The H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is a 27,500-square-foot library and museum dedicated to the preservation of and education about the history and benefits of exercise and sports. The Stark Center contains a wide variety of rare material in such fields as the history of physical fitness, competitive lifting, bodybuilding, training for athletes, and complementary medicine. The center was made possible by $5.5 million given by the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation and $2 million from fitness legends Joe and Betty Weider. Other significant donors included Roy and Nell McLean, Terry and Jan Todd, Rogue Fitness, Joe and Teresa Long, Thomas and Laurie Hunt, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the Hoffman Family Foundation of Dallas.
Located in the north end zone of the Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin, the facility opened in September 2009. The Stark Center’s archives include more than 30,000 books, journals, and magazines about physical culture and sports, as well as the personal papers, photographs, and artifacts of important historical figures in both areas. These materials comprise the largest such collection in the world. The Stark Center’s three galleries, including the Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture which opened in July 2011, display both permanent and rotating exhibits, and the center’s website features additional digital interactive resources. The Stark Center is also the repository of the archives of the sports information division of the Intercollegiate Athletics department. Recent exhibits include The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936, produced by the United States Holocaust Museum; and 1914: A Perfect Season, celebrating one of the most successful teams in Texas Longhorn football history. Other Stark Center facilities allow for processing rare books and photographs and cataloguing archival material. The center provides staff offices, a conference room, and a reading room where students, faculty, and visitors can access current books and magazines.
The history of the center is closely tied to the history of its founders and directors, Terry and Jan Todd. Terry Todd began collecting physical culture books and magazines in the late 1950s, shortly after beginning his own athletic career as a weight-trained varsity tennis player at UT. As an undergraduate, Terry met Professor Roy McLean, a pioneer in weight training who owned an extensive collection of books and magazines on the subject. Todd eventually left the tennis team to focus on Olympic weightlifting, and he subsequently began the new strength sport of powerlifting; he won the inaugural national event in powerlifting in 1964 and the first Senior National Championships in 1965 and established many national records in the process. During that period he earned his Ph.D. and worked as managing editor of Strength & Health, the largest magazine in the field of weight training. Todd later married Jan Suffolk, who became a formidable powerlifter, and her many national and world records established her as, according to Sports Illustrated and Guinness World Records, the strongest woman in the world. In 1976, after the death of their friend, former circus strongman Ottley Coulter, the Todds inherited his collection of what experts believed to be the largest collection of physical culture materials in the United States. After examining the 385 boxes of books, magazines, photographs, posters, scrapbooks, and clippings, the Todds realized that the collection needed to be preserved not by an individual, but by a major university.
In 1983, when they joined the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas, Terry and Jan Todd sought a permanent location for their vast archive. Professor Emeritus Roy McLean initially created a library endowment, and university administrators agreed to provide the space to house the growing collection. The process took twenty-five years as the Todds embarked on fundraising efforts for the millions of dollars needed to construct and furnish the space. Their primary donor, the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, had been a major university benefactor and reflected the interests of foundation founder Lutcher Stark, who had an abiding passion for sports and physical culture. Stark, a 1910 graduate of UT, played a major role in the evolution of athletics at the University of Texas. A one-time manager of the football team when he was an undergraduate, Stark also loved physical culture, and that love led him to spend three months in Philadelphia under the guidance of weight training pioneer Alan Calvert. Stark later supported the hiring of Theo Bellmont, another early convert to weight training, as athletic director at the University of Texas. Bellmont, in turn, hired Roy McLean, who had started Terry Todd on the road to strength training—thus establishing a unique historical connection—from Stark to McLean to Todd.
As of 2017 the Stark Center was an official research center at the university as well as an official Olympic Studies Center—one of just three in the United States. The museum and archive serves as a popular destination for visitors to the University of Texas campus, who come as tourists and sports fans, as well as for students and scholars from around the country and the world. The Todds have remained active in the world of physical culture outside of their work at the center. Both have provided commentary for television networks and have written numerous articles for popular and academic publications. In 1990 they founded Iron Game History: The Journal of Physical Culture to encourage research in the field, and in 2002 they organized and directed the first professional Strongman contest at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Jan Todd, the original chairperson of the women’s committees for both the United States Powerlifting Federation and the International Powerlifting Federation, held the Roy J. McLean Fellowship in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at UT and directed both graduate and undergraduate degree programs in physical culture and sports studies. The Todds also endowed at UT Press the Terry and Jan Todd Series on Physical Culture and Sports, which has published Drug Games: The International Olympic Committee and the Politics of Doping, 1960–2008 (2011) by Thomas M. Hunt; and Mr. America: The Tragic History of a Bodybuilding Icon (2015) by John D. Fair.