Spencer or 'Spence' grew up in south central Kansas and ultimately moved to the Bay Area with a stint at Kansas State in between. As the title might suggest he has worked in the parking industry since graduation and he can always find a parking space!
Dennis Schmidt – I believe you told me you were from a small town in south central Kansas, not far from Oklahoma.
Spencer Sechler – I grew up in Anthony, Kansas. At the time I lived there, I believe there were about three thousand people. Probably about half of them were K-State fans. I know that there were quite a few from my high school that had gone there. A lot of the farmers in Anthony who had received their agricultural and agricultural economics degrees at K-State, and then came back and applied that knowledge to their farming operations.
DS – Were there many KU people living in Anthony?
SS – There were. Probably for every three in my town who chose a favorite, probably two chose K-State and one chose KU. Back in the eighties when I was attending K-State, both schools were more vocal about their basketball programs versus their football programs so it is a big change these days, as we don’t hear much from the Jayhawk fans during the football season.
DS – Did you live in town or did you live on a farm?
SS – I actually lived thirty feet outside the city limits of Anthony, Kansas on a farm. Neither my father, nor my mother was farmers, but we rented a two-story house that was on a farm. There was wheat, cattle, horses, tractors and combines that provided us a lot of entertainment as young boys growing up playing on our landlord’s farm equipment, riding his horses, herding his cattle, and making forts out of the large hay stacks.
DS – How did you hear about Kansas State and were you interested in other schools such as the University of Kansas or Wichita State?
SS – I heard of Kansas State through my uncle, Tony Duran, who you have met. He has come and visited me here many times since I have lived in San Francisco. He attended K-State back in the early seventies. What intrigued me and got my interest in Kansas State was him telling me about these wild basketball games at Ahearn Field House with Chuckie Williams and Mike Evans and how fans were throwing Frisbees across the court during the game and live chickens were being let loose. I thought, WOW, I’ve got to check this place out. I was interested in some other schools. In fact, Wichita State is only about sixty miles from Anthony. I did look there perhaps because it was so close. I was also interested in Boston University because of my academic achievements in high school. They actually offered me a scholarship to go there, but I decided to stay somewhere a little closer to home. I chose Kansas State because it was more of a college town versus Wichita State, which is a great school, but was more of an urban or commuter type of college, and the average student age was much older than I.
DS – What year did you enroll?
SS – I started in the fall semester in 1983.
DS – What was your major?
SS – I started out in the engineering college, majoring in industrial engineering, but after realizing that there were at least four semesters of calculus, physics, and other applied sciences, engineering was probably not going to be my field of study. After my first year I enrolled in the College of Business and majored in marketing. I did quite well while in the business school.
DS – I was in Manhattan this fall with my granddaughter who is interested in going there. A representative from the college she is interested in said that on average K-Staters change their majors 5-6 times.
SS – Well that makes me feel good as I only changed my major one time. It was a good change and I actually use the skills and the knowledge I gained with my major in marketing and the business school in what I do today as the director of marketing for a parking company.
DS – What was the transition like from a small town, Anthony, to University life?
SS – The transition wasn’t that tough for me because I knew so many people that were going to school there from Anthony and Harper, Kansas. My high school, Chaparral, was a unified high school between those two cities, so I knew quite a few people attending K-State when I arrived. There were a lot of other kids and young adults just like me out in the world for the very first time. I wasn’t very far away from home, so I actually went back to Anthony quite a bit that first year to visit friends and to see my two brothers who were both playing high school football. I guess the toughest thing for me to transition to college life was actually learning how to study. In high school I got excellent grades, all A’s, but never learned how to study because it was very easy for me. My grades suffered my first year I was at K-State, but then I learned how to study and how to study smart. I also learned that actually attending class helped quite a bit in trying to achieve good grades in college (laughs).
DS – You have two brothers. Did they or anyone else in your family attend K-State?
SS – Both of my brothers went to Kansas State. They started out at Hutchinson Community College and then both of them transferred to Kansas State. In fact, for two years we all lived together with another one of our friends from Anthony. There were four of us in a four-bedroom house. I can’t even remember what the rent was at the time, but comparing to what I pay in San Francisco to what I paid then is probably at least $18,000.00 a year’s difference. My two brothers, my uncle (he attended in the 1970’s) and another cousin attended K-State while we were there. It was fun to have some relatives all going to school at the same time.
DS – I was going to ask if you belonged to a fraternity, but you lived an independent life.
SS – I lived an independent life, but I did have a bunch of friends in fraternities and sororities. In fact, my cousin who I mentioned was in a sorority. It was fun to meet her friends and hang out with them, or have them over to our place for parties or movies. She was the conduit for many of my brothers’ and my dates from her house.
DS – And you are still living as an independent?
SS – Yes, I am living an independent life in San Francisco, as I am single. I’ve never been married, no children. I have fun in what I do and I have fun being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want.
DS – As a throwback to a comment you made earlier about basketball games in Ahearn. I don’t recall Frisbees being thrown across the court. Did that really happen?
SS – That’s what my uncle tells me. He said they threw Frisbees back and forth across the court during the game. Of course, I never witnessed that when I was there. In fact, Ahearn Fieldhouse was still the home of the basketball Wildcats up until my final year. My last year at K-State, the university opened Bramlage, and it was very exciting to attend events there. I did however get to see some craziness at Ahearn, like chickens being let loose in Ahearn when KU was introduced, Willie mocking and impersonating many of the opposing coaches (specifically a Billy Tubbs impersonation), some very creative yet “tasteful” signs made by the students, some loud cheering fans, and seeing Mitch Richmond’s final game as a Wildcat.
DS – What activities did you engage in while in Manhattan?
SS – As far as school related I was in the marketing club, wrote for the business journal, and did a lot of things that were business school related. I went to as many of the football, basketball and volleyball games that I could. I participated in intramural sports, tennis, team handball, basketball, softball and flag football. I think if I were to look back, probably one of my biggest regrets is that, although I participated in so much while at K-State, I didn’t participate as much in school sponsored student activities, lectures, or programs as much as I should have.
DS – What special memories do you have of living in Manhattan?
SS – Oh sure, there has been quite a few. Many of them are related to K-State sports victories. I remember, although I did not participate (saying this to my mother), a couple of the unfortunate riots that happened in Aggieville during the time that I was there. I remember helping to carry the goal posts down to Aggieville after a win over the University of Kansas in football after both schools had not won any games- It may have been our lone victory of the year. I remember some epic snowball fights between the dorms and the fraternity houses. As far as special memories go I think the bonds I made then, that continue today, with people I met from different parts of the country, different parts of the world, different cultures and religions, continue to be held close to my heart. I think if I was to consider special memories those bonds are the most special memories I have.
After a break Spencer added some additional memories.
My bonds and relationships with quite a few people is what I hold dear about my experiences at Kansas State. Just last week I got together with a guy who I went to school with. He and I were houseboys at the Gamma Phi Beta house and probably hadn’t seen each other or communicated for about twenty years. Through the power of social media we were able to connect with each other again. Recently he was in the Bay Area on business for two or three days and we were able to go out and have dinner and drinks. It was so fun to bring up names of fellow students that neither of us had thought about for the past twenty years. We would say a name, and instantly we remembered exactly what the person looked like, how tall they were, what house they lived in, and who they dated. It was so funny and we were able to have a great time for about five hours going over and reliving old memories of the things we use to do at Kansas State, and working together as houseboys.
DS – After you graduated how did you end up living in the Bay Area?
SS – It was through work actually. After I graduated I lived in the Kansas City area for seven years. I started in the parking industry in 1993 at Crown Center in Kansas City, MO, working as the manager of the valet parking at the Westin Crown Center. I was in Kansas City with that particular company for three years. I was promoted and transferred to Salt Lake City where I lived for three years. I was very active with the alumni group in Salt Lake City and still keep in touch with quite a few of them. In ’99, I was transferred to San Francisco where I have lived since then, except for an eighteen-month walkabout, as I like to refer to it, when I moved to Denver. I moved back in 2005 to continue to live here in San Francisco.
DS – With the same company that brought you here to San Francisco?
SS – I stopped working for the company that moved me to San Francisco in 2001, and began working for a large local parking firm in the City until I took a position in Denver in 2003 with another company I was in Denver for 18 months, and decided that I ‘Left My Heart in San Francisco’. I moved back in 2005, and returned to the same company I left when I moved to Denver. The old cliché ‘Don’t burn your bridges’ rang true this time.
DS – Whom do you work for now?
SS – I am the Director of Marketing for City Park. It is the largest parking company in San Francisco and was founded in 1953 by the sons of Greek immigrants. At the time the company was founded, parking downtown was $.25 per day; now it is over $36.00 per day. The company founders’ sons run the company now as CEO and General Manager.
DS - How many parking spaces does your company manage?
SS – I have about 14,000 of them in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. However if you include the parking spaces at the new Levi’s Stadium (home of the 49ers), the number we manage increases by another 24,000 on Sundays.
DS – What type of hobbies do you have?
SS – I was thinking about this the other day and I really don’t have what I would consider a hobby. For example, hiking, fishing, card collecting, or anything like that. I think if I were to say I had a passion it would really be getting to know people on a deep personal level. I had the great opportunity to get involved with the San Francisco community, its politics, and business improvement districts, and have made some very close friendships and close business relationships with a lot of people. If I was to say I had a hobby, it’s getting to know people, listening to them, and learning about what makes them tick.
DS – Do you get back to Manhattan very often?
SS – It has been awhile since I’ve been back there. The last time I was in Manhattan was in November of 2008. I took two friends who lived in San Francisco with me to watch K-State play Nebraska, then the following day we attended the Kansas City Chiefs – New Orleans Saints game in Arrowhead. Being a member of the alumni association I get the alumni newsletter (KSTATER) that shows all the great changes that are going on at the university, the new buildings etc. I am quite interested to see where our alumni dollars have been invested the next time I go back. I plan on spending a full day on campus taking a look at the new facilities, and also remembering all of the great times I had while I attended K-State.
DS – Do you have any final words or takeaways from your education at K-State?
SS – I’m asked a lot of times and think I referred to it earlier that the best thing I experienced at Kansas State outside of the education, which was world class, is that I am very grateful that I was able to attend school there, and being from a small town in Kansas, I could experience other peoples, other cultures, other religions and get to build great lasting relationships with so many different people. And as I have ventured to different cities, it has been wonderful to meet other K-Staters, and reminisce together about our years attending KSU.