George Oja was a fixture in the Linfield College athletic complex for more than two decades.
Now retired, he is in his element in the Wallowa Mountains. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Oja, professor emeritus of health and human performance, along with his wife Cheryl, vacationed in the Wallowas for 40 years before retiring there permanently in 2003. Their home, tucked in the Lostine Canyon on the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness area, puts them exactly where they want to be.
"We're surrounded by nature," he said of his newly finished log home. Now he spends his days backpacking, snowshoeing, sledding with his grandchildren and coaching T-ball.
Oja arrived at Linfield in 1980 and spent the next 23 years teaching and coaching track and field.
"It was a wonderful place to be," he said. "I found an ideal fit for me. I maintained close contact with students through athletics plus I had an opportunity to do the academic things I had a passion for."
Along the way, he saw many changes. When he first arrived on campus, the Athletics Department was located in Riley Hall. By 1992, Riley had been split into two buildings, now Walker and Riley Halls.
"That was a huge transformation," he said. "And with the acquisition of the Hewlett-Packard property, the campus was an entirely different place when I left versus when I arrived."
And though the buildings have evolved, one aspect of campus, its physical beauty, has remained the same, Oja said.
"It's a marvelous place," he said. "People who work and attend classes there are real lucky."
Oja said he has vivid memories of students and colleagues, and has maintained contact with many.
"I feel fortunate to have been a part of something that is worthwhile and has contributed to the education of so many folks. I had a sense that I was a part of something that is worthwhile and good and that's satisfying."
Contact Oja at firstname.lastname@example.org