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Ike Geiger: Famous BHS alumnus

By Fred Steiner

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.


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.

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. 

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