CSU dedicates Glenn Morris Field House
April 22, 2011
By Zak Gilbert
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Naming ceremonies are not uncommon at a university. But on Friday, Colorado State made a very unique presentation.
According to CSU Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk, who has attended several significant naming ceremonies over his five years at the reins of the department, including the university’s most impressive facilities upgrades in four decades, said Friday’s gesture might be the most significant.
That’s because, in changing the name of the venerable South College Gym and its surrounding buildings to the Glenn Morris Field House, the university honored not only one of the greatest athletes in CSU history, but also one of the greatest athletes in world annals.
After graduating from the school now known as Colorado State in 1935, Morris won the 1936 Olympic gold medal at the Berlin games, setting a world record in the decathlon. He went on to play a year in the NFL before injury ended his career, and star as Tarzan in a Hollywood film. He passed away in 1974.
“Glenn Morris epitomized the term student-athlete before that hyphenated term ever became part of our lexicon,” Kowalczyk told an audience of about 200, including several members of the Morris family and CSU track and field coaches and athletes taking a break from competing next door at the annual Glenn Morris Multi-Event Invitational. Also in the crowd at the field house was Jim Larsen, a U.S. Navy shipmate of Morris’ who fought with him in the Pacific theatre during World War II.
“If I had a message for our current student-athletes, I would say try to emulate his class, his character, his work ethic, his dignity and his humility,” Kowalczyk said.
A three-sport star for the Aggies, he was all-conference in football, and competed in as many as five track and field events, excelling in the low hurdles and shot put before attending the 1932 Olympics, piquing his interest in the decathlon. Morris, who hailed from Simla, Colo., also served as president of student body and graduated with degrees in economics and sociology.
Adolph Hitler never left his seat while Morris competed during those Berlin games, 75 years ago this summer.
Dr. Morris Ververs, a CSU graduate who spent 36 years in education and 12 years as principal of Simla High School, also was an honored guest at Friday’s ceremony. Thirty years ago, Ververs spent six hours in the San Diego home of Morris’ brother, who donated all of the Olympian’s memorabilia, college awards, Tarzan marquees and other keepsakes to the community of Simla through Ververs. Included in that exchange was the gold medal Morris won in 1936, which was on display at the high school for most of the past three decades.
On behalf of family at the ceremony Friday, Ververs donated the medal to Colorado State University.
“Glenn not only had extraordinary athletic ability and motivation,” Ververs said, “but he was nurtured and encouraged and provided a lot of opportunities here at Colorado State University. I’m grateful for that, and I know the family is, too. It gives us a lot of pleasure to present the gold medal to CSU.”
CSU President Tony Frank graciously accepted the honor, thanked Ververs and promised the university would hold it in trust.
Frank then compared Morris’ life and accomplishments to the American spirit, the same attitude that led the country’s patriots to stand up to the British during the Revolutionary War. Frank explained that many of CSU’s athletes hail from small towns but dream just as big as he did, with pride in pursuit of team excellence. He added that the legendary athlete’s spirit continues to earn Morris honors today, and honors his university.
“Colorado State University and its Board of Governors,” Frank said in closing, “are proud to honor the enduring legacy with this naming of this field house that will stand as a tribute to the hard work, the struggle, the persistence, and the character of Glenn Morris, features that are all essential in shaping a champion, a champion yes in athletics, but more importantly, features that are essential to shaping a champion in anything that matters in life.”