Don't Weaken

A blog by Director Terry Todd

A Legacy Lesser Known

By Terry Todd

Posted November 27, 2009

Last week, the Stark Center was involved in two functions involving the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System. Those functions may prove to be very important to the future growth of the Center. This is so because the Board of Regents (BOR) governs more than 200,000 students and 84,000 employees spread across the sixteen campuses in the University of Texas System, including U. T.-Austin, the system’s flagship institution.

How these functions came about is that someone on the BOR apparently heard about the Stark Center and asked us to make a formal presentation to the BOR about Lutcher Stark, who served on the Board of Regents for 24 years, and was Chairman of the Board for 12 years. We agreed, of course, and so a member of the BOR’s staff came to the Stark Center to talk about the presentation. During that visit Jan gave the staff member a tour of the finished as well as the unfinished parts of the Center and the staff member liked what she saw. Several weeks later she brought another staff member for another look, and these two visits led the two staffers to propose to the Chairman of the BOR, James Huffines, that the Board have a reception and tour at the Stark Center the evening before our formal presentation. We were told that after looking at photos and learning more about the Center, Chairman Huffines decided that the Center would probably be of interest to the BOR and that such a tour and reception should be scheduled. Accordingly, we stepped up the pace of our preparations and tried to make the Center look as good as we could in the time we had. As last Wednesday night approached, the BOR sent teams of party planners, caterers, and florists to decide how best to accommodate the approximately 150 guests we expected to have. Finally, the night arrived, and we’ve chosen a few photos to illustrate how things looked.

The following morning, Jan led off our formal remarks with a power-point presentation about the broad legacy Lutcher Stark left here at UT during the first half of the 20th century, and I followed by telling the BOR of a Stark legacy at the University of Texas that’s much less well known and how that legacy led, over a period of almost a hundred years, to the Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports. I explained that two men began the circle in 1913 and that another man carried up through the middle 1960s the torch those men lit and, in turn, passed the torch to me—a torch which since 1973 Jan and I have carried together. I prepared a video about this for the BOR, in which I told how this circle was closed in 2007 when the Stark Foundation, established by Lutcher Stark, provided the funding which allowed us to design and build the Stark Center. I introduced the text of the video, in person, to the Board as follows:

“Now that Jan’s given you an overview of Lucher Stark’s remarkable contributions to the university, I want to share a more personal story about how his early life at UT led us to be here today speaking to you about the center which bears his name. This is a story about the closing of a circle.

When I enrolled at The University of Texas 53 years ago I learned a secret that would change my life. The secret was simple as well as profound–training with weights would not make me musclebound. In other words, lifting weights wouldn’t make me slow, or stiff, or clumsy. Back in those days almost everybody—coaches and doctors and sports scientists…everybody… believed that training with heavy weights would make a person musclebound. Back in those days athletes were forbidden to lift weights. Now they’re required to lift weights. No change could be greater, and the change represents a complete paradigm shift. I don’t have time today to explain why everybody believed this nonsense during most of the 20th century, but in my own case I began to understand the secret when I spent the summer after I graduated from high school lifting weights.


  1. Terry Todd, November 29, 2009:

    I never tire of stories from men in my age cohort who share with me the bond of having been either lucky enough or bull-headed enough to have rejected the advice–given so freely by the “P.R.E.-deniers”–to avoid heavy weight training. It’s almost like women who continued to run middle distances back at a time when the prevailing wisdom was that running hard over long distances would probably make them unable to bear children. We’re in a small, but proud minority vindicated by time and science. And I agree with Joe that being a minority in the right definitely led me–and others of us–to be wary of uncritically accepting any sort of received wisdom from one authority or another. And as Martha Stewart might say, “Wariness. It’s a good thing.”

    In this regard, one of the photos in the latest entry shows me talking to one of the Regents–Gene Powell–and the subject of our extended conversation was that he had also done heavy training with weights during his high school and college years. It was a wonderful story. Gene, who was almost a decade behind me at UT, said that his father–a graduate of Texas A&M, an agricultural school located in a small and much less interesting city (to a high-spirited young man) than was Austin–took him to the A&M campus one winter day during his sophomore year in high school. On the way to A&M, his father promised to cover all his expenses if he attended college there, but Gene explained that he really loved football and hoped to get a scholarship somewhere. His father told him that if he got such a scholarship he wouldn’t stand in his way but that he wouldn’t pay for a college education unless Gene went to his own alma mater. Gene said that when they arrived in College Station, where A&M is located, the town and the campus looked so dreary and drab to him that he decided on the spot to do everything he could to earn a scholarship and thus avoid four years in such a grim place. Accordingly, the very next week, he convinced his high school coaches to give him a key to the weight room, which was poorly equipped and almost completely unused. With key in hand, he began to train hard and to read magazines like Strength and Health and, in time, to get much larger and stronger–strong enough to be offered a full scholarship at UT and to have a good career here, even though very few people on the UT team trained with heavy weights.

    Finally, I’m going to add some captions to this entry’s photos tomorrow and also put the video portion directly on the entry instead of as a YouTube link. This should improve the sound quality although, sad to say, not my personal appearance.

  2. Carl Linich, November 28, 2009:

    Bob Hornick and I started lifting about the same time in the same town.We were fortunate enough to have fathers,who didn’t try to discourage us,but actually bought us weights. There were plenty of other people who were willing to offer discouragement,but we persisted, and did become stronger. We also gained a lifelong membership in the Iron Game community.

  3. Joe Roark, November 28, 2009:

    One must admit to a certain smugness because even as a young lad moving weights this way and that and thereby becoming more, not less, flexible, one knew the medical community was more clueless than a lobotimized Sherlock Holmes at least on this one small point, where apparently that community relied more on implied common sense than on conducted experiments.
    In a small way this taught those of us who observed it to indeed not rely on guesses, and to question those who offered foundationless opinions and to realize that being double blind tested is more important than simply being blind to reality.

  4. Bob Hornick, November 28, 2009:

    Closing in on milestone 74 I well recall the days of the ‘musclebound myth.’ What I did know for certain in that time was that lifting weights made me stronger, and that is what I wanted. It was my good fortune to have ignored the warnings of older, wiser men and well meaning friends and to have continued what became a long journey, hoisting the iron.

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