Pit boss has college addiction
June 27, 2007
Steve Lake visits College campuses for a hobby. He has been to 400 of them.
He started this obsession when he visited four campuses near Boston on his honeymoon in 1984 and his new bride never once asked for an annulment. "I knew right then and there I’d married the right girl," he said of his wife Caroline.
Lake and his wife (the same one) are on their annual vacation to Park City. He will soon visit his 401 campus, Utah Valley State College in Heber. He also logs new baseball park visits and state capitals, although he has run out of new ones to visit in both categories.
If Lake seems to have an obsession with counting, maybe he chose the right profession as a pit boss at Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Or maybe not. Perhaps if he had become a college professor in the first place he would have settled on one campus and spent his free time visiting casinos.
Why does he do it?
Even he has a hard time putting his 10 fingers on reasons. He likes the architecture he says. He likes college towns. As a student he attended a plain one-building college in Canada and he is making up for what he missed out on
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There are no chapters of collegeholics anonymous, but if his obsession borders on fanatical, he has a mentor he can direct attention to, a professor who has visited more than 1,700 college campuses over 43 years. He also knows of a man who has visited more than 12,000 McDonalds, ordering something at each one.
Maybe his best explanation of why he does it is his desire to temporarily become a part of the campus life.
Like a Forest Gump, when he was visiting a baseball stadium, he caught a World Series ball when the Dodgers hosted Oakland. The same intimacy holds true for his campus visits. On one Pennsylvania campus visit, he became a part of a Civil War reenactment. If his wife isn’t with him (She has been on 100 of the visits) he asks someone on campus to forever freeze him on film as he savors his new campus. He has also participated in an on-campus wedding reception. He sometimes sits in on classes.
And Lake loves college towns. "The town often exists because of the college. There’s something special about college towns."
On the logistical end, he said he uses his six weeks of vacation and map quest to arrive at new colleges. He only visits four-year schools, spending one to one and one-half hours at each school. He might eat lunch on campus. He might go to the bookstore and buy a shirt.
Most colleges he has been to are in the U.S., although he visited Beijing University in 1993. "They almost didn’t let me on campus. They wondered what I was doing," he said.
When he’s not visiting college campuses or with his wife, he oversees one to four gaming tables, depending on how high the stakes are. His job, he says is mostly customer relations, and making sure everyone is exchanging the right amounts of money.
He said cheaters are not as common as people think. "Not only am I and the dealer watching, but so is ‘the eye in the sky,’ as he calls surveillance. "I’ve never met surveillance. Vie never seen them, but they see me all the time," he says of surveillance people who have been watching him and others, the 14 years he has been at Caesar’s. He said his job "is not a lot of stress," but then he adds, "I might see someone betting $100,000 a hand. You have to pay close attention. Everything happens quickly. You have to react."
Lake is looking to the future. Lake and his wife love Park City, and eventually want to spend entire summers in the town. But he’s not thinking of settling down on college campus quest anytime soon. "For my 500th visit, I want to do something special."
As for more reasons why he so likes college campuses, Lake says, I feel like I’ve never left school. I feel like I belong."
Best University food:
Soka University in Southern California. Students give their own recipes. "Very tasty," Lake said.
Beautiful alumni house:
University of Richmond, in Virginia. The alumni house has been in several feature films.
The most beautiful school:
The University of Richmond in Virginia.
Sweet Briar in West Virginia
Best mascot names:
The University of Richmond: The Spiders
Marshall University, "The Thundering Herd"