Don Coleman, 1928-2017

1 02 2017

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


Scrapbook History: Walter G. Knickerbocker

31 03 2016



It has been awhile since we have written a Scrapbook History feature.  I recently visited the stacks and grabbed a scrapbook at random: #54.  This one was created by Walter G. Knickerbocker, an engineering student in the class of 1916.  It seemed apropos since earlier this month marked the 100th anniversary of the Engineering Building fire, and the near death of engineering as a major at Michigan State.


Walter G. Knickerbocker, of Clio, Michigan, studied Engineering at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) from 1912 to 1916.  He was active in a number of clubs, including the Engineering Society, Phylean Literary Society (now Beta Kappa Fraternity), and the engineering honorary society Tau Beta Pi.  Following graduation, Knickerbocker moved to Detroit and became a meter superintendent for Detroit Edison.

The scrapbook itself was a mass produced item in college green with the white intertwined MAC logo and Knickerbocker’s name embossed in gold on the front.  The inside is a reflection of college life in the 1910s.  The first few pages are devoted to autographs.  Friends and acquaintances wrote their names, hometowns, birth dates, and “happy thoughts,” which consisted of favorite phrases and reminiscences.

The rest of the scrapbook contains programs and tickets from campus activities, receipts, report cards, news clippings, photographs of family and friends, and postcards from various Michigan cities such as Flint, Pontiac, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, St. Charles, and Port Huron, as well as El Paso, Texas, and Mexico.

One of the more interesting items is a note regarding a Tau Beta Pi meeting.  It has a list of items that he must bring to the meeting that requires some mathematical aptitude to decipher.  The note contains the warning “Do not fail in a single item.”


Tau Beta Pi meeting invitation

Also included are newspaper clippings and a photo of the Engineering Building fire that occurred on March 5, 1916.  Sadly missing from the scrapbook is his reaction to the Engineering Building fire.  As an engineering senior it must have been an important event in his academic career.  Since he left no record, it is impossible to know if Knickerbocker lost any equipment or schoolwork in the fire.  The fire was a traumatic event for the college.  It destroyed the entire building and the neighboring Engineering Shops.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but it left the Engineering department without classrooms, offices, shops, and equipment.  Tau Beta Pi also lost their meeting space and everything in it.  The engineering program would have been scrapped completely if not for a generous donation from local automobile industrialist Ransom E. Olds, and the dedication of the college’s administration, staff, students, and alumni.  The engineering honorary also contributed by raising money for the reconstruction of the building and engineering program.

Walter G. Knickerbocker’s scrapbook is open to researchers during the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections’ normal hours of operation (  The finding aid for the collection is available online:

Written by Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist


Morehouse & Townsend Love Letters

11 02 2016

Valentine 1

A new collection available at the MSU Archives is the love letters of Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend. The letters between Milton and Frances began in December 1921 and continue through June 1923.

Milton Townsend was born in 1897, attended Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), and graduated in 1920 with a degree in agriculture science. He then took a teaching job in Hastings, Michigan where he met his future wife, Frances Morehouse. Frances was born in 1903 and after graduating from high school, she attended Michigan Agricultural College in 1922. While at college, she lived in the Women’s Building (Morrill Hall). During her freshman year of college, her relationship with Milton became serious. By January 1923, they were engaged, and were married March 25, 1923. Frances did not return to school after completing her first year.


morehouse and townsend

Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend

The best part of this collection is seeing the progression of Frances and Milton’s relationship. In the beginning, they addressed their letters from “your friend”. As time passed, they called each other by their pet names, later “sweetheart”, and then “husband” and “wife”. Most of Frances’ letters are signed with S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss) and many “xxx” for kisses.

While professing their love for each other, they also talked about their day to day activities. Frances talked about her Home Economic classes, working on campus, and events she attended. She also mentioned someone preaching about prohibition during church and how several students on campus came down with scarlet fever and the flu. Milton talked about his teaching job, projects he was involved in, and people he interacted with.

Valentine 2

Included with some of the letters are extra items, such as newspaper clippings of poems, drawings, photos and negatives, valentines, swatches of fabric for dresses, an old stick of gum, letters from other people they wanted to share, extra stamps, and a piece of birch bark that Milton wrote on declaring his love for Frances.

Together, Frances and Milton had four children. After Milton quit his teaching job in 1926, the couple purchased a floral business in St. Louis, Michigan that they operated together until 1963. Frances died in 1984 and Milton in 1993.

Written by Jennie Russell

Assistant Records Archivist

Shaft at ELFF

2 11 2011

“Can you dig it?”

The University Archives is sponsoring a showing of the movie Shaft at the East Lansing Film Festival.  The film will show on Thursday, November 8, 2011 at 7:30p.m. at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.

In the movie Richard Roundtree stars as John Shaft, “the cat who won’t cop out, when there’s danger all about.”  Shaft is a private investigator who is asked to find the kidnapped daughter of Harlem crime kingpin Bumpy Jonas.  Directed by Gordon Parks, Shaft was originally released in 1971 and features the well-known theme song by Isaac Hayes.

Starring in the movie with Roundtree is MSU alumnus Charles Cioffi as police Lt. Victor Androzzi.  Cioffi graduated from MSU with his B.A. and M.A. in speech in 1961 and 1962, respectively.  1971 was a breakout year for Cioffi in Hollywood.  He also starred in Klute with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

In honor of the Shaft screening, the University Archives will have a booth at the Hannah Community Center where people will be able to enter to win prizes and and learn more about MSU’s connection to Hollywood.

For more information contact the University Archives or the East Lansing Film Festival.   Tickets are $8/general and $6/student and seniors (65+).  Tickets are available through the East Lansing Film Festival website or at the door.

We hope to see you there!

Accomplished Women Graduates of MSU

22 03 2011

47, 131 students currently call MSU their home and approximately 480,000 alumni hold degrees from the home of Sparty. Needless to say, Michigan State has provided educations to a diverse population and many graduates have gone on to become accomplished citizens. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we would like to highlight some of the most accomplished women graduates of MSU.

Each year a theme is chosen by the National Women’s History Project that highlights achievements by distinguished women. This year the theme is “Our History Is Our Strength.”  This theme emphasizes the importance of learning about women’s tenacity, courage and creativity throughout the centuries. It also pays tribute to the millions of women who helped create a better world for the times in which they lived as well as for future generations.

Michigan State University has been the school to many accomplished women. These important women graduates have left a legacy for this school to enjoy for future generations. *Listed in alphabetical order by first name

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Barbara Ross-Lee D.O. ‘73

Dean of the Ohio University’s Osteopathic Medicine College. She was the first African-American to head a medical school in the US.

Debbie Stabenow ‘72

US Senator and House Representative for the state of Michigan.

Donna Hrinak ‘72

US Ambassador to Brazil and Bolivia. She was the first female career Foreign Service officer to be named a US ambassador.

Dorothy Delay ‘36

Master violin teacher at the Juilliard School in New York.

Carole Leigh Hutton ‘78

Publisher and editor Detroit Free Press.

Cathy Jaros ‘71

Featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Working for Tappan Capital Partners, she specialized in leveraged buyouts of Food companies.

Florence Hall 1909

Headed the National Women’s Land Army during World War II. This program involved 60,000 women farm workers.

Genevieve Gillette ‘20

Founder and first president of the Michigan Parks Association.

Ingrid Saunders Jones ‘69

Vice President corporate affairs Coca Cola company.

Joan Lee Faust ‘50

Garden editor for the New York Times.

Joan Sills ‘75

President of Colony Hotels and Resorts. She was also the first woman to head a worldwide hotel.

Julie Aigner-Clark ‘88

Founder of the Baby Einstein Company.

Linda Puchala ‘69

President of the National Association of Flight Attendants. She was the only woman to lead an AFL-CIO affiliate.

Lynn C. Myers ‘64 – MBA ‘67

Served as general manager of the Pontiac GMC Division of General Motors. She was named McCall’s/Ward’s Auto World’s first “Outstanding Woman in the Automotive industry” in 1994.

Martha L. Gray ‘78

Co-director of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology at MIT. She was elected to the board of directors of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

Martha Smith ‘74

Played Babs, the sorority blonde in Animal House. She also starred in the TV series Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

Maureen McElheron ‘73

Won an Oscar nomination for the best short animated feature in 1988 composing the music for Your Face teaming with MTV animator Bill Plympton.

Molly Brennan ‘82

Member of the GM world championship team which won the first transcontinental solar car race.  MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 1993.

Nancy Ann Fleming ‘65

Miss America and Miss Michigan 1961.

Nancy Hays Teeters

Graduate study in economics at MSU. She became the first woman member of the Federal Reserve Board. She also served as the chief economist for the US House Budget Committee.

Pat Carrigan ‘50

Served as the first female manager of a GM domestic assembly plant. She also served as chair of the MSU Board of Trustees.

Penny Harrington ‘64

Chief of Police for Portland, Oregon. She was the first woman to head a major US city police force.

Robin Stone ‘86

Executive editor of Essence, a magazine for black women with a circulation of one million.

Sally Macut ‘72 –MA ‘79

Vice President of operations for Northwest Airlines.

Sherrie Payne ‘66

Joined the famous Motown trio “The Supremes” in 4975. She composed 250 songs.

Susan M. Schaffer MA ‘69

Vice President of United Airlines In-Flight services corporation.

Susan Packard ‘77 –MA ‘79

CEO of the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV) she also headed the Food Network and the Do-It-Yourself Network. She was named cable TVs “Woman of the Year” in 1998.

Suzanne Sena ‘85

Host of the Celebrity Homes show on the E! Entertainment Television network

… and of course many others and many more to come.


Source: The Spirit of Michigan State, J. Bruce McCristal

Open House at University Archives

29 04 2010

On Tuesday, May 11, 2010 from 5:00-6:30pm the University Archives & Historical Collections (UAHC) will host an open house for staff from Libraries, Computing & Technology departments.  Staff will view the recently renovated UAHC reading room and see the new movable shelving.  Highlights from the collections will be on display and staff will learn fun facts about MSU’s history.  Among the highlights will be maps from throughout campus history, scrapbooks from alumni, and class rivalry posters.

At 6:30pm University Records Archivist Whitney Miller will be giving a presentation to the MSU Alumni Club of Mid-Michigan.  Whitney will be speaking about the unique collections, current educational projects using archival materials, and our new online presence.  Everyone is invited to stay for the presentation in the Conrad Hall Auditorium.

The UAHC will also be celebrating National Preservation Week.  May 9-15, 2010 is the American’ Library Association’s first Preservation Week.  The theme of preservation week is to save our heritage and memories.  In honor of that event the UAHC will be promoting Be Your Family Archivist.  There will be handouts for both adults and children with helpful tips about preserving your family’s history.

Light refreshments will be provided in the Conrad Hall Lobby.  We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Open House:
101 Conrad Hall
Whitney Miller’s Presentation on Spartan History:
102 Conrad Hall

Please RSVP by May 6 to Mary Patterson or Portia Vescio at 355-2330 or email

Generations of Alumni visit Archives

25 08 2009

On Friday, August 21, 2009 the MSU Archives was visited by a family whose members have been students at the school dating back to the 1940s.  Collin Meierbachtol recently earned his Master’s degree from MSU.  He and his wife, Krista Cruse Meierbachtol, are current doctoral students at MSU.  Collin’s grandfather, Dwight Herman, is a graduate of the MSU Class of 1950.  Dwight came to MSU during World War II as an Air Force cadet and stayed at Abbot Hall.  He returned to MSU after the war to finish his degree.  During that time he and his wife lived in one of the trailers for the married students.  While Dwight was in class, his wife was busy working at the campus police station.

During their visit to the archives Collin and Dwight looked up Dwight in the student directories to get his student address.  They were also able to find Dwight’s old student number.  They looked at photographs of campus from the post World War II era when temporary housing was built to handle all of the students attending college on the G.I. bill.

Are you a member of a family who have been MSU students for multiple generations?  Let us know!  We would love to hear your story.  Contact

Collin Meierbachtol and his grandfather Dwight Herman visit the MSU Archives.

Collin Meierbachtol and his grandfather Dwight Herman visit the MSU Archives.