We are pleased to announce that the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is now open in our new location. After realizing many years ago that our growing collection was becoming too large for its current home in Anna Hiss Gym, my wife Jan and I began work on identifying a new location because we felt that the developing area of sports and exercise studies required it. When we learned that the administration here at The University of Texas was discussing plans to renovate the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, we hoped that our plans for a world-class library and museum on this campus might one day become part of that vast effort. Eventually, the Stark Center became a reality through the generous support of many benefactors. With both public galleries and extensive scholarly archives, the Center will be housed in a brand-new 27,500 square-foot facility inside the football stadium’s reconstructed north end-zone. With the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection—the world’s largest in the field—as its foundation, the Center will be a global leader in collecting, displaying, and disseminating information and material concerning the history and role of physical culture and sports in society.
Texas’s 2006 victory in the Rose Bowl capped a long and distinguished sporting history. Since its founding in 1883, Texas has won a national championship in virtually every sport in which the University competes, and hundreds of UT athletes have gone on to careers in professional sports or to participation in amateur sports events such as the Olympic Games. Of equal importance is UT’s consistent support of opportunities for all of its students to maintain their fitness and health through sports and exercise. The University of Texas has been a longtime leader in the area of physical training, and over the past 120 years hundreds of thousands of students—women as well as men—have taken part in organized physical training classes, intramural sports, and recreational exercise. However, the history of sports and physical activity at UT, and the contributions of the many trainers, coaches and notable supporters have not been recorded or displayed in any significant way on campus.
In 1983, Jan and I joined the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education in the College of Education with the hope that we could play a part in changing all that. We brought with us our large collection of publications, photographs, art, artifacts, and other materials related to the history of sports, health, exercise, and other areas in the field known as “physical culture.” Over the past quarter century, our collection has grown in both size and professional stature, and it was described in 1999 by Georgia historian John Fair as the “single most important archive in the world” in this field. However, because of space limitations within our department, the collection has been housed in a relatively small space in crowded and sub-standard conditions. Even so, we have been grateful to our department for providing space over the years, and we have maintained our belief that in time our collection would be seen by the administration as deserving of an appropriate home.
After the UT football team’s magical season in 2005-6, plans were made to construct an 800,000+ square-foot building in the north end of the football stadium. The new addition was to include stadium seating, suites, restaurants, an academic center, and other facilities. Since so much additional space was to be created by the project, we redoubled our efforts to convince the administration to make a place in the project for our collection. Following discussions with Dean Manuel Justiz of the College of Education, Vice President for Development Rick Eason, Director of Athletics DeLoss Dodds, and others, it was agreed that the new building would be an ideal location for a library/museum that would house materials and exhibits in the many areas of physical culture and sports. But there was only one catch—we had to raise $3,500,000 for the “bricks and mortar” needed to build out the 27,500 square feet that The University was willing to give us.
As we faced this task, we were sustained by the backing of many of our colleagues on campus and, especially, by the ongoing financial and emotional support of Joe and Betty Weider. In 2004 we received from the Weider Foundation an endowment of $1,000,000, and it was this generous gift that prompted UT to give us the chance to raise so much money in such a short time. Even so, we were daunted by the challenge, but we knew that there was a particular, well-established Texas foundation which might be interested in supporting the creation of a library/museum dedicated to the study of physical culture and sports. That foundation was created by a legendary, larger-than-life Texan and UT alumnus by the name of H.J. Lutcher Stark.
The Legacy of Lutcher Stark
Lutcher Stark, born in 1887, was the only child of an East Texas family whose fortune was based on timber and, later, land. An ardent sports fan, Lutcher was interested in all sports, but he particularly loved football. In 1910, his senior year at UT, Lutcher was the manager of the football team, a job that included assisting with negotiations to determine which teams the squad—then known simply as the Texas Varsity, or Steers—would play. Following graduation, Lutcher remained vitally involved with the Texas team, and in 1913 he donated warm-up blankets for the players with the word “Longhorns” embroidered on them. Shortly after that gift the UT team became known officially as the Longhorns.
That same year, Stark also had a personal epiphany. His weight had increased to more than two hundred pounds (a bit too much for his 5’7” frame), and so he decided to do something about it. Accordingly, he went to Philadelphia and took a course on physical training under the guidance of the top man in the field, Alan Calvert, who preached the benefits of weight training for general fitness as well as for athletes—at a time in which almost all “experts” believed that weight training would make a person “muscle bound.” Lutcher could hardly have made a better choice in a trainer. Young Lutcher spent two months with Calvert in Philadelphia and returned home forty pounds lighter, twice as strong, and with a firm belief in the benefits of weight training—a form of exercise that would totally transform sports and physical fitness over the next century.
Stark’s experiences with Alan Calvert continued to shape his life—and the athletic and recreational programs at The University of Texas. Soon after his return from Philadelphia, Stark met L.Theo Bellmont, who was then the director of the Houston YMCA. Stark had much in common with Bellmont, who was also a weight-trainer, and he convinced the Board of Regents that Bellmont should be appointed as UT’s Athletic Director. In that post, Bellmont oversaw Athletics as well as the Physical Education and Physical Training programs for the regular university students. One of Bellmont’s first hires was a freshman—Roy J. McLean—who was a whiz at shorthand. Beginning in 1914, McLean served Bellmont as a recording secretary, and he often watched the workouts of Stark and Bellmont, who would train with weights during Stark’s frequent visits to the campus. Before long the two slightly older men included young McLean in their training sessions. McLean became a convert to the barbells, too, and in 1919, after “Mac’s” graduation, Bellmont hired him as an instructor and coach. That same year McLean taught the first organized heavy weight-training classes ever taught in the U.S., and in the 1920s he also began to serve The University as coach of both the cross country and wrestling teams. Because of what he’d learned from Stark and Bellmont, McLean also broke new ground by requiring his athletes to train with weights. For thirteen years straight, his teams won the Southwest Conference in cross country, and he also produced several national champions and Olympians in wrestling. During his fifty years at UT, and with the full support of Stark and Bellmont, McLean also built the largest and most well-equipped weight training facility on any campus in the United States.
Beginning in the late 1950s, Roy McLean encouraged a UT letterman in tennis to become a competitive weightlifter. That young student, then an undergraduate, really took to the weights and—when he began work on a Master’s degree—McLean hired him as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. “Mac” also shared with his protégé a large library in the field of sports and physical culture and instilled in that young man a deep fascination with everything related to weight training. In time, that fascination inspired the graduate student to win lifting championships in both weightlifting and powerlifting, to write extensively about weight training and its history, and to begin collecting books and magazines in the field. I was that graduate student.
When Jan and I brought our collection to UT in 1983, Mac endowed the Roy J. McLean Fellowship in Sports History to help us with our efforts to make a home for the collection on campus. Thus it was that the lessons learned by Lutcher Stark from Alan Calvert in Philadelphia in 1913 influenced the hiring of UT’s first Athletic Director; the hiring of Roy McLean, the man who taught the first modern weight-training classes in the U.S.; the first use of weight training to enhance athletic performance at UT; and our decision to make a final home for our burgeoning collection at The University of Texas.
More than any other person, Stark put UT on the path to athletic greatness. During his many years as a member and chairman of the UT Board of Regents, Stark made countless contributions to UT. He served as a regent longer than any other person ever has, and for decades he gave both time and treasure to the university he loved. Another bit of serendipity in all this is that the Stark Center will be located in the football stadium he did so much to make possible. With Bellmont’s help, Lutcher Stark conceived of the idea of the stadium as a memorial to those Texans who served in World War I, and he led the fundraising campaign to construct it. Taken together, those contributions to the University’s athletic tradition deserve wide recognition, and so Jan and I proposed to the Stark Foundation that because the life of its creator was so deeply connected with fitness and sports at UT it seemed to be a natural fit for the Foundation to provide the funds that would allow us to create a library/museum bearing the name of the man who funded the foundation—H.J. Lutcher Stark. After we made our case to the Stark Foundation both in writing and in person, the foundation’s board agreed to provide the $3,500,000 gift that would encourage The University to recognize and honor Stark for his service to UT by constructing the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports in the new building that will be a next-door neighbor to Bellmont Hall, a building named for Stark’s good friend and fellow physical culturist, L. Theo Bellmont. Even the name Stark, which in German means “strong,” seems perfect.
The Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture
Permanent and rotating exhibits related to the history of physical fitness, weight training, and health promotion;
The Sports Gallery
Featuring the Ben Crenshaw Golf Collection and including permanent and rotating exhibits related to the role of sports in society and the role of physical fitness and sports at UT;
The Reading Room
A large and comfortable room where students, faculty, and visitors can browse through—as well as sit and read—current books and magazines in the areas of physical culture and sports;
The Center Archives
Containing the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection as well as books and materials related to general sports. Although our collection has focused on physical culture, it contains more than 4000 books about competitive sports, hundreds of rare photographs about athletics, and thousands of magazines about sports—including full runs of such magazines as Sports Illustrated. Our holdings also include the Edmund Hoffman Golf Collection and an excellent collection of rare books about hunting and fishing published during the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries
The Lobby Gallery
Will house permanent and rotating exhibits of art, photography, and artifacts in the areas of sports and physical culture. This gallery will also be used for receptions and other events related to the Center
In addition, the Center will include a large conference/seminar room, staff offices, a storage area for rare items, a controlled research area where rare books and photographs can be examined, a cataloguing and processing room, and additional storage areas for books, sports artifacts, and physical culture materials.
We hope and believe that the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports will be a popular destination for visitors to The University of Texas campus. We also believe that this facility will bring together the academic and athletics aspects of campus life and that it will serve not only as a destination for tourists and sports fans but also as a research center for UT students and for scholars and fans from around the nation and the world. The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is, we feel, a fitting legacy for a man who was a vital part of the evolution of UT Athletics, who was the driving force behind construction of the original stadium, who served on the Board of Regents for twenty-four years, who was a pioneer in the field of physical culture, and who was a proud alumnus who poured most of his life and a good deal of his substantial fortune into improving The University of Texas at Austin.
—Dr. Terry Todd,
Director, The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports