Boulder Daily Camera

Harry Carlson, ex-official at CU, dies at 89

Harry Gordon Carlson, a highly respected athletic director of the University of Colorado for 39 years and the man who brought CU into the Big Eight Conference, died Saturday. He was 89.

Carlson, a former professional baseball player, had been a University baseball coach, dean of men and regent. But he derived his greatest pleasure from the young people he worked with, according to his son, David Carlson.

“He felt very gratified in helping students who were “searching for direction,” he said.

Carlson also will be remembered as a man of remarkable integrity.

Howard Higman, CU professor emeritus of sociology, was an undergraduate student at the University when Carlson was coaching baseball and working as a professor of physical education.

“He was held in very, very high regard as a man of unbelievable moral integrity,” Higman said. He added that people who were willing to bend rules just to win games considered Carlson “a problem.”

Higman said Carlson’s ideals were recognized after World war II, when he was asked to go to Germany to use sports to “de-Nazi-fy” German youth.

Carlson was born in Jamestown, N. Y., on Nov. 19, 1896, the son of Andrew and Karolina Bjorkman Carlson, who were Swedish immigrants.

He served in the U. S. Marine Corps in World War I.

He graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1920 and received a master’s degree from Clark College in Worchester, Mass., in 1924. In between he played a year of professional baseball for the Cincinnati Reds.

Carlson had several coaching jobs before landing his first full-time position – at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., in 1924.

He moved to Boulder to join the CU faculty in 1926.

Carlson married Mildred M. Gustafson on Aug. 4, 1930, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

As baseball coach, Carlson led the CU baseball team to 11 conference championships between 1928 and 1945.

He also began the CU program of intramural sports.

Carlson served as athletic director from 1928 to 1964 and was dean of men from 1932 to 1959.

His efforts in bringing CU into the Big Eight Conference began in 1939, when Carlson expressed CU’s desire to join what was then the Big Six Conference. CU was finally admitted in 1947, expanding the conference into the Big Seven. The conference later expanded into the Big Eight.

Carlson was instrumental in bringing CU’s football team to prominence.

The year he retired was declared “Harry Carlson Year” by the University, and the CU men’s gymnasium was later renamed in his honor.

Carlson served on the CU Board of Regents for six years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Survivors include his wife of Boulder; one son, H. David Carlson of Boulder; one daughter, Carol C. Chapman of Menlo Park, Calif., and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Hospice of Boulder Memorial Hospital, 311 Mapleton Ave., Boulder 80302.

Howe Mortuary is handling arrangements.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.