COLUMBUS, OH - Buckeye track and field legend Jesse Owens captured the attention and respect of the world, winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Germany. The Ohio State University will lead the celebration of his life and legacy on the 75th anniversary of his stellar performance, April 21-24 with a variety of events to engage the campus, alumni and central Ohio communities.
An ambassador of goodwill with a passionate concern for young people and respect for education, Owens will be honored at a statue unveiling at 1:30 p.m. Thursday (4/21) at Owens Memorial Stadium followed by a scholarship dinner, hosted by comedian Bill Cosby, at 7 p.m. at the Ohio Union. Proceeds will benefit the Ruth and Jesse Owens Scholars program and the Ohio State men’s and women’s track and field programs.
“Jesse Owens was, simply and superbly, the world’s finest runner – and one extraordinary man,” said Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. “By demonstrating his excellence on the most public of stages, he is known around the world for disproving the most venomous, racist assumptions about human ability and for moving us all toward the larger ideals of liberty and equality. We are blessed beyond measure to call him an Ohio State alumnus.”
“The Jesse Owens Spring Game honoring America’s finest” will be played at 1:30 pm Saturday (4/23) in Ohio Stadium. The football team will wear custom-painted helmets with commemorative decals saluting the 75th anniversary of Owens’ Olympic achievement and military men and women. The Ohio State lacrosse game, “Showdown in the Shoe,” vs. Fairfield University will begin the day’s events at 11 a.m.
The 2011 Jesse Owens Track and Field Classic will also begin Saturday at 6 p.m. and continue Sunday (4/24) at 10:30 a.m.
A diversity lecture, faculty-student discussion and a month-long exhibition of Owens’ memorabilia are included in the celebration.
Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Owens was recognized as “The Buckeye Bullet.” At Ohio State, he set three world records and tied a fourth during a brief 45-minute period at the Big Ten Championships in 1935.
The following year in the ’36 Olympics, Owens accomplished what no American track and field athlete had previously, winning four gold medals in one Olympiad in the 100 and 200 meters, the long jump and 400-meter relay. His accomplishment defeated Adolf Hitler’s intention of proving Aryan superiority at the Games and elevated Owens as an international hero.
Owens’ dedication to mentoring underprivileged youth grew as his athletic career ended – as did his commitment to civil rights and community service efforts.
Forty years after he won his gold medals, the highest civilian honor was bestowed to Owens by President Gerald Ford – the Medal of Freedom. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter honored Owens with a Living Legend Award, and in 1990, President George H. W. Bush awarded him a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal.
Owens died in 1980.
The full schedule of events follows.
Tuesday April 12 – May 4
Thursday, April 14
Thursday, April 21
Saturday, April 23
Sunday, April 24