Webster’s Super Fan

Webster University professor Larry Furrer (center) talks with women’s basketball sophomore guard Kaliann Rikard (left) and junior guard Jamie Gaal after the Gorloks’ 69-61 win over Greenville College on Feb. 15 at Grant Gymnasium. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS.

Larry Furrer sat in the upper level of the bleachers at Grant Gymnasium during the Webster University women’s basketball game on Feb. 21. Furrer is commonly found in that spot at basketball games.

Furrer has taught at Webster for 20 years. During that time, he estimates he has attended 600 Webster athletic events — most of them after 2001.

Prior to 2001, Furrer had attended the occasional Webster athletic contest. But during the 2001 season, Furrer started regularly attending women’s basketball games.

“When I was in high school and college, women hardly played sports,” Furrer said. “If they did, they were treated like little china dolls. In women’s basketball, they could dribble three times and then they had to pass.

“They were limited in what they could do. I’m just amazed at how far women athletics have come over the years. They go out there and they play hard and they play rough. I grew up not thinking women could do that and it just marvels me.”

Furrer started regularly attending men’s basketball games not too long after attending the women’s games.

Although Furrer started with basketball games, he now attends other Webster sporting events as well.

“At this point, you’re as apt to see him at a soccer game as you are at a softball game,” Director of Athletics Tom Hart said. “And of course, he’s at all the basketball games.”

Furrer would attend basketball, soccer or volleyball games because his students played on those teams. Eventually, he started attending all the games and got to know players he didn’t have in class, like women’s basketball junior point guard Jamie Gaal.

“We know we’re not going to play in front of a million people and that doesn’t bother us,” Gaal said. “Fans who keep coming back, that makes us feel good and that makes me feel good. They’re (fans) coming consistently because of us and because they like watching us.”

Gaal said Furrer really cares.

“I call him our biggest fan,” she said.

Gaal said Furrer attends almost every game. After the games are over, several members of the team talk to Furrer about the game.

“I get a lot of credit from coaches and players as the No. 1 fan, but Rob (Hudson) is just as good as I am, goes to just as many games as I do,” Furrer said.

Furrer met Rob Hudson at a Webster basketball game in 2002. Hudson had just moved to St. Louis the previous year so his wife could attend Eden Seminary. Their son attended Webster Groves High School.

After talking at basketball games, Hudson and Furrer became friends. After a couple seasons, they started attending other Webster athletic contests together.

“It’s always nice to walk into the gym and know you’re going to see someone you’re friends with and that you share that interest with and are going to be able to have a nice conversation during the game,” Hudson said. “And there’s always the postgame chat, emails and talking about the statistics.”

Furrer remembers many games from his years of watching Webster athletics. One game that stands out in his mind is a women’s basketball game that was played in February 2011. The Gorloks played Westminster College in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship. Furrer attended the game, and Webster beat heavily favored Westminster to win the SLIAC title.

“Westminster had beaten us twice by 20 points during the season,” Furrer said. “We played them in the championship, and we beat them by 16 points. We led the whole way. We really took it to them — very exciting.”

Furrer said he was proud of that team. He was also proud of the women’s basketball team that played in the Sweet 16 in March 2002.

Furrer said the Gorloks lost the Sweet 16 game by seven points after leading the game most of the way.

“We lost that to the (University of) Wisconsin-Stevens Point, (who) eventually won the national championship two games later,” Furrer said. “But we led a good part of the way. One of the best teams I’ve ever seen that we had here.”

Another standout game for Furrer is a women’s soccer game at Washington University in November 2009. The Gorloks lost that game 2-1 in overtime.

“Gutsy performances — you’re talking about Webster University students that rise to the adversity and come up big,” Furrer said. “Two of these three (games that stand out) are losing causes. I still came out very proud of those teams.”

To attend the Sweet 16 game, Furrer rode to Wisconsin on the cheerleaders’ bus for eight hours.

“They put on this cheerleader movie — it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen,” Furrer said.

Furrer doesn’t usually travel to away games with the students. Often he and Hudson drive together. They both enjoy seeing the other schools and supporting Webster athletes away from home.

Recently, Furrer and Hudson traveled to Principia College on Feb. 7 to watch the Webster basketball teams play.

Hudson said he likes to see the competition. To him, the most exciting games are the close ones.

“They keep you focused on the game in a way that games that aren’t as close and competitive don’t,” Hudson said. “They’re nerve-racking.”

Furrer said he likes Division III athletics.

“They’re students getting an education first and playing sports,” Furrer said.

Hudson said college sports at this level are great.

“You watch these guys play because they love it,” Hudson said. “They’re energetic and they work so hard. These guys take time out of their education.”

Hart said Furrer’s presence at games is very encouraging to the student athletes. He appreciates Furrer’s interest in the students.

“Larry’s a good friend,” Hart said. “For me, it’s just another person to debrief with after games.”

Furrer worked at Monsanto for 34 years in the management department before coming to Webster.

Furrer used to teach graduate night courses, but he now teaches mostly undergraduate courses during the day. Furrer said he likes being a part of the university. He also occasionally attends plays on campus.

“I like to be supportive of the students,” Furrer said. “That’s the only reason I teach.”

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