Let me start by saying, I have never met the man, or if I have, it was only briefly and only incidentally. Last month was the five-year anniversary of the passing of Dr. Terry Todd. While I never had the privilege or the honor of sitting down and spending time with the man, I did attend the opening of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center several years ago when it opened in the DKR Memorial Football Stadium North End Zone. Back then, it was only a casual stroll from my coach’s office on the opposite side of the NEZ and now, I certainly wish I had taken advantage of my proximity more often.
Although we lost Terry, his legacy and passion for physical culture and sport lives on. Everything from the carefully thought-out spaces in the Stark and the mountains of paper, periodicals, books, and artifacts displayed and housed within its walls speaks to who he was as a collector, researcher, coach, lecturer, competitor, and man. My colleagues at the Stark reminisce often about Terry and his amazing memory for the history of strongmen and all things physical culture and sport. They say he could rattle off story after story about his interactions with the greats and keep everyone enthralled for hours on end. Evidence of the storytelling can still be seen in the large table with many chairs and the comfy chairs that inhabit the spaces at the Stark. I’m the newbie around here and the tales I’m receiving are second hand, but I at least get the opportunity to share in the spirit of his mission. I only wish that I could have been present when Terry Todd held court and I certainly would have made the most of his immeasurable knowledge when trying to identify pictures of early strongmen at my start.
When I first arrived at the Stark and was learning the ropes about the history of strongmen and physical culture, without having “Encyclopedic Terry Todd,“ I would google for more information on whomever I was currently researching and, inevitably, the google search would end up at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport’s website or The Strongman Project which is housed on our site to answer my question. I spent nine years as the Women’s Tennis Coach on campus so I’m fairly familiar with most of UT Athletics’ Greats but whenever I googled for the historical aspects of Longhorn Sports, my search almost always ended at the Stark website. Try it some time, you’ll see what I mean. This is surely the biggest indication of why what we do here is so important. Preserving the history of physical culture at its roots and throughout its evolution, as well as telling the tale of UT Athletics is at the core of who we are.
Every time someone steps off the elevator and walks into the lobby of the Stark, the initial awe and excitement they experience is a constant reminder of why we do what we do. About a month ago, a gentleman who is a Texas Ex and was also the son of a Texas Ex who had played freshman football before enlisting when WWII broke out came to visit us. He had read all about H.J. Lutcher Stark and had become a huge fan. He sheepishly asked with wide eyes if we had any of the turn-of-the-century football programs locked away in the archives. We were able to bring out an early UT football program and several other items for him to enjoy. He was like a kid in a candy store and was blown away by his experience. He just couldn’t believe that he could have access to such historical relics firsthand and was so grateful for the opportunity to touch history.
When I think of the sheer quantity of books, periodicals, and artifacts that Terry and Jan Todd have saved from certain demise to lovingly and carefully preserve them and keep them for people to experience it’s breathtaking and, I’m not going to lie, a little overwhelming. Terry’s quest began with his own desire to find materials for his dissertation, and he added to the collection every single opportunity that presented itself. We toil day after day to expand the base of information available to the public and to researchers the world over and no one understood or knew the importance of this better than Terry Todd via his own personal journey. It is my sincere hope that those that benefit, care, and understand the importance and significance of Terry Todd’s vision and legacy will work towards full endowment so the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports can continue to flourish and endure for generations of researchers and fans to come.
The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is nonprofit and 100% dependent on the generous donations of those who care about preserving the history of physical culture and sports and U.T. Athletics history. If you would like be counted among those dedicated to preserving history at the Stark, please visit https://give.utexas.edu/?menu1=OGPEDST . We are open to the public free of charge M-F, 9am-5pm.