Follow Your Dream!
The story of “Blue”
Tommy “Blue” Kuenster was born August 7, 1935 in Pacoima, California. His parents, Gladys Conant and Tom Kuenster lived in a one-room shed with a dirt floor and no plumbing. His parents divorced when he was young. He was then sent to reform school. But his mother’s love and faith sustained him throughout life. Of various boyhood jobs, his favorite was as a cowboy, which is still his first love.
Blue met Louie Zamperini, the University of Southern California (USC) Olympian track star and war hero whose life was portrayed in the movie and best-selling book “Unbroken.” Zamperini’s mantra was, “Follow your dream.” He had a very positive effect on Blue and became his lifetime mentor. Blue’s mother was disabled, which challenged her ability to work. Being the oldest child and only boy, Blue had to work every day, so there was no time for sports or activities.
He graduated from Dorsey high school in Los Angeles, California and won a full NROTC scholarship to USC. Before starting school, Blue was in a near fatal car accident, causing much disability and pain. He lost his scholarship, then worked full-time and attended Junior College until USC gave him the first National Real Estate Finance Scholarship.
At USC Blue was always self-supported by working three jobs, including as a bartender, sorority laborer and playground director. He was the yearbook editor and active in Commerce, Junior and Senior Councils; and went through the chairs in business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. He also served in the U.S. Navy Reserve throughout college. In 1957, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Real Estate as the first member of his family to graduate.
Blue attended the Southwestern University School of Law and later received a full ride scholarship to Stanford University, graduating from their MBA program. He served 64 years working in the fields of real estate education, finance, marketing, consulting, financial services, organizing, law, investment banking/advisory and development as faculty, broker, investment advisor, manager, officer, partner or owner in major firms. He concurrently served on the real estate faculty for 30 years, primarily at UCLA, UC Irvine and USC, and regularly received their highest teaching awards. At USC he created a niche graduate program in real estate development. Over the past 40 years Blue served as a litigation consultant and expert witness in hundreds of real estate lawsuits.
Like Louie Zamperini, Blue has been a pro-bono motivational speaker and life coach. He has shared or presented nationally and internationally on countless occasions. His mantras are “No Regrets” and “Follow Your Dream.”
Embracing a life of service, Blue has worked with 15 professional or philanthropic organizations, and is a 32nd degree Mason and Shriner. Also, at USC, he has been in Cardinal and Gold; multiple Trojan Clubs; The Coaches Club, Trojan Masters Track Club, and others. For the past ten years, he has served on the Half Century Trojan (Alumni) board, including the executive committee and as Historian. For the past 20-plus years, Blue has served on the board of Trojan Force, and organized their athletic team reunions. He also participated in USC’s Law School Moot Court.
The Will Farrell movie “Old School” had the same psychological storyline as Blue’s life. It has older guys pledging a college fraternity and following their dream. The supporting actor was the oldest pledge named Blue, which is how this Blue earned his nickname. Many of the chapter’s younger brothers have only ever known him as Blue. After the movie release, USC Phi Psi alumni asked Blue to pledge, and he graciously accepted. In his 70s, he decided to pledge Cal Delta, and was initiated as one of the Fraternity’s oldest pledges.
Like our Phi Kappa Psi Founders, Blue is thankful for service and is always happy to help those in need. Since his initiation in 2005, Blue has been an active alumnus. He has attended or been the speaker at every Founders Day at one or more events, seven Grand Arch Councils, and innumerous Chapter functions. Three days after his initiation, Blue joined the American Leadership Academy faculty in Cabo San Lucas, created the Cal Delta Hall of Fame, presented the Blue Courage Award and was an Outstanding Alumnus Award of Merit recipient. Blue received the Greek Alumni Leadership Award and was inducted into the inaugural class of both the Cal Delta and the Lifetime Greek Leadership Halls of Fame. He has participated in the Fraternity’s Regional Officer Training program and assists the Arizona State University Colony.
Blue’s proudest fraternal moments include advocating Phi Kappa Psi as a lifetime rather than a four-year experience, writing letters of recommendation for actives, which has resulted in them receiving scholarships, internships, jobs and getting into grad school; and mentoring hundreds of younger brothers. No counseling was done electronically, and he has never used social media. He is a hugger rather than a handshaker. In other words, Blue cares!
His greatest pride and achievement has been his son John who is also his best friend. John was raised in rural Utah for 10 years. In Utah, Blue organized and expanded the YMCA Indian Guides as the state director, and where he organized and coached various youth sport teams. They both agree it was, “The Best Years of Their Lives.”
Blue is most thankful for life’s blessings, which he attributes to his spirituality, family, friends, positive attitude, healthy active lifestyle, Louie Zamperini, his Dachshunds, USC and Phi Kappa Psi.
By encouraging others to follow their dreams and doing his part to help others achieve success, Blue is making a profound difference and finding that following his own advice is helping him lead a very active and fulfilling life. For all that Blue is doing to show he cares, we are proud to count him among our membership.