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Dec 9, 2022
Manuscripts – The Thomas O. Berg Papers, 1923-2008
King Jordan Student Academic Center 1255
Berg, Thomas O. (Olof), 1922-2009
The Thomas O. Berg Papers, 1923-2008
Gallaudet University Archives
Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 205
Creator: Berg, Thomas O. (Olof), 1922-2009
Title: The Thomas O. Berg Papers, 1923-2008
Quantity: 33 boxes (18 linear feet)
Abstract: Papers of Thomas O. Berg, deaf athlete and long-time track and field coach at Gallaudet University. Includes correspondence, event results, photographs, programs and brochures, magazines and newsletters, award plaques and memorabilia, and more.
Note: This document last updated December 2016.
Acquisition Information: Assembled from various collections of Berg’s papers given to Gallaudet University by his wife and daughter, Betty and Jennifer Berg, and by his friend Steven Baldwin.
Processed By: Begun by Corinne Palaia and Michael J. Olson, completed by Christopher Shea, December 2016.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.
Related Material in the Archives
Born in Butte, Montana, in 1922, Thomas Olof Berg became deaf at age 6 after contracting spinal meningitis. After a difficult recovery that included re-learning to walk, he was sent to the Montana State School for the Deaf and Blind in 1929. In 1933, his family moved to Seattle, and Berg was enrolled in public school there for four years. Unhappy with his lack of social and athletic opportunities in a hearing school, he transferred to the Washington State School for the Deaf in 1937. At that school, he participated in track and football.
Berg entered Gallaudet College in 1939, graduating with a BS degree in 1944. He was an outstanding athlete at Gallaudet, and set the school record for the javelin throw in 1943, a record not broken for over 35 years. He worked briefly as a chemist before joining the faculty of the Maryland School for the Deaf. A year after that, he was recruited to the faculty of the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind, where he spent ten years teaching and coaching a renowned track program. During this time he married Betty A. Hogan, and they went on to have three children, Frederick, David, and Jennifer.
In 1956, after leaving the Idaho School following conflicts with the administration, Berg was hired as assistant dean of students and head track coach by Gallaudet President Leonard M. Elstad. The next year, Berg was approached by S. Robey Burns of the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD) about coaching the US track team at the 8th International Games for the Deaf in Milan, Italy, in 1957. Berg went on to be head coach the US track teams at the International Games / World Games for the Deaf in 1957, 1961, 1969, 1973, 1977, and 1989. In 1981 and 1985, he was track coordinator for the World Games. Berg’s World Games teams won over 300 medals.
Berg’s career as track coach at Gallaudet lasted 30 years until his retirement in 1986. During this period, he received many awards, including the Knute Rockne Track Coach of the Year Award, the Helms Foundation Award, and a citation from Mayor Thomas Bradley of Los Angeles. Upon his retirement, Gallaudet awarded Berg an honorary doctorate.
Thomas O. Berg passed away in 2009. In 2012, Gallaudet University’s track was renamed in his honor.
Scope and Content
Most of these papers cover the mid-1950s to the late 1980s – in other words, the end of Berg’s tenure at the Idaho School for the Deaf to his retirement from Gallaudet. The most common types of material are correspondence, sports event scoresheets and program books, and sports photographs. The photos are mostly from the Gallaudet track team, as well as from various World Games for the Deaf where Berg served as US track coach.
Records from Berg’s term as track coach at Gallaudet and at the World Games consist mostly of event results and program books. There is a particularly large collection of material related to the 10th International Games for the Deaf (1965); Berg was involved in the planning for this event since it was held mostly at Gallaudet.
There is also a sizable amount of correspondence from the controversial years, 1955-1956, at the end of Berg’s term at the Idaho School for the Deaf, when he clashed with the school superintendent. This incident provoked an independent investigation of the school, and the investigators’ report is included.
Some newspaper clippings collected by Berg are also part of these papers. Most of them are articles about deaf track events published in mainstream (non-deaf) publications. Some are from local Idaho papers about the controversy at the Idaho School for the Deaf.
Also present are some artifacts from Berg’s career, mostly award plaques and memorabilia from events and groups he participated in.
Series 1. Personal records, 1931-1982
A small collection of material including several biographies of Berg; a collection of school newsletters from Montana, Washington, and Gallaudet with his writing on them; and a program from a 1981 testimonial dinner given in his honor at Gallaudet. Also includes some lists of awards he received, and his notes on the construction of fishing flies.
For other school newsletters, see series 14.
Series 2. Correspondence, 1949-2001
Berg’s correspondence, including letters both to and from him. Includes both personal and professional correspondence. Arranged as follows:
For some older correspondence, particularly related to Berg’s time at the Idaho School, see series 13 and 14.
Series 3. Gallaudet track records, 1953-1999
Records from Berg’s time as coach of Gallaudet’s track program. Arranged as follows:
For material from the Mason-Dixon Athletic Conference, which Gallaudet participated in, see series 4.
Series 4. Mason-Dixon Athletic Conference records, 1936-1978
The Mason-Dixon Conference was a Division II conference for track, basketball, and other sports in the Maryland/Pennsylvania/Virginia area. Gallaudet was one of its founding members, starting in 1936 up until the conference disbanded in 1974. This series includes event summaries, program books, and results from Mason-Dixon sanctioned track and cross-country events.
Series 5. Other track records, 1952-1994
A collection of other material related to college, prep, and high school track that does not fall into any of the other series. Includes practice sheets, notes and résumés for track coaches (including Berg), training materials, and essays and historical notes on track and athletics.
Series 6. Other sports program books, 1949-1992
A small collection of programs and other material from non-track deaf sports events, mostly basketball tournaments held by the AAAD or other regional deaf sports organizations.
Series 7. World Games for the Deaf records, 1950-1996
Boxes 13-20, 26
Records from the 7th through 19th World Games for the Deaf. Held by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS), these games, later known as the Deaflympics, are some of the most important events in the deaf sports world. Berg, as noted in the historical sketch, coached the United States track team at several World Games to great success.
The bulk of this series is program and result books for the various Games. In particular, it includes extensive correspondence, reports, and minutes related to the planning for the 10th International Games for the Deaf (1965), which were held mostly at Gallaudet University.
Also includes some CISS-related material not specifically connected to the World Games, such as issues of the CISS Bulletin newsletter, and some material on international sports competitions that were not part of the World Games. Box 26 includes a scrapbook of articles and other materials related to the 15th and 16th (1985, 1989) World Games.
Series 8. AAAD records, 1951-1994
Material from the American Athletic Association of the Deaf, including newsletters, reports, programs, and a small amount of correspondence. Much of it is also related to the World Games, in particular the American teams at each World Games.
Series 9. DAFUS records, 1969-1996
Founded after the 15th World Games for the Deaf (1985), the Deaf Athletic Federation of the United States was created by track coach Jack Griffin (see series 2) as a central governing body for the training of deaf athletes and the organization of competitions. Today it is known as USA Deaf Track and Field. Berg served as its president for the first four years of its existence.
This series includes DAFUS newsletters and programs from DAFUS-sanctioned events, a history of the organization, and some proposals, correspondence, and minutes related to its operation.
Series 10. Magazines and newsletters, 1942-1996
A collection of magazines, newsletters, copied articles, and other media materials on topics of interest to Berg, mostly sports.
See series 12 and 13 for more newspaper clippings and articles collected by Berg.
Series 11. Other materials, 1953-1997
Materials that do not fit into other series in these papers. Includes some programs from award dinners and ceremonies, a collection of postcards, and a copy of Philip Dietrich’s The Silent Men, about deaf workers at the Goodyear plant in Akron, Ohio, in the mid-20th century.
Series 12. Newspapers and clippings, 1941-1992
A collection of news clippings from non-deaf media, mostly related to events deaf athletes competed in, including the World Games.
Series 13. Idaho School for the Deaf correspondence, 1948-1969
Part of a collection of Berg’s older correspondence contributed to the Archives by Steve Baldwin. The bulk of this correspondence is related to Berg’s time at the Idaho School for the Deaf, particularly 1955-1956. During this period he and some other deaf teachers came into conflict with the school superintendent, Dr. Burton Driggs, over incidents including the alleged beating of a student by a matron. The controversy reached the local newspapers (clippings are included in this series), and provoked a state investigation of the school; the evaluators’ report is also included here. As a result of this, Berg lost his position at the Idaho School in 1956 and relocated to Gallaudet.
Series 14. Other older correspondence, 1945-1996
Also contributed by Steve Baldwin. Includes some of Berg’s correspondence, notes and newspaper clippings, copies of The Optimist (the Idaho School for the Deaf student newsletter) and some other periodicals from other deaf schools, mostly Gallaudet.
Series 15. Photographs, 1940s-1989
A large collection of photographs from Berg’s collection. Most, unfortunately, are unlabeled and undated, but the bulk are team photos and competition photos of the Gallaudet track team. The next largest group is photos of track events from various World Games. There is also a small collection of personal and travel photos. Of particular interest is a photo of Berg receiving his honorary Gallaudet doctorate at the 122nd Commencement in 1986.
Series 16. Artifacts, 1994-1995
Bulk of this collection is award plaques from various awards and honors Berg earned over his career, including honors from AAAD, DAFUS, and Gallaudet University. Also includes a Team USA track suit from the 1985 World Games for the Deaf, and the track shoes that Berg was wearing when he set the Gallaudet javelin record in 1943.
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