And her spirit’s always loyal,
And we’ll have the world to know
That the bonds can ne’er be broken,
Formed in the dear old U.O.
—“There’s a Pretty Little Village,” circa 1910
University of Oregon Libraries is pleased to announce an exhibit titled Oregon Spirit: The Legacy of Track and Field, now on display from January 7th to March 22nd in the Special Collections and University Archives Paulson Reading Room.
The University of Oregon proudly celebrates over 100 years of track and field. Led by illustrious coaches, student-athletes defied the limits of human performance before an audience of devoted fans. Drawing upon 20 collections, these curated items reveal a palpable spirit that transcends generations. The legacy of track and field is built on enduring tradition and dynamic innovation.
SCUA recently received two accessions documenting UO track and field history. The items were donated by two alumni, Clayton Steinke and Kenny Moore, who competed during the 1960s under head coach Bill Bowerman. These new materials complement existing administrative and coaching collections, but also contribute to understanding the unique perspective of the student-athlete. Coincidentally, both accessions include uniforms that provide a visual component of the legacy of UO track and field.
In 1962, four members of the UO team broke the world record for the four by one mile relay. Later that year, Steinke served as an alternate runner on the UO team invited to compete in the same relay distance in a meet against the New Zealand national team. As representatives of both the United States of America, and the University of Oregon, Bowerman devised a unique uniform. In order to satisfy the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), the resulting singlet and shirt include references to the AAU and USA, but also pays homage to the University of Oregon. In addition to his uniform, Steinke donated his letterman’s jacket, scrapbooks, a memoir, correspondence and photographs.
This is the ninth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.
The Governor — and others — have complained that President Olum can’ t have it both ways — continue to assert that the University of Oregon is of the quality of some of the best public universities in the United States and argue at the same time that faculty salaries at the University of Oregon are abysmally low compared with other institutions, and that this makes it extremely difficult to compete in the hiring of the best young faculty and in retaining our leading senior faculty against very large offers from various universities. Now, the truth is that it really is both ways. Our salaries are terribly, dangerously low and yet we are surely among the best 20 public universities in the United States and, in a number of areas, significantly better even than that. -President Olum, State of the university Address, 1987
Paul Olum stepped into the role of university president at Oregon with decades of academic experience. Having just served as provost at the University of Oregon, Olum had been groomed to take over for President Boyd (see previous post on Boyd). Olum started his illustrious academic career in mathematics, even working on the Manhattan Project at one point. He earned his bachelors in physics from Princeton in 1940, an M.A in physics from Princeton in 1942, and a PhD in mathematics from Harvard in 1947. Olum later served as a very popular and distinguished professor of mathematics at Cornell, and had a short stint at the University of Texas before beginning his tenure at Oregon.
Olum quickly developed a positive repoire with both students and staff. Politically progressive, Olum publically called for nuclear disarmament and fought to make the University of Oregon more inclusive for all students. Although Olum’s tenure avoided the contention that filled the 1960s and 1970s, Olum faced recurring budget restraints and struggled to recruit more minority students to the Eugene campus.
This is the sixth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.
“It was the first time I noticed that being a black woman was going to be different here (Eugene).”
2015 Oregon graduate and Black Student Union member Anetra Brown has remained in Eugene since graduation and has stayed connected with the University of Oregon through organizations like the Black Alumni Network, a group that has helped Brown feel more at home in Eugene. Anetra came to Eugene in September of 2011 to run on the track and field team, but academics were always her primary focus. Brown was born in San Francisco and moved to Indianapolis when she was 10. Upon her arrival to Eugene, Oregon’s lack of racial diversity was glaring. Although she describes the community as friendly, Brown says the feeling of isolation was undeniable. Through a recent oral history interview with Anetra for this project, this post highlights her specific experience at the University of Oregon and explores her reasons for choosing to remain in Eugene after graduation.
Brown said, “Living in the dorms was not the best experience, because I had a hard time finding girls I could relate to. It was the first time I noticed that being a black woman was going to be different here. Even things like hair — when I straightened my hair or even not washing my hair every day – and having to explain to roommates why I did that. It was the first time in my life where I felt different. I felt like I had to explain each thing I did. Or even not trying to come off as too aggressive in fear of being portrayed as the ‘angry black girl.’”
On May 27th, a select group of University of Oregon runners were honored at the Sub Four Reunion, hosted by the Oregon Track Club. The sold out event at the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes was filled with UO alumni, past and current UO coaches, and running enthusiasts. The event honored the 10 surviving runners who ran a mile in less than 4 minutes under coach Bill Bowerman. Coinciding with The Prefontaine Classic, the reunion duly recognized Steve Prefontaine as the 11th UO runner to break the 4-minute barrier in 1970.
As the Thomas Intern Film Archives Assistant for the University of Oregon Special Collection and University Archives, I’ve been working on the identification, preservation and digitization of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics Films collection. When I heard about this reunion a few months ago, I became curious about track and field films in this collection. With nearly 4,000 films, over 2.5 million feet of film, and 8 decades of University of Oregon athletic heritage, I hoped to locate some suitable material. To my surprise and joy, I successfully discovered footage of two of the sub-four minute mile moments. First, the unabridged film of Jim Bailey running the first sub-four minute mile in the United Stated in 1956, and second, clips of Dyrol Burleson breaking the four minute barrier at Hayward Field in 1960.
With the help of my colleagues, Elizabeth Peterson (Humanities Librarian and Curator of Moving Images) and Jennifer O’Neal (Corrigan Solari University Historian and Archivist), we were able to digitize the footage and offer a clip reel to the reunion organizer, Todd Bosworth. In addition to the films, the clip reel includes photographs of the runners located by University of Oregon graduate research assistant, Zach Bigalke. Many thanks to University of Oregon undergraduate student, Joe Hughes, for producing such a captivating clip reel. As a third generation UO alumni, it was an honor to attend the event to celebrate fellow Ducks and their accomplishments.
List of reunion honorees and the time and date of their first sub-4 minute mile:
Jim Bailey 3:58:6 (May 5, 1956)
Dyrol Burleson 3:58:6 (April 23, 1960)
Jim Grelle 3:59:9 (April 28, 1962)
Keith Forman 3:58:3 (May 26, 1962)
Archie San Romani 3:57:6 (June 5, 1964)
Wade Bell 3:59:8 (June 2, 1966)
Roscoe Divine 3:59:1 (June 2, 1966)
Arne Kvalheim 3:59:4 (May 6, 1967)
Dave Wilborn 3:56:2 (June 23, 1967)
Steve Savage 3:59:2 (June 5, 1970)