Bill Bowerman strived to test the boundaries, once saying, "If there are limits to what we can do, I don't know what they are." From designing new running shoes to petitioning the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) to improve athlete services, Bowerman forged ahead.
An Oregonian through and through, Bowerman was born in Portland. He graduated from Medford High School, and completed his degree at the University of Oregon in 1935. Although Bowerman once dreamed of being a doctor, he chose the education route instead. He started his coaching career in Portland before moving onto Medford High School a year later, where he was the head football and track and field coach. Bowerman returned to the University of Oregon in 1948, and a year later took over the lead track and field coaching duties. Bowerman replaced John Warren, who had filled in for one year after the famous Bill Hayward retired.
During his 24-year tenure as head coach, Bowerman not only led his teams to four NCAA Championships, but more importantly, he empowered average athletes to accomplish amazing feats. Standouts such as Jim Bailey, Bill Dellinger, Harry Jerome, Kenny Moore, and Steve Prefontaine were among the countless All-Americans and Olympians Bowerman mentored.
Bowerman did more than share his expertise with athletes-he offered his innovations and wisdom to the world. His portfolio of accomplishments include creating a high-altitude training program that was adopted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and serving as head track and field coach for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team. Closer to home, Bowerman established the All-Comers Meets, community-wide track meets for all age levels, and was instrumental in transforming Eugene into "Tracktown, U.S.A."
A man committed to the community, Bowerman played a leading role Eugene's bid to host the '72, '76 and '80 Olympic Trials, numerous NCAA Championships, and the Pan-Am Games. He also orchestrated funding drives to renovate Hayward Field and to support local athletes' in their athletic pursuits, including financial assistance for the Olympic Games.
Bowerman is perhaps best remembered by people who aren't track and field fans for his contributions as a founder of Nike�. A mastermind of running shoes, Bowerman devised his most notable creation, the waffle shoe, by pouring rubber into his wife's waffle iron. True to his character, Bowerman did not seek fame or money. Rather, his ultimate goal was to create a running shoe that all children could afford.
After retiring from coaching in 1972, Bowerman continued to share his passion for teaching and innovation. He remained active in the University and served on the Board of Directors at Nike� well into the 1990s. Although Bowerman passed away on December 26, 1999, his legacy continues to serve as an inspiration to all at to the University and to those involved in the track and field community.