Colorado State University invites the community to attend an Olympic Oak Tree planting ceremony in honor of CSU alumnus Glenn Morris, university athletic standout and winner of the 1936 Olympic Decathlon Gold Medal, at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 10, on the southeast lawn of the Field House at College and University avenues on campus. The event is free and open to the public.
The ceremony honoring Morris will also bring to a close a longtime mystery about the Morris Olympic Oak location at CSU. The planting of a second-generation Olympic Oak will be celebrated with photographs and video of Morris while at CSU and competing in the Olympic Games. Remarks will be provided by CSU President Tony Frank; Paul Kowalczyk, athletics director; Don Holst, Olympic historian; and Morris Ververs, former principal of Simla High School who has done extensive research on Morris and worked to keep his memory alive in Simla, Colo.
“We are pleased to have this opportunity to honor the memory and accomplishments of Glenn Morris, one of CSU’s most gifted athletes,” Frank said. “We are also pleased to create a monument in honor of Morris that the campus community can treasure for many, many years.”
Like all gold medalists at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Morris was given an oak tree seedling to plant in his home country to serve as an inspiration to future generations. Morris chose to donate his oak tree to his alma mater, Colorado State College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts – now Colorado State University. A picture of Morris and then CSU President Charles Lory documents that the oak arrived on campus on Sept. 10, 1936.
Although there has been speculation for years about where the tree might be, there is no record of the tree’s fate after it arrived at CSU. Arborists have recently confirmed that the Olympic Oak is nowhere to be found on campus. Only a handful of the famous Olympic oaks remain alive around the world, including at least three in the United States.
On May 10, Holst, whose passion has led him to travel the world to visit Olympic Oaks and collect their acorns, will present CSU with a second-generation 1936 Olympic Oak. The oak will grow near the CSU Field House where Morris trained. At the ceremony, a second Olympic Oak will be presented to Morris’ hometown high school in Simla.
About Glenn Morris
Morris is the only CSU athlete to have ever earned the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete.” He was the first Coloradan to earn an Olympic gold medal, and he earned the Sullivan Award in 1936 as the nation’s top amateur athlete.
His remarkable rise to fame included ticker tape parades, a starring role in a Tarzan movie and heroic service to his country in World War II.
Morris grew up in poverty on a family farm in Simla. He ran two miles to school every day despite having asthma. Once at Colorado A&M, he excelled in football, track and basketball. Morris was a record-setting hurdler and helped lead the Harry Hughes-coached football team to a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship in the fall of 1933, twice earning all-conference honors as an end. Following the 1934 season, he became the first CSU player ever selected to compete in the East-West Shrine Game.
Morris also excelled at CSU outside of athletics. He was president of the student body and earned degrees in economics and sociology.
After graduating in 1935, Morris began training for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin while working as a CSU assistant football coach and selling cars at a local dealership. Morris dedicated the rest of his time to training for the decathlon, which included several events, such as the pole vault and 1,500-meter run, in which he had not competed before.
By the spring of 1936, the 23-year-old Morris competed in his first decathlon at the Kansas Relays. The unknown Morris stunned the field by winning the two-day competition with 7,567 points – an American record.
Two months later, Morris won the U.S. Olympic trials decathlon by beating favorite Bob Clark and breaking the world record. He was bound for the 1936 Olympic Games, joining American greats such as legend Jesse Owens.
Dominating the second day of competition, Morris collapsed at the finish of the 1,500-meter race, the final event. The crowd gave an ovation for Morris, whose winning total of 7,990 points broke his own world record. That new record would stand for nearly 14 years.
Morris returned to America to parades in New York City, Denver and Simla, and a brief Hollywood career. He played one season in the NFL before getting injured, and then enlisted in the Navy, serving in the South Pacific.
Morris was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1969. He died in 1974, and was posthumously inducted into the CSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2007.