Football or Physics?

By Handorf, William C. | Academe, May/June 2007 | Go to article overview

Football or Physics?


Handorf, William C., Academe


U.S. commemorative stamps sometimes feature aspects of university life-guess which aspect appears on most stamps.

United States commemorative stamps have illustrated individuals such as Marilyn Monroe (1995); characters such as Bugs Bunny (1997); American motorcycles (2006); and Valentine candy hearts (2004). Higher education research, teaching, and service, however, have received short shrift from the U.S. Postal Service, except, of course, when it comes to football.

The U.S. Post Office first issued commemorative stamps in 1893, when a series celebrating the World's Columbian Exposition (also called the Chicago World's Fair) depicted the trip to America by Christopher Columbus. The U.S. Postal Service, which succeeded the U.S. Post Office in 1971, today issues about fifty to seventy-five new commemorative designs each year. Commemorative stamps are printed in limited quantities and sold to the public for several months.

U.S. stamps recognize presidents, prominent Americans, anniversaries of historical events, wars, military heroes, sports, champion athletes, and many other topics, such as clouds, flowers, flags, cars, planes, actors, and artists. Approximately 2,500 commemoratives have been released in the past seven decades.

Football

As I said, the aspect of U.S. higher education most often commemorated in stamps is athletics, especially football.

The red and green Intercollegiate Football stamp issued in 1969 depicts a football player and coach. The 6-cent stamp recognizes the hundredth anniversary of the first collegiate football game, in which the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) played Rutgers in 1869.

The dark brown Jim 'flmrpe stamp, issued in 1984 at 20 cents each, depicts the legendary football and track-and-field star wearing a football uniform.

The multicolored Knute Rockne stamp, issued in 1988 and at 22 cents each, features the famed Notre Dame coach on the field with a football. The 32-cent Four Horseman of Notre Dame photolike stamp, released in 1998 as part of a "celebrate the century" series, depicts the four backfield stare of the undefeated 1924 Notre Dame team.

A World University Games multicolor stamp, issued in 1993 and at 29 cents each, features the legs of five runners competing in the games when they were hosted in Buffalo, New York. To be eligible, athletes must be U.S. citizens and be working toward an accredited university degree or recently graduated from an accredited institution.

The 32-cent Bear Bryant multicolor stamp, issued within a "coaching legends" series in 1997, depicts the University of Alabama coach wearing his classic hound's tooth fedora near three players on the sidelines. A Pop Warner multicolor stamp within the same series depicts the legendary college coach with a player from an early period of football.

The multicolor "early football heroes" series, released in 2003 at 37 cents each, depicts four legends: Bronko Nagurski (the University of Minnesota), Ernie Nevers (Stanford University), Walter Camp (Yale College, now Yale University), and Red Grange (the "Galloping Ghost" of the University of Illinois).

Other College Themes

Stamps that recognize the importance of other aspects of colleges and universities in the life of America include the following.

The First of the Land Grant Colleges, a green stamp issued in 1955 at 3 cents each, features a book linking Pennsylvania State University and Michigan State College (now Michigan State University). The stamp recognizes the hundredth anniversary of each institution's establishment as a school to promote the study of agriculture in the United States.

The blue-green and black Higher Education stamp, issued in 1962 at 4 cents each, depicts a map of the United States illuminated by an oil lamp providing light by which to read. The stamp recognizes the mission of higher education to support the country's cultural and industrial growth and celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the law creating land-grant colleges and universities. …

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