PIKE takes lead on CATwalk
Legendary UA hoops coach Lute Olson initiated to fraternity
(Left to Right): Rene Monteverde, William Holmes UA student regent on Arizona Board of Regents, Lute Olson, and Chris Nagata past ASUA student body president.
After Bobbi Olson passed away from ovarian cancer on Jan. 1, 2001, representatives from Greek Life walked into her husband’s office with a plan.
“They said they’d like to do something in Bobbi’s memory,” said Lute Olson, former UA head basketball coach, during a phone interview on Sunday. “They thought that a walk would be a great way to do it.”
That plan evolved into CATwalk, a walk developed to raise money for the Bobbi Olson Fund for women’s cancer research, education and prevention at the UA Cancer Center.
With Greek Life running the operations, CATwalk raised more than $500,000 over the course of 11 years. But after Greek Life chose to cut ties with the project and take on a different one this year, the event was in danger of extinction — until Saturday.
Thanks to Pi Kappa Alpha and its 205-man Gamma Delta chapter, CATwalk has new life.
With Olson and 104 Arizona PIKE undergraduates and alumni members on hand at the PIKE University Regional Leadership Summit on Saturday in Irvine, Calif., the fraternity announced it had taken over total operations of CATwalk.
“When Greek Life decided that they were going to take away CATwalk, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s a great opportunity for us,’” said Charles Eisner, president of Pi Kappa Alpha. “It’s a great opportunity to better the community and keep this (CATwalk) alive.”
Olson spoke at the summit for 30 minutes. He said he took so many pictures with fraternity members that his “eyes are still blurry.” But that wasn’t all Olson did to show his gratitude. On Saturday evening at the Irvine Hilton, he was ritualistically initiated as an official Pi Kappa Alpha alumnus member.
“They asked me if I would like to be an honorary PIKE and I said I had never been involved in a fraternity, but the least I can do is accept the honorary membership,” said Olson, who missed his first Arizona basketball home game since his retirement to attend the event. “It was really a lot of fun.”
Olson joined the ranks of more than 250,000 members throughout the world and “exemplifies all aspects of what Pi Kappa Alpha believes is “The True Pike’,” according to a press release.
“He was very, very excited,” Eisner said. “It was kind of, ‘Holy crap, this guy is excited to be a part of our organization.’ He had a big smile on his face the whole time. He took it so genuinely. It was refreshing.”
While both Olson and Dr. David Alberts, director of the UA Cancer Center and Bobbi Olson’s former physician, spoke highly of the job UA Greek Life did with CATwalk, PIKE has aspirations to take it to a new level.
Eisner said the fraternity plans on appealing to more than just greek students as well as members of the Tucson community, which Alberts said he thinks could double or triple the walk’s participation rate.
The UA Cancer Center is creating the new Lute Olson PIKE Fund with proceeds benefiting local cancer research. CATwalk will be scheduled for sometime between Nov. 4 and Dec. 1. PIKE now has the greatest coach in University of Arizona history in its family, and Olson has his creation up and running with as bright of a future as ever.
“His (Olson’s) heart and soul is behind all this,” Alberts said. “He loves this. It was his creation. I think that there’s new energy and I think the PIKEs are going to do a great job and it warms my heart that coach Olson is still involved in this, and so is his family.”