Thursday, August 1, 2013

Eugene Wettstone (July 15, 1913- July 30, 2013)

We recently received news that saddened all of our hearts here in Special Collections. On Tuesday, Gene Wettstone passed away at the age of 100. However, today we'd like to celebrate his life--from his career at Penn State to his relationship to the archives--by highlighting just a few of his many accomplishments.

Known as “Mr. Gymnastics”, Eugene “Gene” Wettstone wasn’t content to be one of the most outstanding and successful collegiate coaches in any sport. Besides his career in coaching, he was also a gardener and a beekeeper, and spent his leisure (or slightly less busy) time making his own cider and restoring antiques he collected.  In addition to all of this, he organized an annual campus circus, where gymnasts and coeds dressed as clowns and did acrobatics, tumbling and high-trapeze acts, and in State College he helped develop athletic programs for local high schools.

Gene was born in 1913 in West New York, N.J. and first took up gymnastics at the age of 10. He excelled as a gymnast at Emerson High School, in Union City, N.J., then took his talents to the University of Iowa, where he had an uncle who coached the gymnastics team. He continued to excel, capturing the Big Ten all-around award twice. He was nearly unbeatable on the side horse and the horizontal bar.

In 1938, Gene was hired as the gymnastics coach at Penn State. His last year was 1976, and he went out with his 9th National Title. During that span, his gymnasts were responsible for dozens of individual titles. Three of his gymnasts have won the highest honor given to the top male gymnast in the country, the Nissen-Emery Award. Thirteen of his gymnasts competed in the Olympics. Gene also participated in 5 Olympic Games: twice as coach, twice as a judge, and once as a manager.
Beginning in 1954, Gene was responsible for organizing international meets at Rec Hall. Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Bulgaria, Finland, Scandinavia, the USSR, and the University of Cologne, have all competed on campus, in a show of good sportsmanship and unity between nations.

We are grateful for the time we had with Gene and his contributions towards making an outstanding collection in our archive, which includes photographs, correspondence and records, video, and memorabilia. 

Paul Karwacki and Alex Bainbridge
Penn State University Archives
Special Collections

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