Monday, March 3, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 13 Wanna Be a Spartan? Michigan State XC History

Walter C. Mack  Endowment  

Navy photo source: Glendale News Press (retrieved 5 May 2011).
Running photo source: MSU Archives and Historic Collections.
Photos appear on Michigan State Cross Country Study

If you have children or grandchildren looking for a way to college and a bit of financial aid,  here is an opportunity for a MSU undergrad student majoring in  kinesiology and also pursuing a teaching  degree.  If they are willing to attend Michigan State University,  which I hear is a pretty good school, they might want to check out the link below.   Walter C. Mack was an Olympic aspirant in 1940, lost his chance with WWII and a combat injury, but still returned and ran for MSU in cross county and track after the war and was an All-American.  He became a teacher in Southern California and coached at John Muir HS in Pasadena and Cal Tech.  Pete Brown who was one of Walter's students at Eliot Jr High School sent us this announcement.  Pete recalled that Walter Mack used to show cross country films in his history classes at Muir.  He managed to send two southern California runners to Michigan State, but those lads had a really hard time with the harsh conditions brought on by the Midwest temperate climate.

The Glendale Times carried Walter Mack's Obituary in 2010.

Walter C. Mack

February 02, 2011nt fight against Alzheimer’s disease and congestive heart failure on August 1, 2010, at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank. He was born February, 8, 1920 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Mack was a popular teacher in the Pasadena school system for 36 years before retiring in 1985. During his retirement, Mack and his wife, Patricia, lived in Northwest Glendale.
After graduating from Lafayette High School in Buffalo, Mack attended Michigan State University. He was selected All American in both track and cross country during his sophomore and junior years.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor Day, Mack enlisted in the Navy. He was trained as a pharmacist mate and then volunteered to serve in Marine Corps. During action in the South Pacific, Mack was wounded while rendering medical aid to fellow Marines on New Britain Island and received the Purple Heart medal.

After recovering from his wounds, Mack returned to Michigan State and resumed running track and cross country. He again was selected All American in both sports during his final two years before graduation.
Mack later earned his master’s degree from Columbia University. He continued graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley before beginning his teaching career in Pasadena in 1952.
Mack spent much of his teaching career at John Muir High School where he taught advanced world history. His essay tests became known throughout the school as the “Mack Attack”. To make his course more interesting, Mack presented to his classes photos and stories he collected during three trips around the world.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Patricia Harris Mack, a retired teacher at Glendale High School; sister and brother-in-law, Grace and Stan Padd; several nieces and nephews; and hundreds of former students.

Distance runner Walter Mack was my teacher at Eliot Jr HS in 1952. According to MSU site he was a Navy Corpsman at New Britain, the same place one of my closest friends in the world, a Marine who was wounded by a Japanese machine gun and nearly killed on Jan 2, 1944.
Ed Bearss’ life was saved by a Navy Corpsman and a lieutenant who crawled out under fire and pulled him out of harms way. It might have been Walter Mack for all I know. I’d love to find out. Neither man received any commendation for the heroic act.
Ed was in the US Navy Hospital in San Diego for 26 months recovering. I talked to him just this morning, at age 90 he remains a history icon, traveling all over the country giving speeches and leading tours. He has written many books, primarily on American military history. Read his bio: . Ed and I have traveled all over together, from Guadalcanal to the Rhine and back roads of North America, over and over, by van, bus, small ship and riverboat.
I cannot remember what Mack taught, but probably history. That was my interest then as now. Cross country was  big at MSU, and he must have been pretty good as he made All American, and he used to show 8mm films of him running in indoor meets back east. He would babble about it and, sad to say, I didn’t have much interest in those grainy films and cross country at age 13.
Pete Brown

Michigan State Cross Country Website

 Mark Havitz, professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario has created a great website of Michigan State Track and Cross Country History that has a lot of great archival photos and even some video of 1940's era NCAA Cross Country Championships that were held in East Lansing, MI. 
That site can be found at:

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