Former Track Great Jim Hershberger Passes Away

Nov. 28, 2011

Jim Hershberger

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former University of Kansas track & field standout, Jim Hershberger, died Wednesday, Nov. 23, in his hometown of Bonita Springs, Fla., at the age of 80. A memorial service celebrating Hershberger’s life will be held Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 1 p.m. at Joanne’s House at Hope Hospice 27200 Imperial Pkwy., Bonita Springs, Fla. 34135.

The Wichita, Kan., native graduated from KU in 1953 after a decorated career. Hershberger lived to compete in sporting events. During his time at KU he set many national track records. Hershberger is a name which has become synonymous with Kansas Track and Field. His off-the-track accomplishments equaled, if not surpassed, his on the track performances.

Hershberger ran for the Jayhawks in the early 1950’s, specifically the 220 and 440 meter races. He also competed in other sports, accumulating 20 national championships to his name. In 1985, the NCAA honored Hershberger by creating an award in his name, given to the top college track and field athlete. Becoming one of the most charitable alum of the University, Hershberger donated a total of $750,000 to the athletic department. $125,000 of that amount went to support the building of a new track at Memorial Stadium, which was named the Jim Hershberger Track.

For his 50th birthday, Hershberger competed in the Hershberger Games, which featured athletes competing in 18 sporting events in 15 hours. This event expanded into the Jim Hershberger MVP Games featuring world-class athletes competing against each other in a 10 sport, one day event. At the age of 56, Hershberger won the overall competition – and then retired from competitive sports.

Among the honors Hershberger received throughout his career include: being chosen to appear on the Wheaties cereal box in 1986; he was named Kansas Man of the Year; was the recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Excalibur Award; as well as the Sigma Chi “Significant Sig” award.

Hershberger is survived by his wife, Sally, his six children and several grandchildren.