Introduction of Pop Houston, Presented by Howard Woolf, Director of the ExCollege and Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education
It’s my honor to say a few words about one of the most important figures in the history of Tufts Athletics, Clarence “Pop” Houston. I’m not related to Pop, and even though I’ve been here a very long time, I never had the pleasure of meeting him. That said, I do believe I have a special connection to Pop, something I’ll tell you about in a moment.
More than anything else, I’m up here because I owe Pop a debt of gratitude, and that’s a good place to start. Pop Houston was the first AD in Tufts history. He served the university in this capacity for better than three decades, from 1921 to 1954. Think about that!
During his tenure, Pop promoted the scholar-athlete philosophy that still characterizes Tufts Athletics and that greatly benefitted my son, Nick, during his undergraduate years here, playing and coaching for Josh Shapiro on the Men’s Varsity Soccer team. Thank you, Pop.
If that were all I had to say about Pop, that would be plenty. But there’s more. As an undergraduate, Pop played football for the Jumbos. And during his senior year, he was the starting guard on the nationally ranked 1913 team that went 7-1, their only loss coming to Number 6, Army, 2-0.
After fighting and being wounded in WWI and receiving a law degree, Pop returned to Tufts in 1920 to teach law, economics, and government. Along with being appointed Athletic Director the following year, over time he directed the department of Physical Education, held an endowed chair as the Henry J. Baker Professor of Commercial Law, and spearheaded Tufts first capital campaign, the Second Century Fund.
Outside of Tufts, Pop was one of the authors of the NCAA’s “Sanity Code,” designed to curb abuses in college sports. And based on his contributions, he was elected President of the NCAA from 1955 to 1957. Although he’s gone, Pop’s influence remains. And his name is with us still. Our Best Male Athlete of the Year award carries it, as does the Houston Hall dormitory.
Let me leave you where I started, talking about the special connection I feel to Pop. It stems from the fact that the department I direct –the Experimental College – lives in the house at 95 Talbot Ave that Pop and his wife, Marion, built on campus in 1930, and where they lived in for many years. When we were moving in eleven years ago, the then Director of Alumni Relations, which had been situated there before us, handed me the key and whispered: “By the way, the place is haunted.”
If it is, it's gotta be Pop's ghost, looking out for us.