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The University of Minnesota was founded in 1851, seven years before Minnesota gained statehood. The first organized program at the University related to physical activity was compulsory military training for all men in the freshmen class, beginning in 1862. While many men complained about the military training obligation, some women clamored for the privilege of doing so. In 1886, Company Q was organized for women to participate in military drills.

In 1879, male students campaigned for gymnastic training which led to Professor A. Kindervarter conducting calisthenics four times a week on campus. Kindervarter was a member of the Minneapolis Turners, a group devoted to practicing the German system of gymnastics. Some women also participated in the activities directed by Kindervarter, albeit at times separate from the men. In 1880, an athletic association was established to foster sports of all kinds, especially football. Six years later, Professor Frederick Jones from the Department of Physics was elected president of the Athletic Association, and shortly thereafter was appointed the faculty director of athletics. He served in that capacity until 1908.

The military training unit for women, Company Q, continued until 1892, when a more conventional physical activity program for women was established under the Department of Physical Culture, headed by Louise Kiehle from 1892-1900. This program, required for all freshmen women in the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts, was intended to help women "develop a strong and symmetrical physique with a graceful and easy carriage."

In 1897, Louis "Doc" Cooke, who received an M.D. from the University of Vermont and previously served as the physical director of the Minneapolis YMCA, was hired as the gymnasium director for men. His position also was referred to as the director of the Department of Physical Culture for Men in the University's 10th Biennial Report and as the director of the Department of Physical Education for Men in the University Senate Constitution. Cooke was the coach of the University's first intercollegiate basketball team in 1897 and, in the 1901-02 season, his team was undefeated and won clear title to the championship of American colleges. During these years, both the men's and women's physical culture programs were carried out at the Armory and the fields around the Armory, although the men were allocated far more space than the women.

In 1895, the Women's Athletic Association began with the Ladies Tennis Association, and sponsored interscholastic basketball for the first time in 1902. The tennis and basketball teams in these early years were coached by men, including Cooke. The Women's Athletic Association became allied with the Department of Physical Education for Women in 1913, with almost all women's athletic activities on campus organized under its auspices.

In 1901, the Department of Physical Culture for Women became the Department of Physical Education for Women, headed by Ann Butner. Required courses continued for all freshmen women and, in addition, a variety of electives were offered called "sports and pastimes," consisting of basketball and other games. In 1906, a course of study for teachers of physical education was begun, which led to certification to teach physical education. In 1911, J. Anna Norris, an M.D. graduate from Northwestern, came to Minnesota from the University of Chicago and was appointed director of the Department of Physical Education for Women in 1912. She held this position until 1941 when she retired. When she came to the University of Minnesota, Norris' duties included that of health officer responsible for the sanitary inspection of lodging houses and for the physical examination of all women entering the University. She also investigated cases of illness in the dormitories and boarding houses. Her services preceded those of the Student Health Service, established in 1918.

In 1908, Frederick Jones, then the Dean of the College of Engineering, resigned as president of the Athletic Association after student athletes bitterly complained that he had overstepped his authority in committing the University to new regulations intended to diminish the creeping professionalism in college football at a meeting of athletic representatives of western colleges in Chicago. Jones' resignation strengthened the resolution of the regents to put athletics completely under the control of faculty. Thus, in 1912, the University Senate appointed two standing committees on physical activities and athletics: the Committee on Intra-mural Sports and Physical Education and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics. The Committee on Intra-mural Sports and Physical Education, composed of the heads of the Departments of Physical Education for Men (Cooke) and Physical Education for Women (Norris) and five other outside faculty, was charged with supervising the gymnasium and athletic grounds of the University in relation to the physical and intramural programs. The Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, composed of five faculty members, was responsible for all sources of revenue and had veto power over all decisions made by the athletics board of control.

Henry Williams, an M.D. like Cooke and Norris, had coached football at the University of Minnesota since 1900, and had many outstanding teams up to 1916. But, new regulations on recruiting and subsidizing athletes led to many losses and, after the 1920 season, there was great debate throughout the University, publicized in great detail in the Minnesota Daily, whether he should be fired. L.D. Coffman, in his first year as president of the University, was dedicated to maintaining strong academic standards in athletics and to not overemphasize wins and championships. In response to this great turmoil over Williams, he created a new Department of Physical Education and Athletics which would be responsible for all intramural and intercollegiate athletics. This new department began in 1922 with Fred Luehring as its director, and included a program in intramurals, headed by Walter Smith until 1954, and a program in recreation leadership. In 1921, Williams was let go as football coach and replaced by William Spaulding.

After several years of intense lobbying by Norris, the Women's Gymnasium was built and opened in 1915. This building, one of the first gymnasiums built at an American college exclusively for women's programs, was renamed the "Norris Gymnasium for Women" after her retirement in 1941. In 1918, the Student Health Service opened in Pillsbury Hall, with Norris holding weekly office hours at the Student Health Service and continuing to conduct physical examinations for all women students in the Women's Gymnasium until 1929, when the Student Health Service moved to its present location in the University Hospital and took over these duties. In 1917, the requirement for physical education for women was extended to two years and, in 1919, a four-year course for the preparation of teachers in physical education was set up separately in the men's and women's departments under the auspices of the College of Education. A student could major or minor in physical education, and receive a bachelor of science degree in physical education. The first graduates of these programs received their degrees in 1922.

Also in 1919, the Women's Athletic Association became a charter member of the Athletic Conference of American College Women and, in 1924, a charter member of the National Amateur Athletic Federation. Norris was an initial member of the Executive Committee of the Women's Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation, established in 1923 under the direction of Mrs. Herbert Hoover, and the chair of the committee which set the standards for sport participation for girls and women. In addition, Norris was one of 28 charter members of the American Academy of Physical Education, established in 1930.

In 1924, Memorial Stadium was dedicated to the University of Minnesota students who had fought and died in World War 1; in 1928, the University Fieldhouse, now named Williams Arena after Henry Williams, was built; and, in 1934, the Indoor Sports building for men opened, later renamed Cooke Hall after Louis "Doc" Cooke. In 1938, a master of education degree in physical education and a bachelor of science degree in recreation leadership were established through the College of Education.

In 1929, the College of Agriculture, the College of Education, and the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts granted academic credit for physical education required of all students in both the men's and women's departments for the first time. But, in 1933, the requirement for all men to engage in military training and physical education in the course of their academic careers was eliminated.

In 1930, Herbert Crisler became the head of Department of Physical Education and Athletics as athletic director (following Luehring) and the new football coach (following Spaulding, who went to UCLA). After Crisler left to go to the University of Michigan, Frank McCormick took over as department head and athletic director from 1932-50, and also served as the baseball coach. Louis Keller was the acting director from 1941-45 while McCormick was involved in military service. In 1947, two new Graduate School degree options were established: a master of arts in education with a concentration in physical education for men, and a doctor of philosophy in education with a minor in physical education. Ike Armstrong became athletic director and head of the Department of Physical Education and Intercollegiate Athletics in 1950 and remained in that position until 1963, when he was replaced by Marshall Ryman. In 1954, C.E. "Pat" Mueller took over the leadership of the intramural programs for men from Walter Smith.

In 1945, Gertrude Baker took over as director of the Department of Physical Education for Women, and also served as acting director from Norris' retirement in 1941 to 1945 and Director from 1945 to 1962. In 1957, the Department of Physical Education for Women was placed in the College of Education. Up to this date, the department was a free-standing academic unit within the University. When Baker retired in 1962, Eloise Jaeger took over as director of the Department of Physical Education for Women.

In 1963, the School of Physical Education in the College of Education was established as an umbrella for the Departments of Physical Education for Men, Physical Education for Women, Recreation Leadership, and a program in School Health Education. The department heads for these three departments were Dean Richardson, Helen Slocum, Eloise Jaeger, and Pat Mueller, respectively. Under Slocum in School Health Education, a school health education minor, an M.A., and Ph.D. in physical education with an emphasis on school health was established. It was necessary to label the degree as such for the Department of Public Health in the Medical School objected, thinking the degree would become confused with the public health degree. The program was later phased out in the late 1980s due to sweeping retrenchments throughout the University. Intramural programs for women and dance programs for both men and women continued to be operated through the Department of Physical Education for Women, and Intramurals for Men operated through the Department of Recreation Leadership. Richard Donnelly, who first came to the University in 1955, was appointed the first director of the School of Physical Education. At this time, men's athletics became an entity unto itself, separate from physical education.

In 1965, Intramurals for Men became its own department in the School of Physical Education. In 1966, the department name for recreation leadership was changed to recreation and park administration and, at the same time, a master of arts degree in recreation and park administration and a doctor of philosophy in education with an emphasis in recreation and park administration were established. The doctor of philosophy in physical education was initiated in 1969.

Donnelly, the director of the School of Physical Education, was killed in an airplane crash in 1969. Eloise Jaeger became the acting director and was officially appointed as director of the School of Physical Education in 1971. She was the first woman at an American college or university to have administrative authority over both men's and women's physical education programs and she also held administrative authority over the school health, recreation (professional), and intramurals programs.

In 1971, the name of the school was changed to the School of Physical Education, Recreation, and School Health Education. The next year, several of the programs in the School merged: the Departments of Physical Education for Men and Physical Education for Women became the Department of Physical Education, and the Departments of Intramurals-Extramurals for Men, Recreation and Park Administration, and intramural programs for women became the Department of Recreation and Park Administration. Dr. Belmar Gunderson continued as Coordinator for intramurals and extramurals for women which eventually gave rise to Women's Intercollegiate Athletics. In 1973, intramurals for men moved out of the School of Physical Education, Recreation, and School Health Education to the Office of Student Affairs, and became the Department of Intramurals-Extramurals Sports. In 1975, this unit was renamed the Office of Recreational Sports.

In 1975, the School of Physical Education, Recreation, and School Health Education was reorganized into three divisions: physical education; recreation, park, and leisure studies; and school health education. Dance was a program subsumed under physical education. Consistent with these changes, the degree names in recreation were changes to a bachelor of science, master of education, and master of arts in recreation, park, and leisure studies, and a doctor of philosophy in education with an emphasis in recreation, park, and leisure studies.

At the same time, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was established in 1975, with Belmar Gunderson as its interim director and Vivian Barfield as its first official director. Also in 1975, Jaeger became Assistant Dean of the College of Education, and Jack Alexander took over as acting director of the School. In 1977, G. Alan Stull was appointed the third director of the School of Physical Education, Recreation, and School Health Education, coming from the University of Kentucky. In 1983, the Division of School Health Education was dropped and the dance program was moved to the Department of Theatre Arts in the College of Liberal Arts.

In 1984, G. Alan Stull moved on to the University of Wisconsin, and John Schultz became the acting director of the School. In 1986, Michael Wade became director of the School of Physical Education and Recreation, with previous academic administration appointments at Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois. Under Wade's leadership, the school changed its name to the School of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies in 1991, with a Division of Kinesiology and a Division of Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies. At the same time, the bachelor of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees in physical education were changed to kinesiology, while the M.Ed. degree remained in physical education.

An undergraduate program in sport studies was added to the school beginning in the 1996-97 academic year, the first new degree program in over 30 years. This program draws from resources in the two divisions of the School, but has its own courses and unique objectives. In 2000, the Division of Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies was renamed the Division of Recreation and Sport Studies.

The name of the school changed in March 2002 to School of Kinesiology, dropping the leisure studies portion in an effort to reflect the more generic, physical activity based mission of the School.

The School of Kinesiology is one of nine departments in the College of Education and Human Development. In 2005, Mary Jo Kane, Professor and Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, was named director of the school, replacing Michael Wade, who had held the position for 19 years. In 2005 the faculty voted to eliminate the two divisions, Kinesiology and Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies, and combine all programs under a single governance.

Seven degrees are offered through the school, including the bachelor of science and master of arts in sport management; the bachelor of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy in kinesiology; the master of education in applied kinesiology; and the bachelor of science in recreation, park, and leisure studies.

This history was compiled by the late Dr. Allen W. Burton in 2000, with minor updates by staff in 2007 and 2009.


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Last modified on 2/7/2013