MSU Olympic Athletes

The winter is an interesting time for archaeologists. With the ground still frozen we are largely relegated to working with materials that have already been excavated during previous field seasons. In fact, winter has traditionally been the time when archaeologists un-box materials from the previous summer’s field season and begin the process of cataloging, categorizing, and analyzing. But this process also has its limitations, with my own project for example, I recently mailed a number of pieces of charcoal, pottery, and decayed wood to an outside lab to be radiocarbon dated. Carbon-14 isotope dating like this however takes a minimum of 2-4 weeks to receive results, meaning that this part of the project can’t continue any further until the lab sends back the dates. Lulls like this in the workload are not terribly uncommon though, as the working pace of a project can often vary drastically throughout its lifetime depending on the specifics of the given situation.

That said, during such interludes we archaeologists often do things like dread the cold and take on small side projects to occupy the time. In my case watching the winter Olympics spurred me to wonder what kind of contribution Michigan State had made to the Olympic games over the years, and how past MSU students competing in the games is a part of our own campus history. Moreover, Campus Archaeology is about researching the history of MSU, and while artifacts and excavations are a major part of that, some research requires a different kind of digging. Something that archaeologists share with historians is the utilization of archival data: texts, journals, documents and other records that augment the archaeological record to give a better understanding of the past. Luckily, archival sources such as those in the Spartan Athletics Hall of Fame turned out to be exactly the kind of resource I needed to see what kind of contribution MSU had made to Olympic history.

As I found out, there are eleven former MSU Olympians, each of them listed below. For more information check out the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame here.

Fred Alderman (Frederick Pitt Alderman; June 24, 1905 – September 15, 1998, Hometown – East Lansing, MI); was a track and field athlete and the first Spartan to become an Olympic gold medalist after wining the 4x400m relay at the 1928 summer Olympics.

Charles Pierce Davey (Chuck Davey, 3 May 1925–4 December 2002, Hometown – Dearborn, MI); a welterweight boxer for MSU, who went on to compete in the Olympics on the U.S. boxing team in 1948. Davey eventually retired from the sport to become the state of Michigan’s boxing commissioner.

Linda Gustavson (Hometown – Santa Cruz, Calif.); Swimmer – 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter relay,  silver medalist in the 400-meter individual freestyle and bronze medalist in the 100-meter individual freestyle.

Weldon Olson (Hometown – Marquette, MI); Played on the MSU ice hockey team from 1951 to 1955 before winning an Olympic silver metal in ice hockey during the 1956 Olympics, followed by a gold metal in 1960.

Ken Walsh (Hometown – Ponte Vedra, Fla.); Swimming (MSU – 1965-67), won two gold metals at the 1968 Olympics in the 400m relay and 400m freestyle relay.

Ryan Miller (Hometown – East Lansing, Mich.); Michigan State ice hockey player between 1999 and 2002. Became an Olympic MVP/silver medalist in 2010 and is currently competing on the US Ice Hockey team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Currently plays for the Buffalo Sabres.

Judith (“Judi”) Lynne Brown-King (Born July 14, 1961); Competed for the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won the silver metal in the women’s 400 meter hurdles.

Clarke Scholes (Hometown – Detroit, MI); Swimming – 1952 Olympic gold medal in the 100m freestyle.

Steve Smith (Hometown – Detroit, MI); Basketball – 1994 Olympic gold medalist on the U.S. basketball team.

Doug Volmar (Hometown – Cleveland Heights, OH); Ice Hockey – (MSU 1965-60) – competed in the 1968 US Olympic hockey team.

Ernestine Russell-Weaver (Hometown – Windsor, Ontario); Gymnastics – Former MSU gymnast from 1957 to 1960. Ernstine Weaver competed on the Canadian Olympic gymnastics team in 1956 and 60. Earned her degree from Michigan State in physical education and dance.

Through these athletes Michigan State University has become a part of Olympic history, and Olympic history has become part of our own campus history and identity. For additional athletes competing in the Sochi Olympics with ties to the State of Michigan as a whole, take a look at this article.



Author: Ian Harrison

1 thought on “MSU Olympic Athletes”

  • Please don’t forget Gene Grazia (MSU,1958) my teammate on the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal Hockey team and Virginia “Ginny” Baxter who was in the 1952 Winter Olympics as a figure Skater.

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