Jim Thorpe Fitness Center

Not long ago it was my pleasure to inform readers that Carlisle, PA isn’t the only town to have Jim Thorpe on a mural. Now I can share that Carlisle Barracks isn’t the location of the only Jim Thorpe Fitness Center. Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU, Haskell Institute in Big Jim’s day) also has a Jim Thorpe Fitness Center. In fact, Haskell has had a Jim Thorpe Fitness Center for a couple of years – in a building constructed and named after the great athlete 50 years ago. A sign that formerly adorned the building’s exterior now hints to the building’s former use now hangs inside the building.

On Monday, March 9, 2009, Robert W. Wheeler, author of “Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete,” gave a talk at the re-dedication of the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center as part of the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Haskell’s founding. The building formerly known as the Jim Thorpe Power Plant now houses machines designed to help humans maintain their muscle tone rather than machines to eliminate the need for human muscle power.

In the audience was someone who also is familiar with Carlisle. Before joining the faculty of the University of Kansas, Bernie Kish was executive director for the College Football Hall of Fame for a decade. I met Dr. Kish there when researching Lone Star Dietz. Bernie recalled his time in Carlisle:

“I was a career military officer, serving in the US Army for over 29 years. In 1981, I attended the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks—the site of the Carlisle Indian School—in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was my privilege to play basketball in the same gymnasium and run laps on the same track as Thorpe, Lone Star, and Gus Welch. The biggest annual extra-curricular event at the War College is Jim Thorpe Sports Day. It is competition in ten sports among the military’s senior service schools, the Army, Navy and Air Force War Colleges plus the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. For two days, these future generals forget their military studies and compete for the honor of taking home the Jim Thorpe Sports Day Trophy. I was the Athletic Director for the 1982 Sports Day and in that capacity came to know Carl Thorpe, Jim’s son, quite well. I still treasure the photo of Carl and me presenting the Sports Day awards.”


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