NOVEMBER 12, 2008

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McClanen Honored on Eastern’s Campus

Photo of Don Mclanen, founder of FCA.
Eastern Oklahoma State College's Don McClanen recently was honored as founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

After more than 61 years, an idea that began with a college student in 1947 who spoke for three minutes on the concept during a program titled “Making My Vocation Christian,” Don McClanen will be honored as the founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, 2 p.m. Dec. 5 in Eastern’s Field House on the Wilburton campus, where he formalized his dream.

A “larger than life” bronze bust of McClanen will be unveiled and later placed in the new life and learning center building being constructed in mid-campus. Stage guests that have committed to the dedication ceremonies include: Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins; Curg Laughlin, McClanen’s former player; Jim Howell, McClanen’s former player and Eastern Alumni Hall of Fame member; John Hendrix, former player for McClanen and Eastern Alumni Hall of Fame member; John O’Dell, Oklahoma FCA director; Chuck Bowman, former FCA employee and friend of McClanen; and former Eastern track and field coach Glen Stone.

Upon graduation from Oklahoma State University in 1950, McClanen became basketball coach and athletic director at Eastern A & M College (now Eastern Oklahoma State College). During the next four years his vision began to take root as he prayed and contacted individuals such as Branch Richey, Dan Towler, Roe Johnston, Donn Moomaw, Carl Erskine and others who had the resources to make his dream a reality.

During that time, polio was at the peak of its crippling epidemic. Wilburton held an annual March of Dimes fund-raising campaign headed by the late Latimer County School Superintendent, Delbert Garner. Garner’s campaign became the springboard that launched McClanen on his campaign which was to become known as FCA.

To make the polio drive a success local baseball celebrities Warren Spahn from Hartshorne and Pepper Martin from Quinton were contacted. Garner went to see Coach McClanen to see if they could use the college gym for a rally in case Spahn and Martin accepted the invitation. They accepted and McClanen and Eastern President at the time, Dr. E.T. Dunlap who was to become Oklahoma chancellor of higher education, gave their full support.

In addition to Spahn and Martin, letters were also sent to several other big name athletes including Micky Mantle, Marcus Haynes, Bob Richards and Doak Walker. All accepted, but Walker later canceled because of illness.

Richards and Martin got more response when they gave their personal testimonies on leading Christian lives as athletes and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. The rally was not only financially successful but showed McClanen the way to take the message of Christ to young people of America and the world.

Later McClanen contacted several sports figures and held another small rally which was later called the “First Huddle” at the flagpole in front of Eastern’s Library building.

The “First Huddle” was the beginning of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

McClanen resigned his position at Eastern at the close of the spring semester in 1954. He moved to Norman, and with the financial backing of baseball tycoon Branch Ricky, he established the first headquarters of the FCA near the University of Oklahoma campus. It all came together Nov. 12, 1954 at Norman when the original incorporators and directors adopted FCA’s bylaws.

The organization spread faster and further than the coach dreamed. A more central location was needed so headquarters moved to Kansas City, Mo.,where it remains today.

FCA is the largest Christian campus ministry in the world. In the past year, FCA reached more than 356,250 people on 7,125 campuses and worked with more than 46,000 coaches and athletes at camps across the globe.

For additional information, contact Eastern at 918.465.1723.