John Howard Crocker
From: St. Stephen, New Brunswick
UWO's Director of Physical Education: 1930-49
- Manager of first Canadian Olympic team: 1908
- Honorary Manager of Canadian Olympic team: 1912-56
- Secretary of the Canadian Olympic Committee: 1922-47
Once a frail teenager suffering from rheumatic fever, John Howard Crocker worked hard to strengthen his body and went on to become a pivotal figure in the history of both Canadian Olympics and physical education at Western.
Crocker's early work was in the YMCA, first as part of the Physical Department Committee in his hometown in 1891 and eventually as National Director. He gained considerable experience during his thirty-six year career with the YMCA, working all over Canada and even serving as National Physical Director in China.
Through his work with the YMCA, Crocker became involved with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and became the YMCA's representative on the AAU in 1908. That same year, Canada created its first Olympic committee to select athletes to represent the country in the upcoming games in London. Because of his extensive work with the YMCA, Crocker was selected as the committee's first manager. Canada sent teams in cycling, gymnastics, wrestling, rowing, fencing, tennis, shooting and swimming and returned with one gold medal, one silver medal and six bronze medals.
Following the success of Canada's athletes in the 1908 Olympics, Crocker lobbied for the creation of a permanent Canadian Olympic committee. After much delay due to the outbreak of the First World War, Crocker's goal was accomplished in 1922. Crocker was appointed honorary secretary of the Executive Committee, a position he held for twenty-six years.
After a successful and extensive career with the YMCA, Crocker was appointed the director of Physical Education at the University of Western Ontario in 1930 at the age of sixty. Crocker brought with him the values and ideals he formulated through his time at the YMCA. The program that developed under his direction emphasized the importance of athletics for all students as part of their education and valued the experience of the individual over the success of athletic teams.
First on Crocker’s agenda when he arrived at Western was the improvement of the physical education facilities. Although everyone could agree that the university needed to invest in better facilities, it was difficult to come up with the necessary financing. Crocker lobbied hard and finally, in 1949, the new facilities were realized with the opening of Thames Hall.
One of Crocker’s other great accomplishments at Western was the creation of a degree program for Physical Education. Unlike other programs in the province at that time, the Physical Education program at Western emphasized the importance of a liberal education and graduates actually received an Honours Bachelor of Arts.
Crocker retired from Western in 1947, but often returned as a guest speaker or advisor. In 1950, his achievements and contributions during his time at Western were recognized and he was given an Honorary Doctor of Laws.