UND wants to rename its High Performance Center after Fritz Pollard Jr., a former Olympian and one of its first Black graduates.
The State Board of Higher Education’s budget and finance committee recommended initial approval of the request by a 3-0 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Now, the decision moves to the full board next week.
“He's a remarkable individual,” UND President Andrew Armacost said Tuesday. “This will be a prize building on our campus, the Fritz Pollard Athletic Center.”
The board’s approval would change the name of the High Performance Center, which was completed in 2015 and sits next to the soon-to-be removed Memorial Stadium, to the Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center.
Pollard, who died in 2003, was a running back for the UND football team, ran track and was a member of the university’s varsity boxing team. He won a bronze medal in the men’s 110-meter hurdles in the 1936 Summer Olympics and was picked All-North Central Conference in 1937 and 1938. He was a Collier's Magazine Little All-America selection in football in 1938.
Pollard, along with Horace Johnson, was one of the first two Black graduates of UND in 1939. He was the son of Fritz Pollard Sr., the NFL's first Black head coach and a member of the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
In a supporting document presented Tuesday, UND said Pollard “embodies UND’s mission and values through his remarkable service and leadership to society and our country.”
“He exhibited a lifelong passion for learning, civic engagement, and community leadership,” university leaders said. “His achievements both on- and off-campus highlight historical milestones for Black Americans. This naming request provides UND the opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for diverse people, experiences and ideas.”
READ MORE ABOUT FRITZ POLLARD: Jesse Owens film brings back memories of UND track star Fritz Pollard Jr.
UND Athletic Director Bill Chaves said Pollard is “easily our most decorated football and track athlete.” The athletic center is now primarily used by the track and football teams, which would also reflect on Pollard’s legacy as a multi-sport athlete.
Graduating with a bachelor's degree in education, Pollard went on to earn a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II; he later became a Foreign Service officer and taught physical education in Chicago.
Pollard Jr. retired in 1981 as the director of the United States Department of State Office of Overseas Schools for U.S. citizens. He died at the age of 87 in 2003.
Armacost said the university accelerated the request by a month to coincide with Black History Month.
“We thought it would be entirely fitting to be able to do this,” he said.
The university also consulted with Altru Health System, one of the prime contributors to the High Performance Center, and said the hospital system was on board with the name change. UND’s alumni foundation has been in contact with the Pollard family.
“I think it's just a fantastic opportunity, not only for the University of North Dakota, but for the State Board of Higher Ed to recognize Mr. Pollard,” said committee chair Tim Mihalick.
The financial implications associated with reissuing maps and other printed materials identifying Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center would be minimal and would occur upon a normal reprinting schedule. External signage would need to be installed, the university said.
The full State Board of Higher Education will meet on Feb. 25.