Was first-ever athletic director at MIT
Excelled in athletics at Bluffton HS and Bluffton College
Was secretary-treasurer of the NCAA
This feature is the first in a series of famous Bluffton High School alumni. The feature will eventually be posted on the Bluffton school website.
Ivan “Ike” J. Geiger
Aug. 10, 1909 – Jan. 12, 1955
Bluffton High School class of 1927
Bluffton College class of 1932
Through his example as an educator believing that educating the “whole person” involved blending education and athletics, Ivan “Ike” J. Geiger promoted this idea with great success.
Described in the Bluffton News in the 1940s as one of the Bluffton community’s all-time athletic luminaries – excelling in sports at Bluffton High School and Bluffton College – he became the first-ever director of athletics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, holding that post from 1947 to until his untimely death in 1955.
Among his accomplishments include:
• Serving as secretary-treasurer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
• Assisting former world heavy-weight box champion Jack Dempsey in a training center
• Co-chairing the Olympic Fund Raising Committee
• Receiving national attention for creating an experimental coeducational physical education program for juniors and seniors at Van Buren High School, where he taught
And, for his involvement at MIT that university established the “Ike Geiger Team Race Regatta” in his memory, which continues today.
Ivan "Ike" Geiger, 1927 BHS graduate
Here’s his story:
As a Bluffton High School student in the 1920s he won three letters in football, two in basketball and two in track. As a senior he was elected captain of the football and track teams.
At Bluffton College he won letters as a freshman in football and track and was awarded three years of varsity letters in football, three in track and one in basketball. He was selected second all-conference one year and all-conference end two years on the Northwestern Ohio College Conference.
For three years he was also active in swimming and water polo. During summers, as a Bluffton College student, he helped his brother manage the Bluffton swimming pool, located in the Buckeye quarry.
Following graduation with a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Bluffton College, he attained additional training from Ohio State University, receiving a bachelor’s of science in physical education and a master’s degree in health and physical education.
Geiger’s teaching began at Van Buren (Ohio) High School coaching football and basketball while teaching physical education from 1933 to 1937. He then served as school principal and director of athletics and physical education until 1942.
Selected from a group of 20 applicants during World War II, he assisted Commander Jack Dempsey, one-time world heavyweight boxing champion, in the physical training department at the Manhattan Beach Training Station in Brooklyn, New York. He retired from the Coast Guard holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander. While at the Coast Guard, as instructor of physical education, he coached wrestling and track.
Following his Coast Guard stint, Dempsey’s recommendation led to his hiring at MIT. There he created one of the most outstanding sports college programs on the east coast, inaugurating an impressive MIT intramural program.
Under this leadership he increased intramural student opportunities from three to 13 sports. When he joined MIT 75 students participated in intramural sports. Through the Intramural Council of the Athletic Association, which he nurtured, he grew intramurals to 320 teams involving close to 2,500 MIT students.
At MIT, Geiger started the first women's varsity sailing team in the United States. Following his death at age 45, MIT initiated the Ike Geiger Team Race Regatta. In 2023, the event held in March, included 28 races with 10 flights involving eight universities including Harvard, Boston College and the Coast Guard Academy.
For a time, he was secretary-treasurer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), co-chairman of the Olympic Fund Raising Committee and president of the New England Fencing Association. He served as president of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges. In 1977 the Bluffton University inducted him into its athletics hall of fame.
It is evident that there was hardly a sport that Geiger had not coached or participated in.
His athletics and education philosophy:
As a rare example of an educator in the field of athletics, Geiger sought to blend academics and athletics into the ideal of educating the whole person.
This philosophy comes from a collection of own writing and tributes given him from MIT administrators.
Geiger brought the principle of amateurism to its logical extreme. He felt that it was feasible and desirable to conduct an athletic program aimed at the majority rather than the minority. This is not to say that he considered intercollegiate competition unimportant and victory undesirable.
He felt that “…. Athletic competition, competition to win, benefits the student educationally as well as physically. If sports for all was to be the goal, then intramural sports were the key to its attainment.
He believed that participation in athletics must offer opportunity to the individual to meet situations with growth in personal and social attainment for all members of the group.
At his death, the MIT dean, wrote “Amateurism was his theme. He did not believe the athletic program should support itself, that athletic scholarships should be awarded or that students be obligated or induced to participate in athletics by granting of special favors of any time.
Certainly, Geiger’s feelings on this subject sound foreign in today’s world of collegiate athletics.
MIT Engineer's mascot - Tim the Beaver
In announcing his hiring at MIT, the Bluffton News stated that Geiger came from a family, which has always been prominent in sports and outdoor activities. His brother, the late Steiner Geiger, also a Bluffton High School and Bluffton College graduate, was an expert swimmer in addition to holding other athletic accomplishments.
His uncle, Isaac Geiger, an 1896 Bluffton High School graduate and later BHS principal, eventually joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota. He, too, was a former football and basketball luminary at Bluffton High School, the Bluffton News stated.
Ivan’s brother, Steiner Geiger, graduated from Bluffton High School in 1916. Ivan’s sisters also graduated from Bluffton High School. They are Eva Harshbarger, 1920; Beulah Soldner, 1923, Mabel Nordstrom, 1924 and Marguerite Fretz, 1931.
Ivan’s wife, Winifred Thompson Geiger, graduated from Bluffton High School in 1928.
Ike in a 1925 Bluffton High School track photo - Bluffton won the all-county track title
Ike on the 1925 Bluffton High School football team, as a sophomore
Ike in the Bluffton High School band