — and wearing the old gold and navy blue colors.”

Playing football at a Christian college had “a huge and positive impact” on his life, says McHugh. He found a mentor and role model in head coach Earl Craven, who had played football at George Fox when it was called Pacific College. “He was old fashioned but knew his football,” McHugh recalls. “He was interested in me as a person as well as a player.”

McHugh says the gridiron was his character classroom. “From Coach Craven I learned the importance of being consistent, organized and level-headed even when things aren’t working out the way you’d like them to. He didn’t like losing, but it never changed the way he or his assistants treated us – always with respect, never belittled, even with a 10-game losing streak on the line. We learned to bounce back and stick with it.”

Those lessons served McHugh well. He became a role model to both teachers and students during his career as a school administrator, first in Beavercreek, Ore., and then in the Scappoose School District, northwest of Portland. He was named Columbia County Educator of the Year in 1984 and Northwest Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year in 1989. In 2001, the St. Helens-Scappoose Chamber of Commerce recognized him as the South County Citizen of the Year.

“So often people influence others even when they don’t realize it,” says McHugh. “I think that was also the case with Earl Craven. His influence was by example. He showed confidence in me even when I didn’t have much confidence in myself. He was fair. He was diligent. It was football, but it was also preparation for life. I’m glad I learned these lessons within a Christian context — if you’re a believer, every day is game day.”