Department of Kinesiology 150th Anniversary

In the 2012-13 academic year, the Department of Kinesiology celebrated 150 years since the first class in the discipline was taught at what is now San José State University. Scroll down to read a brief timeline of this amazing story. 

Department of Kinesiology Historical Timeline

Reference: The department history here is drawn from excerpts from Dr. Shirley Reekie's historical narrative of SJSU and the Kinesiology Department, "From Bean Pods to Bod Pods." Click here to purchase and read about this corner of academic history. Bean POds Book Cover

Read more about broader SJSU history here

MLK LIbrary 1900s

1850 - 1890s

In 1853John Swett, then Principal of San Francisco’s Rincon School, had come west from New England to the mines but who soon switched back to his former profession of teaching and administration. He was an early organizer of teachers and teaching, and his curricula always included physical culture. John Swett introduced daily calisthenics, free play and light gymnastics. He also raised funds to buy the equipment needed for a wellrounded program. 

In 1857, Minns’ Evening Normal School had begun as the first school for the education of teachers in the state of California.

By 1860, Swett was urging “the necessity of gymnastics and calisthenic training as a vital element in the education of boys and girls” and he quickly became involved in the movement for a state normal school. DeGroot called John Swett “the father of physical education in California.”

In 1862,Minns’ Evening Normal School underwent recognition by the state and a consequent transformation, and not in name only, now transformed to the State Normal School (SNS).

In late 1862, another key figure, Adele Parot (Mademoiselle Parot as she always styled herself) accepted a position to teach physical culture at the State Normal School, having arrived in San Francisco to start teaching in January 1863.

In 1871, San Jose was selected as the ideal location for the new San Jose Normal School (SNS) because the people were “intelligent, hospitable and moral.” The address was Washington Square and at the time, it was the only building there, hence it was 1 Washington Square, the street address still used today for the university. Two large halls were included and an apparatus room but it is not known what form of gymnastics was taught here.

In 1875, the California Teachers’ Association was founded at the SNS campus. The same year, the course was extended to three years, being called junior, middle, and senior classes. An elementary school diploma was given after two years and the third year covered more advanced levels.

In 1877 the school year of June to March was changed to two terms: August to December, January to May. The classes at the time included “physiology from skeleton and models, and laws of hygiene” for both junior and senior year but there is no mention of calisthenics in the records. 

Ad for SJNS

From 1869 to 1888, there was no known specialist teacher of calisthenics employed from the records viewed, until Miss Nannie Gilday was hired in 1888, although still not specifically to teach calisthenics. The only known references to the subject are to “calisthenics” in the curricula of 1871-72 and 1874-75.

In 1888, students in the junior year at the SNS were required to take Delsarte exercises and the senior year took Delsarte vocalization twice per week, plus “physical exercise throughout the course.” This system stressed poise, grace, breathing and health and most often the exercises were performed to music. While Delsarte himself did not claim to have invented a system of gymnastics, in the U.S. in particular it was eagerly adopted. 

In 1896, the Normal Athletic Association was formed for all sports at the SJSNS. By 1898, both baseball and basketball teams existed, even though basketball ha only been invented in 1891.

In 1898, we read of managers for football, baseball and track teams. The Normal Pennant announced in November that “football has come to be quite the thing. Every Saturday we take a half day off and go and shout for our team, and we always come home happy for our team never loses.”

Morris Daley Auditorium 1900s

1900s - 1920s

By 1915, if not before, all students underwent a thorough physical examination on entry. The influenza epidemic was just starting to hit Europe at the time, although it took another couple of years to ravage the U.S. The same year, the catalogue lists a graduation requirement entitled “athletics, play, school playground equipment, indoor and outdoor recreation” was instituted for all elementary school teachers. Students could now get a special credential in physical culture for the first time.

In 1921, the name of the school was changed again to the San Jose State Teachers’ College (SJSTC), thus paving the way for the future awarding of degrees. A junior college that later became San Jose City College was begun on the campus and successful students could later transfer to the University of California or to the SJSTC. Classes were classified as “lower division” (1-99) or “upper division” (100-199) from this time.

Many changes were made to the curriculum and to the manner in which classes were listed (with units) and it began to look like something recognizable by today’s standards. Classes included elementary physical education, folk dancing, corrective gymnastics, practice teaching, and volleyball, [field] hockey, basketball, field and track [sic], baseball, swimming, techniques classes, with 96 units required for the special teaching certificate in physical education. 

The Men's and Women's Physical Education Departments were separate, a sign of the times in terms of gender relations; and there were significant restrictions on female participation in physical activities and education. Women would fight for traction and visibility in physical activity across the coming decades.  

SJ Summer Ad 1900s

The 1925 catalogue lists 15 “Methods of Coaching” classes in football, basketball, baseball, track, swimming and diving, tennis, soccer, wrestling, athletic dancing, acrobatics and apparatus, boxing, hockey, girls’ baseball, dancing (women), and fencing. 

In 1925, the space at what is now called South Campus was purchased for $25,000. This was to create the space for athletics that was so needed for the men as they expanded this facet of their program. An early new sport played there that year was men’s soccer. The new interest in athletics (for men) was reflected in the choosing of the name “Spartans.”

In 1925, after a vote of the student body, the school newspaper reported that “Spartans” came first, and “Golds” was a close second. Prior to that time various names had been used: “Daniels,” “Teachers,” “Pedagogues,” “Normals” and—most frequently—“Normalites.”

The school’s colors had been chosen as gold and white in 1898 but blue had been used even earlier. Blue was added to gold and white as color television began, in 1969, and the word “blue” was added to the school song, “Hail gold, blue and white,” which is why it does not quite scan as well as when it was “Hail gold and white.”

SJ Normal School 1800s


Spartan Daily 1930s

In 1935, the name was changed to San Jose State College (SJSC) and enrollment hit 3000 soon after (the city of San Jose then had a population of 80,000), despite fees of $9 per quarter. Some results of this change were the ability to begin to award non-teaching degrees and the dual roles of liberal arts teaching and vocational preparation.

The famous Glenn “Pop” Warner briefly worked with the men’s program in an advisory capacity in 1939, as this photograph shows. Here, Captain Bob Titchenal is shown holding the props; he later both coached and taught in the Men’s Department. In 1955, he started what is believed to be the second oldest SCUBA program in the U.S. (the oldest being at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego), which was taken over in the mid 1960s by Lee Walton, and is still taught today. Later, in 1976 in Human Performance, Bob began the first sailing classes, also still taught today.

Pop Warner SJSU 1940s


Spartan Daily 1940s

In 1941, teacher education and liberal arts students paid no tuition but all were required to pay the $12.50 per year student body fee! The required physical examination in the two days leading up to the first day of class was not eliminated until 1957.

The 1940s catalogs begin to look relatively similar to today’s. Activity classes included wrestling, boxing, tennis, soccer, swimming, dance (social and American), tumbling, gymnastics, baseball, football, basketball, golf, fencing, ice skating, water polo, paddle tennis, track and field, plus for Police majors only: agility training, life saving, self defense boxing, wrestling, and judo.

This was the start of the later, extremely successful, judo program at SJSU, begun by Yosh Uchida, for whom YUH is named. Uchida was then 20 years old and was a SJSC student. Ironically, while he was drafted, his parents were sent to relocation camps; the first stage of that relocation for many in this area was the requirement to report to the very Men’s Gymnasium building that now bears his name.

SJ Campus 1900s

Men's theory classes listed at the lower division level included (for men) introduction to physical education, leadership and organization of physical education activities, techniques of teaching: aquatic activities, tumbling and apparatus, golf, tennis, boxing, wrestling, baseball, basketball, track and field.

Men's upper division classes included theory of physical education, officiating, camp organization and leadership, boy scout leadership, administration of physical education, elementary school physical education, community recreation, applied anatomy (taught within the department).

Women’s classes included fundamental skills, swimming, diving, dance (folk, social and American), clogging, baseball, volleyball, speedball, basketball, tennis, badminton, archery, fencing, field hockey, horseback riding.

SNS Campus 1800s

Theory classes included introduction to physical education, fundamentals of rhythms and skills, elementary school physical education, principles of physical education, philosophy of dance, theory for camp counselors, social and community recreation, applied anatomy, administration of physical education, tests and measurement in physical education, problems in physical education, physiology of exercise, teaching of health and physical education for minors, and techniques of teaching in: swimming, dance, archery, tennis, field hockey, speedball, basketball, volleyball, baseball, gymnastics. For both men and women, general education was taken only in the first year.

In 1946, Women’s Physical Education, which had always been more concerned with the play aspect of activity than the men, began to offer a BA in Recreation, spearheaded by Mary Wiley (for whom the Recreation Department’s conference room was named), and in 1947, the teaching credential became the “fifth year” of a student’s college career, following the award of a bachelor’s degree.


Spartan Daily 1950s

In 1950, a half a million dollar addition to the women’s gymnasium was completed, called “Physical Education and Recreation” or PER, bringing what is now the “SPX” building to what we see today. The catalogue of the same year refers to the department for the first time as “Physical Education and Recreation” for Men/Women respectively. The Men’s Department included Athletics and had 21 listed instructors (many of whom were coaches) and the Women’s Department included Dance and had a total of 13 instructors with, of course, no designated coaches.

The word “kinesiology” appeared for the first time in the 1951 catalogue being class number 128, later 118, studying the “kinetics of the body through application of facts and general principles found in the basic sciences,  anatomy, physiology, and physics with final emphasis on methods of analyzing.”

In 1955, with the post war boom in enrollment caused by the GI Bill and other deferred enrollments continuing, late afternoon and evening classes were begun to accommodate the rise in enrollment to over 8,500. By 1958, enrollment was double that of 1950, and merely getting classes became an endurance matter.

In 1956-7, the then Recreation Department was founded as an offshoot from Women’s Physical Education, the first of four departments (the others being Dance, Intercollegiate Athletics for Men, Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) to be spawned from Physical Education. Once again, it was a difference in philosophy that caused the split. Mary Wiley, Ed.D., was the first department chair.

By 1957, she had been joined in Recreation by Buford Bush and Dr. Frost, from Men’s Physical Education and Women’s Physical Education, respectively. In 1957, the “core” program in women’s Physical Education was begun by Chair June McCann. 

In the 1950s, both the men’s and the women’s programs (but especially the women’s) continued their reputation of turning out excellent teachers who were highly skilled and able to teach very well. The core, or classes required of all students in the department, made the women’s program more “academic” and also intensified the use of the facilities.

In 1955, Dr. William (Bill) Gustafson was the first faculty member to be appointed solely to teach in Men’s Physical Education (i.e. not also as a coach). His starting salary was $5,200. He was joined by Messrs. Fraleigh, Bosco, and Jennett in 1961, each with PhD in hand.

In 1958, the college was organized into Divisions (the present day Colleges) and both men’s and women’s departments came under the Division of Science and Occupations. Lower and upper division core GE classes were begun. In 1960, some students in Women’s Physical Education gained the first certificates in Corrective Therapy (today’s Adapted Physical Education), taught first by Dr. Helen Clark, then Dr. Gloria Hutchins, and run through the Veterans’ Administration.

1959 saw the Physical Education Departments’ graduate programs offering the first non-teaching degrees, as until that time, the only MA possible was in teaching. Perhaps this is why the department still awards an MA rather than an MS, showing its roots.

Seventh Street remained open to through traffic all this time but in 1963 was finally closed for good. Gilbert and Burdick talk of San Jose State being a premier “Party School” in the 1960s. Students earned records in continuous swing dancing, telephone call length, and packing students into phone booths and Volkswagon cars. Skateboarding first hit the campus at this time, especially on south Eleventh Street

Carlos and Smith SJSU© David Schmitz Photography



Spartan Daily 1960s

The year 1968 is likely the year that most people outside the U.S. heard of San Jose State College. The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) had been established in 1967 by Harry Edwards, then a Sociology professor at the college. Its aim was to protest racial segregation in general but specifically within sport. Sprinters Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Lee Evans (a Men’s Physical Education student), all members of both the SJSC team and the U.S. Olympic team, were involved, along with many others. OPHR members originally thought to boycott the Olympics in Mexico City that fall (and a few did boycott) but in the end most decided to attend and consider some form of protest there. The raised fists of Smith and Carlos were greeted with mixed emotions on campus and in the wider U.S. and world. Some understood the peaceful protest but the International Olympic Committee thought it a disrespectful action and the sprinters were ordered to leave the Olympic Village the next day. Since then, the campus has struggled with how it ought to view this event but in 2005, a student group invited Smith, Carlos and Australian silver medalist, Peter Norman, back to campus and the statue that commemorates this event was unveiled.

Harry Edwards SJSUAlmost lost in the campus turmoil in 1968 was Women’s Physical Education offering the first non-teaching degrees in physical education. Specialization was available in Dance Physical Education, Science Physical Education, Sport Physical Education, and Humanities Physical Education. Views about physical education’s worthlessness had made it imperative to show the world outside the locker room that physical education was an academic subject that could be studied in its own right, and not only as a subject to be taught in schools.

Wheelchair athletics came to SJSC in 1968, when Bob Dunne Jr. helped organize the first California State Wheelchair Games. He organized and played on a variety of teams including basketball, track and field, and table tennis. For a while, there was a SJSC team, the Spartawheels, which competed in a variety of wheelchair games. Many years later, the Adapted Physical Activity Club would organize many similar events on campus.

In 1969, a new department of Intercollegiate Athletics for Men was split off from Men’s Physical Education but at first remained within the School. It was brought about by the men in the existing department who had PhDs and were concerned about the level of teaching of some of the coaches and also by many of the coaches who wanted to go “big time” in sports and did not want PhDs.


Spartan Daily 1970s

In keeping with the theme of change of the late 1960s, a New College was begun in 1968, with the goal of merging the sciences and the humanities. Among students, concern for civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and the peace movement loomed large. At San Jose State, civil rights became the largest cause célèbre , starting with a march in support of civil rights in San Francisco in 1965, attended by both black and white students.

One outcome of the changes resulting from the turmoil of the 1960s was a new approach to coaching. SJSC Psychology Department professors Bruce Ogilvie and Thomas Tutko published an article in the October 1971 issue of Psychology Today  that showed that sports did not so much “build character” as reinforce existing character. They called upon coaches to stop the “U.S. Marine attitude” to coaching and instead, help athletes gain personal satisfaction from sport. 

Ogilvie and Tutko went on to build great recognition for the field of sport psychology and SJSC, devised an Athletic Motivational Inventory, and began classes in sport psychology that are still taught today, although now mostly out of Kinesiology rather than Psychology.

A popular class of the early 1970s was “Techniques of Relaxation” and a new activity class was synchronized swimming. Although this class mostly attracted women students, there were over 50 coeducational classes: many varieties of dance, tennis, badminton, fencing and archery, for example. The Spartan Daily  conducted a survey and found that the most popular classes for women were water safety, social dance, volleyball, and field hockey.

In 1972, the graduate sections of the Men’s and Women’s Departments merged, so that no longer was a men’s tests and measurement class, and a women’s tests and measurement class offered at the same time but in a different building. For the first time in 50 years, men and women (graduate) students in the department sat together for class!

In the mid 1970s, and in addition to the wellknown controversies surrounding intercollegiate athletics for women, SJSU had the additional task of examining whether having separate men’s and women’s departments of physical education was justified. The inevitable committees were formed and one person, Dr. Mary Bowman, was initially named as chair of both departments in February 1977. The rationale for re-joining the departments, which had somewhat different curricula (only the women’s program included biomechanics, for example) and philosophies, was a drive for greater efficiency of the use of money and facilities.

In 1974, the first athletic trainer to be employed by the women’s teams at SJSU arrived, to work with the growing number of women athletes. She was greeted with surprise, by some. Why would women need an athletic trainer?

On July 1, 1977, the merger began and it was completed in fall 1978. Activity classes remained largely the same but theory classes were restructured. Bowman stated that activity classes had “been becoming increasingly coeducational” and no student had ever been excluded from class based on gender;18 however, it was also stated that classes involving physical contact would continue to be segregated by gender.

In 1979, perhaps emboldened as an academic discipline, the Department of Human Performance strove for and succeeded in obtaining Area E of General Education, Human Understanding and Development, believing that all other areas of GE ignored man (and woman) as moving beings.


Spartan Daily 1980s

In 1980, the first non-teaching minor became available, the Coaching Minor, but was dropped after only a few years. In 1982, minors were added in athletic training, and general physical education, but the expectation of teaching was still strong as the tracks were labeled “teaching” and “non-teaching.” Options within the major were exercise specialist, science emphasis, coaching concentration or individual course of study. Also that year, a number of new activities were added: aikido, yoga, and dance aerobics.

The Human Performance Department Chair was Dr. Clair Jennett (for whom the SPX 107 Conference Room is named), who had replaced Dr. Mary Bowman as chair over the summer, when she moved to become Graduate Coordinator. The Activity Committee was chaired by Prof. Hugh Mumby who was raised under the British system of education in India. 

The graduate athletic training program was one of only three, nationwide, in the mid-1980s to offer the internship program, which was started in 1981.

By 1985, teaching physical education, although still popular, was but one of several concentrations including corrective therapy, science, individual, and athletic training. Teaching was no longer the “default” expectation. Later additions were societal studies, and exercise and fitness specialist. In 1991, sport management became the eighth concentration at the undergraduate level in the major.

In 1988, the chair of the department, Dr. James Bryant, began the department newsletter, the Communicator, which continues to this day, but is now sent out electronically, a practice that was fully implemented (no paper copies) in 2010. Dr. Bryant and HuP faculty are seen on the previous page with President Gail Fullerton in 1987. In 1988, there were 290 undergraduate and 66 graduate students.

Another first in the internationalization push was the first “sister school” arrangement with Chelsea College of Human Movement, in Eastbourne, UK in the mid 1980s, organized by Dr. Shirley Reekie. This was followed by similar arrangements with Queensland University of Technology, Australia, and Shenyang Sport University, China.

The first visiting scholar was Qian Tao, from Shanghai, in 1989, following Dr. Shirley Reekie’s two month visit to Chinese physical education schools the previous year. Our first graduate student from China, Jin Hong Yan, went on to get his PhD and returned to teach at both SJSU and CSU East Bay.

Visiting scholars have become a tradition in the department. They have come from such varied places as Botswana, China, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Norway, and Switzerland, among several other countries.

In 1988 and 1989, new facilities opened but neither was primarily for instructional use. The outdoor pool began operations in 1988 and initially some swimming classes were held there, but it proved too cold to hold class in November/December and January/February. The Event Center (also a student facility) was opened in May 1989, where the field hockey field had been. This building contained excellent new facilities, especially for fitness activities, and from the start some department physical activity classes have been held there (on a fee basis to the department), at low student drop-in usage times, to accommodate our growing numbers of students. Thus racquetball was no longer held off campus, handball was added, and a variety of yoga and aerobics classes found a home that was very much more conducive to working out than the old SPX facilities.


Spartan Daily 1990s

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a series of Human Performance faculty v. student sports events, especially in basketball, volleyball and softball. The students regularly won.

The first annual aerobicthon, organized by Carol Sullivan, was held in 1990 and proved a very successful annual event that continues to this day, which reduced students’ stress levels right before exams. In 1993, the newly-formed Center for International Sport and Human Performance staged the first Martial Arts Fair, organized by Dr. Gong Chen and Dr. Shirley Reekie, and we attempted to further internationalize our curriculum.

Dr. Nancy Megginson began the first of many quadriplegic events on campus, with a wheelchair rugby event.

In 1994, Dr. Stan Butler brought the National Youth Sport Program to campus. Funded by the NCAA, this program was successful over many years until funding was cut in the early years of the 2000s. Dr. Butler also organized a group of students to attend the CAHPERD conference in San Diego, many of whom travelled in his motor home.

In 1994, we had 419 undergraduate majors. Around this time, the first unofficial surveys began in classes as to the future name of our degree. Students thought “Kinesiology” was the best name, as did the CSU chairs, but the actual vote was still some years in the future.

In 1994, Dr. Craig Cisar began offering certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), with a certification symposium held on campus that year.

In 1997, the first entrepreneurial attempt by the department was the Physical Performance Institute at the Community Hospital of Los Gatos. Dr. Peggy Plato served as Associate Director from the department.

The two unit Physical Education requirement was challenged in the Academic Senate in 1996-97 but the overwhelming support of Senators who understood the many values of physical activity (helped by a paper collectively produced by members of the Activity Committee), resulted instead in most of the waiver reasons being removed. For example, prior to that date, any student over the age of 25 was exempt!

Dr. Susan Wilkinson, then the faculty member in charge of physical education teacher education, was funded for the first of her many major grants in 1996. This led her, ten years later, to be bought out from the department for 100% of her time, to work on the state-wide physical education and health project for schools.

In the late 1990s, the newly-founded San Jose Sharks hockey team were tested. Subsequently, the Earthquakes soccer team, and a variety of individual athletes, have also been tested, by Dr. Plato and students.

Dr. Gail Evans, professor of biomechanics in the department, went on to be the Director of General Education at SJSU, later Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and then moved to our sister institution up the road to take on the role of Dean of Undergraduate Studies at San Francisco State.


Spartan Daily 2000s

In 2010, the Spartan Athletic Training Organization, first put on a 5K run on campus and at the time of writing, it is highly successful and continuing.

In 2015, Dr. Matthew Masucci was elected the new Department Chair, taking over for long-time department servant and leader, Dr. Shirley Reekie. 


A $54.7 million bond-financed project included a renovation of Spartan Complex that began during summer 2014. Spartan Complex is a historic space on the campus of San José State University (SJSU). Spartan Complex is a group of buildings totaling 176,062 square feet that house the school’s athletic facilities, kinesiology department and natatorium (indoor aquatic center). The massive project involved renovations to existing classrooms and offices; upgrades within the gymnasium, natatorium, dance and judo studios, weight and locker rooms, and mechanical spaces; and the addition of a 191-seat auditorium-style classroom, a lobby, and a two-story office wing, which expanded the complex by 5,600 square feet. The newly renovated space in Spartan Complex and YUH is shared by the College of Applied Sciences and Arts and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Department of Kinesiology. YUH reopened for the start of the fall 2014 semester after a year-long renovation. 

© David Schmitz PhotographySPX © David Schmitz Photography

The period of 2015-2018
 has shown major growth and transition in the department at all levels. Significant growth in our undergraduate and graduate programs has led to a department that services over 1000 undergraduates and 100 graduate students. Growth has also been seen in the faculty ranks, with the additions of new faculty in sport management, teacher education, adapted physical activity, and exercise physiology; this alongside growth in a robust and active lecturer core faculty. 

The people in this history are connected to you!

John Swett knew Alice Bassler,

who knew Irene Palmer,

who knew June McCann,

who knew many currently on campus;

they shaped KIN’s past to make our shared present;

how will you shape KIN’s future?

Reference: The department history here is drawn from excerpts from Dr. Shirley Reekie's historical narrative of SJSU and the Kinesiology Department, "From Bean Pods to Bod Pods." Click here to purchase and read about this corner of academic history. Bean POds Book Cover

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