- H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports
About four decades ago while poring over manuscripts in the famed Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, I overheard two English scholars at the nearby catalogue complaining that the materials they needed for their research were located in Austin, Texas, which would require traveling thousands of miles to see them. This seemingly unlikely scenario can be explained in part by England's cash-starved economy in the twentieth century that sometimes coincided with the availability of fortunes generated by a Texas oil boom. The University of Texas became the beneficiary of much of this largesse, and the accumulation of collections, along with development of its sports programs, became almost an obsession among administrators, faculty, and donors. Included among the twenty-six libraries, centers, and museums at Texas are three world-class collections—the Harry Ransom Center, the Blanton Museum of Art, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. One of the most recent repositories, combining the university's commitment to collections and athletics, is the H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports. It, too, in a quite different sense, could be considered world class.
In 1983 Terry and Jan Todd arrived at the University of Texas where both would engage in teaching. In 1985 Jan also began work on her Ph.D. in American Studies. By this time both of them had compiled distinguished lifting credentials. In addition to their having set numerous national and world records in powerlifting, Terry had been a junior national weightlifting champion, and Jan was once recognized by Sports Illustrated and the Guinness Book of World Records as the "Strongest Woman in the World." They also brought with them a love of lifting lore, a hands-on experience in journalism, and a sizeable collection of books, magazines, and other memorabilia relating to physical culture they had amassed over the years from bookstores and fellow collectors, the most important of whom was the late Ottley Coulter of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. [End Page 483]
To house this valuable resource the university generously provided several rooms in Gregory Gym that—along with contributions from Roy McLean, Terry's former coach and mentor at Texas helped set their operation in motion. Then with renovations of that facility and continued growth of the Todds' collection, it was moved to larger quarters in the old (Anna Hiss) women's gym, but extra storage was still needed and working space was inadequate as an increased interest in physical culture was drawing larger numbers of researchers. At this point several lines of opportunity converged that enabled the Todds not only to preserve and enrich their existing collection, which emphasized strength and weight-training, but to expand it into other fields, all under the protective aegis of the University of Texas.
The first step was the university's decision to add a north wing to the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium that would provide extra seating above and lots of open space below. The physical culture collection would be a perfect complement to this gigantic sports structure, but a large sum of money would be required to secure and build-out the space. The largest portion, $5.5 million, was found in Orange, Texas, in a foundation created by H. J. Lutcher Stark, a former member of the Board of Regents and a major benefactor of Longhorn Athletics, UT Libraries, and the University in general during the first half of the twentieth century. But what made this donation possible was a $2 million gift the Todds received from bodybuilding entrepreneurs Joe and Betty Weider to assist with operation expenses and later, the creation of a museum of physical culture. "Joe was Jewish," as Terry remarked after Weider's death in March of 2013, "but he...