Olympic historian John Lucas dies

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- One of the world's foremost Olympic historians and longtime Penn State professor John Lucas died on Nov. 9. Lucas spent much of his adult life as a professor at Penn State, recently moving to Columbia, Mo., to be closer to his family. Lucas was born Dec. 24, 1927, in Boston. He was 84.

"On behalf of the Penn State track and field community, we are very saddened to hear of the passing of track and field legend, Dr. John Lucas," said Director and Head Coach of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. "As a historian, he provided such great knowledge of our entire sport, and as a Penn State coach and professor, he helped pave the way for success in both the athletic and academic arenas. He will be remembered and honored as a great leader in the track and field, and Penn State communities."

Since 1952, Lucas had documented and researched the modern Olympic games, amassing a collection (162 cubic feet) that is unparalleled outside the official International Olympic Committee (IOC) holdings. In 2010, he gave this collection to the Penn State University Archives. Aside from the London Olympics this past summer, Lucas attended every summer Olympic Games since 1960. An avid runner, Lucas had the opportunity to run on every Olympic track during those years, with his final Olympic "lap" coming at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He also was honored with the title of "Official International Olympic Committee Lecturer" in 1992, and with the Olympic Order Medal by the IOC in 1996. 

An accomplished athlete in his own right, Lucas finished seventh in the 10,000-meters at the 1952 Olympic Team Trials - just shy of a spot on the United States Olympic Team. He attended Boston University as an undergraduate student, before earning his master's degree at the University of Southern California. He earned his doctorate from Penn State in 1970.

Lucas coached Nittany Lion track and field and cross country from 1962 to 1968. Prior to Penn State, he was an assistant coach at the University of Maryland from 1958 to 1962.

He officially retired from Penn State in 1996, but continued to teach for many years after as a professor emeritus of kinesiology. He taught the course "History, Philosophy, and Politics of the Modern Olympic Games," for more than 30 years. Lucas was the author of four books, including "The Future of the Olympics" (1992) and "The Modern Olympic Games" (1980), as well as more than 200 articles on the subject. 

He died after a year-long battle with Lewy body dementia. Lucas was married in 1955 to Joyce, and the two remained together until her death in 2010. He is survived by his son Mark, of Columbia, Mo.; his granddaughter Katie; and his grandson Matt.
 

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Last Updated November 19, 2012