On a mezzanine overlooking the CU Arena is a newly re-designed Eagles Nest, an attractive, glass-enclosed room where CUI hosts special receptions, athletics team meetings, and seating during games. The room’s upgrade came thanks to Phyllis Talmage, a generous donor since 1973.
“It was just a natural instinct for me to be a supporter,” Phyllis says. “When you know there is something that really is needed, you become personally involved and that’s gratifying.”
Phyllis was an athlete herself, in the 1940s. “I’ve always been interested in athletics,” she says. “I played second base for the Orange Lionettes softball team for a number of years. They were a non-professional team backed by the Lions Club. I also really enjoyed field hockey, basketball and tennis. I played all sports.”
Phyllis is from Orange and was raised at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Her roots in the denomination go deep. Her great-grandfather on her mother’s side was renowned missionary Friedrich Wyneken who helped establish The Lutheran—Church Missouri Synod and served as its second president.
When you know there is something that really is needed, you become personally involved and that’s gratifying.
“He was sent from Germany to America to start a church,” Phyllis says. “They knew there were Lutherans in America and needed a missionary to scout it out and start some churches. That’s another reason why I remained so committed to the Lutheran church. That’s about all I knew.”
Husband Bud, who went to be with the Lord 27 years ago, was an orange rancher before turning to real estate after he saw ranch after ranch being converted into urban development.
“Bud decided he had better find a new profession,” Phyllis says. “So he took real estate courses, got his license and turned to that venture. Eventually all the orange groves disappeared and he ended up in commercial real estate development. We hated to see the oranges disappear because that’s what we were used to. But he had a few smarts about him and could see that oranges weren’t going to last.”
The Talmages were Concordia University Irvine supporters before it even existed. Their first contribution, in the early 1970s, was $20.
“I’ve always been interested in what was going on down around Irvine because it was developing fast,” Phyllis says. “I thought, ‘Gee, they’re going to put a Lutheran college down there. That sounds like something I’d be interested in.’ So we began contributing a little bit at a time.”
The Talmages gave to many different needs, but athletics was always special to Phyllis. Her softball team used to travel to Arizona and Los Angeles for games and “we had to get a signed letter showing that we weren’t accepting any payment so we could play. We were in our senior year of high school.”
After high school, she and her husband started out by working in agriculture, growing and selling cabbage, tomatoes and corn. There was a vegetable packing house in the Olive area of present-day Orange, she recalls, and they took their vegetables there to be shipped and delivered to various markets.
“We had patches up in the Santa Ana canyon, all around the county, really,” she says. “Wherever we could find five or ten acres available, we’d plant it. That was a lot of interesting, hard work, one of the most enjoyable of my life. It was long, hard hours and you really felt you accomplished everything and you could save some money and go from there.”
As they supported CUI over the years, the Talmages also enjoyed attending galas and concerts on campus.
“I put our efforts into contributing to whatever drive they were having,” Phyllis says. “I always supported their annual galas and fashion shows. They’ve had some marvelous productions.”
Recently, Phyllis heard about the need for a renovated Eagles Nest and decided to give a donation to make it happen. The results?
“Oh, my gosh, it surprised me,” she says. “It’s got this huge, carved eagle mounted on a base in the room. Then it’s got an image of an eagle embossed right on the seat of the stools. They’re really smart looking. I was so pleased with them. The girls had a volleyball game the night of the dedication. It was very impressive.”
Phyllis attended the reception with son Randy. The Talmages have another son, Matthew. Phyllis continues to enjoy her long association with Concordia because “the people at Concordia really express their love and appreciation among each other, from the professors to the students,” she says. “There’s a closeness. The students seem to feel very welcome there.”
Learn more about supporting the athletic department at Concordia University Irvine through the Eagle Athletics Club.