- John Apostal Lucas: Teacher, Sport Historian, and One Who Lived His Life Earnestly
Lucas wrote that the term “marathon” is an adjective used to describe any phenomenon of great length (p. 21). For over a half a century, Dr. John Lucas was a leader in the academic marathon and his self-authored anthology, John Apostal Lucas: Teacher, Sport Historian, and One Who Lived His Life Earnestly, is a literary celebration of both his tenure and the progression of the field of sport history scholarship.
In his autobiographical sketch at the onset of the text, Lucas describes how the values of hard work and determination from his Albanian-immigrant parents, academic and athletic achievements at each stage of his schooling, and his love for his family shaped the direction of his professional and personal life. He highlights noteworthy life experiences with attention to detail and colorful anecdotes to help readers grasp the fullness of his life and quest for excellence as a teacher, scholar, and coach. Such events include his participation in the Penn State Relays with Boston University in 1950; his surprise as a master’s student at the University of Southern California after hearing his invited guest, Olympic champion Mildred “Babe” Didriksen, speak of her revulsion towards elite-level sports and their impact on athletes’ lives; his national-level success as a track and field coach at Huntington (Boston) Preparatory School for Boys; his impeccable teaching record in the Department of Kinesiology at Penn State University; and his reception of “Official IOC Lecturer” award by Juan Antonio Samaranch in 1992 for his commitment to the Olympic movement and International Olympic Academy.
From his stunning personal collection of over two hundred published books and articles, Lucas selected twenty-three works that encompass his three main research areas in sport history: physical education/kinesiology, track and field, and the Olympic games. Organized temporally, the collection of articles exemplifies the expansion of topics and quality of descriptive historical writing over the course of Lucas’ career. The first article chosen is from early in Lucas’ research race in 1957, with a focus on the surprising victory and radical running-style of that year’s Boston marathon champion, John Kelly. Subsequently, Lucas takes readers into his works in the next two decades on pedestrianism, the history of the marathon race, and the clash between two “early Olympic antagonists,” Pierre de Coubertin and James E. Sullivan. His articles from the 1980s until 2007 explore subjects such as the reunion of two of America’s most distinguished physical educators— Mabel Lee and Elmer Mitchell; America’s involvement in the 1906 Athens Olympian games and the 1920 post-war Olympic games; the leadership and drama around Olympic and sport advocates Theodore Roosevelt, Pierre de Coubertin, William Milligan Sloan, and Gustavus Town Kirby; the mythic impact of the film Chariots of Fire and iconic significance of Olympic games filmmaker Bud Greenspan; politics within the IOC and AAU relationship and the expulsion of IOC member Ernest Lee Jahncke for his opposition to America’s involvement in the 1936 games; and the political impact of Thomas Penn’s Pennsylvania Walking Purchase of 1737. The publication venues of these articles span various academic journals and non-peer-reviewed publications, and, depending upon [End Page 310] the topic of study, Lucas’ works demonstrate how a wide variety of primary and secondary sources were utilized to support and inform his research.
Lucas’ book is of value to all sport historians. His anthology models the ways our discipline matured over the last six decades in topical area, depth of scholarly inquiry, and the relevance of sport history scholarship to better understand its role in politics, popular culture, and physical education. Further, his collection exemplifies the ways in which a scholar develops his research capabilities and literary skills, expands research foci, and creates impact within and outside of academe through scholarly work.