Don Coleman, 1928-2017

1 02 2017
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Don Coleman, MSC football player, poses on the field, circa 1950s

Former Michigan State Lineman Don Coleman has died at the age of 88.

A three-year letter-winner (1949-1951), Coleman was MSU’s first unanimous choice for All-American, in 1951.  In that year, Don Coleman helped propel the Spartan football team to their first ever national championship.  He was also the first Spartan athlete to have his jersey retired (#78), and Clarence “Biggie” Munn called him “the finest lineman ever to play for Michigan State”.  Soon after being drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1952 NFL Draft, Coleman ended his football career to serve in the Korean War, adopting an orphanage overseas and acquiring clothing for the orphanage through work with the city of Flint, Michigan.

Coleman left the Army in 1954 to work in education in Flint, ultimately joining MSU’s faculty in 1968.  There, he served as an assistant professor in intercollegiate athletics, and even worked as an assistant coach under “Biggie” Munn that same season.  He was named Assistant Director of Student Affairs the following year, and was named Director of the Minority Comprehensive Support Program of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1974.  In 1978, Coleman was named an Assistant Dean of the MSU Graduate School, and soon after served as the first Executive Director of the Black Child and Family Institute in Lansing, among many other prestigious roles in the Lansing area.

Don Coleman was also the first player named to Notre Dame’s All-Opponent Team three years in a row.  A complete film of the historic November 20, 1951 game against Notre Dame, in which the 5th ranked Spartans shut out the 11th ranked Fighting Irish by a score of 35-0, is available at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections (UA 17.75, reel 653).

Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist

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Audiovisual Collections: Blanche Martin and the 1957 Spartan Football Team

16 01 2017
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Blanche Martin

January 16, 2017 marks the 80th birthday of Blanche Martin – an academic all-American MSU football running back (1956-1959).  The 1957 Spartan Football team were national champions, one of six seasons in the team’s history in which they held that distinction, and thanks in no small part to Martin.  During that season, he scored 7 touchdowns and ran for over 600 yards.  But Martin is known for so much more than being a great Spartan running back.

Dr. Blanche Martin (DDS,  University of Detroit Dental School, 1967) was elected to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in 1969, the first African American to hold the position.  He chaired the Board from 1974 to 1976, and served on the board until 1984.  Dr. Martin also made great strides in improving conditions for minorities at Michigan State, increasing minority hiring and enrollment.  Dr. Martin was also a co-founder of the College of Urban Development at Michigan State University.

A video of the October 26, 1957 game film against Illinois is available for viewing online at the MSU Archives & Historical Collections’ site for digital collections, On the Banks of the Red Cedar: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-55F/msu-football-vs-illinois-1957/.  Other film reels from the 1957 season are available at the Archives, including most of the other games from that season, a highlights reel, and an “old timers” game reel!

If you would like to help preserve Spartan history and get this footage preserved and digitized for online access, please consider donating to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund (https://www.givingto.msu.edu/gift/?sid=1484). More information about the Film Fund can be found here: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-archives-preserves-spartan-history/.

Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist

Editor’s note: Dr. Blanche Martin was interviewed for MSU’s Sesquicentennial Oral History Project in 2000.  The recording and transcripts are available on our On the Banks of the Red Cedar website: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/sohp/Object/2-D-E3/blanche-martin/.

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MSU Board of Trustees, 1969. (standing L to R) Don Stevens, Frank Hartman, Warren Huff, Frank Thompson (sitting L to R) Stephen Nisbet, Blanche Martin, C. Allen Harlan, Frank Merriman