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Steger’s memories

Colorful memories

 Although young Joe Steger grew passionate over college, his fervor did not restrict typical collegiate pranks -- some of them spurred on by an over-enthusiastic sense of curiosity.

While at Kansas State University, the grad student acquired some knowledge of Native American customs. He was particularly intrigued by the story of Indians making arrowheads by tossing a hunk of flint into a bonfire until it exploded.

"One night after too many beers, we decided to try it," he says. "It worked. "But the recollection of arrow-sharp shards flying through the air still makes him shiver.

Steger arrived at Kansas State to follow Professor Harry Helson, a world-renowned psychophysicist. Although "he was wonderful to work with in terms of brain power," Steger remembers another side to his mentor.

Helson was a strict disciplinarian, Steger recalls, insisting that his graduate students arrive at 6:30 a.m., stay until he left at 6:30 p.m. and attend parties at his home -- not typical college-student parties, but ones at which he read poetry, some of it in German. "One day, I showed up in bitter cold wearing only a blazer," Steger says. "He wanted to know if I had an overcoat, and I said I didn't need one.

"Four days later, he called me into his office and told me to look behind the door, but not until he left. There was an overcoat.

"I wrote a note and thanked him, but we never spoke of it. That was his way."

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