Basketball Legend Bill Walton and Kesey's Merry Pranksters Visit UO Libraries SCUA

February 4, 2015

L-R: Merry Pranksters Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia and Ken Babbs; UO Director of Library Development Keri Aronson; UO Libraries Associate Dean Andrew Bonamici; Bill Walton; UO Dean of Libraries Adriene Lim; Sunshine Kesey

"We have all come to the Knight Library to be blessed, to be blessed by the spirit, by the essence, and by the dreams and thought of one of our great and dear friends, Ken Kesey." --Bill Walton

This morning the UO Libraries welcomed some very special guests, including one who gives a whole new meaning to "big man on campus."

Basketball legend Bill Walton says that Eugene is one of his favorite places to visit. "I spent some of the best years of my life in Oregon," explained Walton, who earned NBA Finals MVP honors while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977. "Eugene is one of the legendary places in Oregon . . . It's one of the power spots, one of the special places on earth. It's a place where you can be yourself."

Today, the two-time NCAA and NBA champion is in town to serve as a commentator on the Pac-12 Network's broadcast of the Oregon-Washington men's basketball game. Before his work day began at Matthew Knight Arena, however, Walton took a trip "furthur" afield on campus and met up with some old friends. The meeting place was Knight Library, and the old friends were Ken Babbs and Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, original members of Ken Kesey's collective of Merry Pranksters. The occasion was a special viewing of manuscripts, artwork, and other materials from the Ken Kesey Collection, a centerpiece of the UO Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives.

"This is my family," Walton said, and recounted how his love for the music of 1960's rock band The Grateful Dead led him to an appreciation of Ken Kesey's creative work and cultural legacy. A longtime friend of Kesey, he also expressed a lifelong admiration for libraries. "My mom's a librarian," he said. "I wanted to come to Knight Library because libraries are critically important."

Mountain Girl added, "Librarians are the best people."Ken Kesey Classroom

Ken Babbs shared a humorous anecdote about the founding of the public library in Dexter, Oregon--an event that led to a $100 bet between Kesey and William L. Sullivan, author of the popular "100 Hikes in Oregon" book series. It was just one of many reminiscences about Kesey, whose larger-than-life persona continues to inspire storytelling.

“Ken Kesey was an important writer and a legendary figure in Oregon,” says Dean of Libraries and Philip H. Knight Chair Adriene Lim. “This special event at UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives exemplifies the way that his work and his legacy continue to bring together people from all walks of life. That also is part of the vital role that libraries play—they preserve our cultural heritage, and serve as a meeting place for people and ideas.”

View video of the event as broadcast on Eugene television station KMTR: Bill Walton Visits Ken Kesey's Papers at Oregon Library.

Learn more about the Ken Kesey Collection, including opportunities to support the organization, preservation, and digitization of the archive: Are you on the bus?