Department of Kinesiology
West Chester University
Dr. Frank Fry
206 Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: (610) 436-2260 or 2610
Fax: (610) 436-2860
Physical education has played a central role in the history of West Chester University since its beginning as a Normal School in 1871. The first formal physical education classes were conducted by Mrs. Ann Morris, wife of the principal. School faculty and students participated in numerous forms of organized physical activity as part of their daily routine. It was also reported that the young men formed a number of baseball teams that competed with teams from the surrounding communities.
The first health lectures were presented in 1886 by Dr. Sue Stackhouse a graduate of the class of 76. Dr. Stackhouse was hired to give six lectures. These lectures were open to the general public and covered such topics as "Dress", "Respiration", and the "Air We Breathe."
In 1889 following a lecture by William Blaikie prominent New York attorney and physical training advocate, the faculty, board of trustees, and students began to discuss the need for a gymnasium. On July 15, 1889 the principal of the Normal School, Dr. George Philips, announced that he had commissioned the construction of a new gymnasium. During that same time period Dr. Philips announced the creation of the department of physical training and introduced its new directors Dr Clyde E. Ehinger and his wife Ella. These two events mark the beginning of a formal department of physical education at West Chester University.
Dr. Ehinger and his wife served as co-directors of the physical training department for thirty years; they developed its programs and contributed to its national recognition as a leader in the field of physical training. The original program consisted of foundation courses, general normal school courses, elective practical course work, and practice teaching in local school districts.
Over the 30 years that Dr. Ehinger and his wife served as co-directors there were many innovations. These innovations included: the introduction of yearly Gymnastics demonstrations beginning in 1892, wrestling 1892, Women's Tennis 1892, Bicycling 1893, Boxing 1894, Swimming 1894, Annual Men's Field Sports Day 1894, Men's Athletic Association 1895, Women's Golf 1898, Men's Basketball 1898, Men's Gymnastics Team 1899, Women's Track and Field 1910, Compulsory Swimming for women 1914.
In 1921, Dr. Charles B. Lewis, long time colleague of the Ehingers, assumed the leadership of the Department of Physical Training. Dr. Lewis served as director for six years. During his tenure as director Dr. Lewis formalized the Health Education curriculum and hired faculty to teach these courses. In addition he began developing the faculty needed to continue the work in athletics started by his predecessors.
In 1926, Dr James Bliss became the first professionally trained educator to assume the leadership of the department. It was during this period that the first bachelors' degrees were granted in Health Education. Under his leadership the department continued its growth in the field of physical education and athletics.
In 1930 Mr. Harry Allen a former State Director of Physical and Health Education assumed the directorship of the department. During his tenure as director Dr Allen had the pleasure of presiding over the dedication of a new gymnasium that was named in honor of Dr.Ehinger and in addition he also had the burden of leading the department during the depression and second world war.
The depression years had a chilling effect on the world and West Chester State Teachers College and the department of physical training were no exception. The department was forced to curtail its programs as people struggled to survive. Athletics seemed to be the one exception as the school continued to establish its reputation as a leader in intercollegiate athletics.
World War II turned the co-education college into a virtual female only institution. In the period following the war the school and the department saw its ranks swell as the veterans returned with a desire to enter the Health and Physical Education Department.
Mr. Allen passed away in 1947 while in the service of the University. For the remainder of that year the department was lead by a committee of three: Mrs. Ann Schaub, Mr. Earl Waters, and Dr. Sturzebecker. Mr. Earl Waters was appointed director for a short period of time in 1947 and 1948.
Dr Russell L Sturzebecker was named interim director of the department in September of 1949. In September of 1950 Dr. Sturzebecker was appointed director of Health and Physical Education. Over the next 20 years under Dr. Sturzebecker's leadership the department added programs in Safety Education, Health, Recreation, Physical Education for the Disabled, and Graduate Studies.
Dr. Sturzebecker took advantage of the nation's interest in international gymnastics by inviting gymnastics teams from around the world to compete and perform at West Chester State College. In 1961 West Chester State Teachers College and the Department of Health and Physical Education gained national recognition when the Russian gymnastics team came to West Chester to compete against the USA and the again when its men's soccer team won the National Championship.
The decades of the 50's and 60's were marked by rapid growth at the College. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania invested heavily in the college old buildings were demolished and new ones built. This growth did not come without some sacrifice on the part of the department. Playing fields and tennis courts were lost to this growth however; land was purchased on South New Street with an eye to future expansion.
The decade of the 60's brought with it a new name and a new curriculum. West Chester State Teachers College become West Chester State College. Soon after a new liberal arts curriculum was developed. The introduction of the liberal arts program once again placed the department of physical education and its programs at the center of the academy. Dance, athletic training, required physical education, and recreation programs gained in popularity.
Over the next thirty years the Physical Education Department would have eight different chairpersons Mr. Melvin Lorback, Dr. Dave Charters, Mr. Richard Yoder, Mr. Joseph Godek, Dr. John Lemke, Dr. Norman Cochran, Mr. John Trezise, and Dr. Monita Lank. During this period a number of significant changes would occur that would have a profound effect on the Health and Physical Education Department and West Chester State College.
The first of these changes took place in 1971 when the department moved to its new home on South Campus (Later to be named after Dr. Sturtzebecker.) The second and most significant change took place in 1982 when the legislature created the SSHE (State System of Higher Education) and West Chester State College became a comprehensive University.
West Chester University was now free to offer degrees other than those leading to teacher certification. Departments of Nursing, Communications Studies, Political Science, Communicative Disorders, Theater, and Art began offering degrees in Chem. Bio (Pre Med), Theater Arts, Communicative Disorders, Rhetoric, Nursing, Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, and Business.
In the mid 80's the department would see health, athletic training, and athletics mature and become separate departments. The department would add a fitness specialist degree, graduate programs in Exercise and Sports Physiology, outdoor adventure programs, a MS in Exercise and Sport Physiology and an MSA in Athletic Administration.
In the 90's the faculty of the Physical Education Department voted to change its name to the Kinesiology Department. This action was taken in light of the change in programs other than teacher certification, changes in the University and Department mission, and national trends.The Next 100 Years --
Over the past 115 years Physical Education at West Chester has experienced many changes. It came into being in response to society's recognition of the importance of physical activity and its contribution to physical and mental health. Its programs were expanded as society embraced fitness, sport and recreation as a legitimate use time. Each change resulted in a department closer to the center of the academy's mission. More importantly the changes resulted in a department prepared to address the broader issues of society and contribute to the education and professional lives of its students.
At beginning of a new millennium the Kinesiology Department is once again challenged with a changing society. As it moves into the new millennium the department finds sport and dance more central to the cultural life of the nation, fitness and wellness part of the national discussion and psyche, and physical education in the nations schools given added importance by the U.S. Public Health Service.
The challenge for the department in the next millennium will be to find effective ways to deliver on it's mission statement. The measure of its success in meeting this challenge will be written over the next and each succeeding graduating class.
A special thank you to Dr. Russell L. Stuzebecker for his permission to use the materials contained in his book, WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY - 1871-1991 Gymnastic Circuses Dance Festivals Athletic Exhibitions , 1993, Russell L. Sturzebecker 503 Owen Road West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380