Terry Todd, a former weightlifting champion and the founder and director of a University of Texas museum dedicated to physical culture and sports history, died Saturday. He was 80.
“It may seem that our world is a bit weaker today, but actually we are all immeasurably and eternally stronger for having known him,” reads a statement on the website of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas, which Todd formerly ran.
Todd grew up playing tennis — he was on the varsity team at Travis High School, lettered in tennis at UT and returned to it later in his life — and began weight training after high school to make his left arm as strong as his dominant tennis arm. He fell in love with weight training, according to those who knew him, and began to take it seriously while pursuing his doctorate at UT. His dissertation was on resistance training.
In the 1960s, Todd began competing in weightlifting championships. He was the first man to squat 700 pounds and the first man to total 1,600, 1,700, 1,800 and 1,900 pounds in powerlifting.
He also built a career publishing books on sports and fitness as well as writing for various scholarly and popular magazines. Sports Illustrated published Todd’s features on pro wrestler Andre the Giant, football star Herschel Walker and champion arm-wrestler Al Turner, among other topics.
After spending time in Nova Scotia and at Auburn University, Todd returned to Austin in 1983 with his wife, Jan, a pioneer in women’s powerlifting whom Sports Illustrated called “the world’s strongest woman” in 1977. Both joined the faculty of UT’s department of kinesiology and health education.
Todd also created and ran the Arnold Strongman Classic competition after Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Todd to do so in 2001.
Then, in 2009, Terry and Jan Todd established the Stark Center, building from their collection of more than 3,000 boxes of books, photographs, magazines and other materials pertaining to strength training and physical culture.
The Todds were inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame at the Arnold Sports Festival this year.
“I’m so grateful to have known Terry, to see that his stellar reputation was well-earned,” said Cindy Slater, assistant director for library services at the center. “He was kind but straightforward, thoughtful but quick-witted, a terrific storyteller, and just funny as hell. In short, he was the epitome of ‘strong,’ no matter which definition you choose.”
A public memorial service to celebrate Todd’s life will be held at 3 p.m. July 28 in the Connelly Ballroom of the Etta-Harber Alumni Center, 2110 San Jacinto Blvd. RSVP for the event at www.starkcenter.org. In lieu of flowers, the Todd family asked that contributions be made to the center, at the same link, to build its endowment.