Alumni Spotlight: Brian Lester

Posted on Mar 21, 2019

We had the opportunity to catch up with an RVC alum (class of 1995) whose book “Perfect Run as No. 1” was recently published. The book chronicles the 2009 season of the University of Findlay men’s basketball team, the last perfect season at any level of NCAA men’s basketball.

In honor of March Madness, we thought this was a perfect time to talk to Brian about his book and his time at RVC.

Talk about your overall experience at Rock Valley College and how it prepared you for what you do now?

My experience at Rock Valley was a good one. I loved the professors I had and learned so much from each one of them. I enjoyed the fact that class sizes were smaller and I always felt like you could ask for help from a professor if you needed it.

The opportunity to write for the Valley Forge as a sophomore enhanced my experience further and gave me my first taste of writing for a paper. I was able to learn what it took to be a sports writer and winning an award for one of my game stories on the women’s basketball team validated my belief that I made the right decision to become a writer.

It’s funny but my start with the sports section of the Valley Forge consisted of slipping a column on the 1994 NHL lockout under the door [of The Valley Forge office]. I had been writing only news stories at the time and I was called a couple of days later about covering sports for the paper. The rest is history, I guess.

Brian’s Valley Forge story on the NHL lockout.

Talk about any specific classes or professors that had a significant influence on your life and career.

D.B. McGee was a big influence to me. He he was a literature professor and he really helped shape me into becoming a better a writer because of the papers we wrote in class. He had passion for his job and had a way of teaching that made it easy to learn.

I truly believe that if I hadn’t gone to Rock Valley I wouldn’t have become who I am today. There is so much value in starting out at a junior college as it allows you to adapt to college life.

Do you recall a favorite story you wrote from your time writing for The Valley Forge?

 I would say my favorite story was the game story/feature I did on the women’s basketball team right around the time they were going into the playoffs. It ended up winning an award. I credit a lot of that to just having a good relationship with the coach and the players.

The 1995 Valley Forge editorial staff. That’s Brian on the far right.

Tell us about your journey after leaving Rock Valley College and where that journey led you.

 After RVC, I went to Eastern Illinois for the next two years and felt as if I went in prepared for not only college but for writing for a school paper. The dynamic changed a bit because EIU had a daily paper, but the transition was smooth and I continued to grow as both a student and a writer. 

I ended up graduating with a degree in journalism and worked in several different states before moving to Florida at the end of 2014. I still look back on my Rock Valley days fondly and know full well that it was time well spent there.

Tell us about “Perfect Run as No. 1” and why you wanted to tell this story.

The idea for the book came about before the 2008-09 season began. I knew Findlay was going to be one of the best teams in NCAA Division II again and felt as if the Oilers had a great chance to win a national title.

I went into the season with the intent on writing a book about the season but had no idea Findlay would go undefeated. The Oilers started the year at No. 1 and never let go of that ranking. They ended up as the first team in D-II to win a national title unbeaten and ranked No. 1 all year since 1993. The Oilers are also still the last team to win a title unbeaten at any level of NCAA men’s basketball since [the 1975-1976 Indiana Hoosiers] .

The book tells the story of the season itself, the games Findlay played, the adversity it faced and the will of this team to carry the burden of being the No. 1 team and turn that burden into something it embraced. 

It was a once-in-a-lifetime season and because of that, knowing I’ll never see something like that again, I had to write the book. I’m glad I did it. 

What advice would you give a student who is considering Rock Valley College?

I say go for it. I know RVC isn’t some major university but believe me, it’s worth the two years. You will have an opportunity to adapt to college life without feeling overwhelmed, and I think that’s important. You want to be able to get your college career off on the right foot and RVC is a great place to do that. If you transfer to a four-year school, you will go in prepared. Trust me on that. 

And of course, having professors who care makes a difference as well. You won’t feel as if you are just a number in the classroom.

Who are you picking to win this year’s NCAA tournament?

In Division I, I know all the hype is around Duke, but I really think Gonzaga is going to find a way to pull it off. I think that team is due for a championship. If I had to make a second choice, it would be Duke.

For D-II, anyone but Northwest Missouri, which has a chance to finish undefeated and win a title. If NW wins it, I’ll tip my hat to them but I really hope Point Loma pulls it off. That’s my pick for D-II.