Rugby players are known for their camaraderie— on and off the field. But whatalumni players at Saint Mary’s Collegeare doing in the wake of teammate DanOtter’s death goes far beyond friendship. They’reraising funds at a furious pace for an endowmentin Otter’s honor.
It takes $50,000 to set up a permanentendowment and the Saint Mary’s College RugbyAlumni Association showed its commitmentearly by donating $22,000 in proceeds fromits annual Pat Vincent Dinner and Fundraiserlast fall.
“It’s very difficult to raise the money withouta ‘big money’ guy behind it,” said Tom Carroll,Saint Mary’s Assistant Athletic Director forDevelopment. “But the way Dan passed away, thepeople behind him, we knew there would be supportfor him.”
Otter died unexpectedly last July at theage of 51. The news touched his teammates andfriends in a profound way.
“You know, he was just such a good guy,”said Rugby Alumni Board member Mike Wise,who played football with Otter in the early 1980s.“There’s a very strong alumni community of guyswho played for Saint Mary’s,” he said, “and Danwas a big supporter of the Alumni Association.He said it also hit home that Otter died sosuddenly. “He was close to my age,” said Wise.“Fifties is a little young. We thought, ‘We oughtto do something to memorialize this guy.’”Wise said Otter packed a lot into his timehere on earth. “When he passed away in LakeTahoe on a bike ride, he was actually there for anonprofit board meeting for Alzheimer’s.” Otterwas a leader when it came to raising money andawareness for the fight against neurologic disease.He was just 12 when his father died of Alzheimer’s,and in later years his mother succumbed tothe same illness. His friends say he dedicated hislife to finding a cure.
Otter was also an avid outdoorsman wholoved fishing and cycling and camping with hiswife and three young children. He was active inBoy Scouts and coached Little League and wasknown as a deeply devoted husband and father.Otter was also an Academic All-Americanwhen he played rugby and football at SaintMary’s. He graduated with honors in 1982.“After his death — the next week — a wholestring of guys was contributing stories by emailabout Dan,” said Wise, who shared his own storyabout Gaels football camp back in 1980. “Therewas rookie hazing at the camps and Dan had toget up and sing. He sang ‘Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown’by Jim Croce. It was unbelievable. He just nailedit.” Wise said Otter was always comfortable inhis own skin.
After graduating magna cum laude, Otterwent on to earn his MBA from UCLA. He setup his first company in Palmdale, California,where he built shopping centers and businessparks. By the time he turned 50, he’d spent almost30 years in a successful commercial real estatecareer, winning numerous awards for his designsand development.
Through it all, he was never far from hisroots at Saint Mary’s. Otter played with the DiabloGaels Rugby Football Club until a year ago,traveling with the team to tournaments aroundthe state. His passion for rugby was the catalystfor the Dan Otter Rugby Scholarship Fund,which will help rugby players with tuition assistanceat SMC.
“I think he’d be thrilled to help a student athletein need,” said Wise. “Dan wouldn’t want hisname out there — he’s not that kind of guy — butI think he’d be honored.”