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Hall of Fame Member Marv Harshman Passes Away

Marv Harshman (left) and Marv Tommervik in a 1950 file photo.
Marv Harshman (left) and Marv Tommervik in a 1950 file photo.

Marv Harshman, one of the most highly decorated athletes and coaches in Pacific Lutheran University sports annals, died this morning. He was 95.

As an undergraduate student at Pacific Lutheran College, Harshman earned 14 athletic letters, starring in football, basketball, baseball and track & field. Perhaps best remembered for his spectacular moves as an All-American fullback on the gridiron, he and teammate Marv Tommervik were the "Marvelous Marvs" who helped lead Pacific Lutheran to 18 straight victories from 1939-41 and into national football prominence. His name is synonymous with Pacific Lutheran football's glory years of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

In addition to his exploits on the football field, Harshman earned all-conference honors in basketball and was a standout for the track & field team in the throwing events. He was a charter inductee into the Pacific Lutheran Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.

Upon graduation from Pacific Lutheran in 1942, Harshman joined in the Navy before returning, in 1945, to his alma mater. He served as athletic director and also as football, basketball and track & field coach at Pacific Lutheran College, while also playing professional football and basketball in the early post-World War II years.

Harshman compiled a 642-448 record during 40 seasons as a college basketball head coach, 13 seasons at then Pacific Lutheran College (1946-58), 13 more at Washington State University (1959-71), and 14 years at the University of Washington (1972-85). His PLC teams compiled a 235-116 record and he was named NAIA District I Coach of the Year seven times. Harshman's 1956-57 Pacific Lutheran team finished with a 30-2 record and placed third at the NAIA national tournament.

During his tenure at Washington, Harshman was named Pacific-8 Coach of the Year in 1976 and Pacific-10 Coach of the Year in 1982 and 1984. Harshman was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985 and into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

The biography honoring Harshman on his induction into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame includes the following: "His teams were known for their class, dignity, and competitiveness. A teacher and master strategist, Harshman won over 600 games. He led the U.S. to a gold medal in the 1975 Pan-American Games. Harshman was named Seattle's 1975 Man-of-the-Year in sports. A seven-time NAIA District I Coach of the Year and Kodak's 1984 NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 1984, Harshman served as NABC President in 1981."

Jim Van Beek, a Pacific Lutheran University Hall of Fame inductee who played for Harshman during the coach's final three seasons at Pacific Lutheran, remembered him as an outstanding mentor, coach and friend. "To most of the players that ever played for him he was more than a coach, he ended up being a mentor in how to live life and how to treat people.

"He did everything so well (as a coach), communication, demanding respect, knowing the game so that when players went out on the floor they knew what their job was. He had the utmost respect from his players."

Phil Nordquist, now retired after a long and outstanding career as a Pacific Lutheran University history professor, played for Harshman from 1952-56. Like Harshman, he came out to Pacific Lutheran out of Lake Stevens High School, and he remembers Harshman as the "greatest athlete to graduate from Lake Stevens High School and the greatest athlete to graduate from PLU.

"He was a very serious competitor. He didn't like to lose, and that intensity affected all of us and we worked harder than we might have because of his serious competitiveness.

"Most powerfully, and it's not a quality that you find in all coaches, he was honest with his players, with recruits, with you. His honesty was a compelling feature of his personality and it affected the way in which all of us played and carried on."

Nordquist credited Harshman's "hard scrabble" life growing up in Lake Stevens as the son of a logger and mill worker as "affecting his attitude toward hard work and toward people." Harshman dropped out of the University of Washington and worked in the Lake Stevens mills before returning to college at Pacific Lutheran.

Harshman was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Dorothy, who passed away in March 2008. The two met while students at Pacific Lutheran College.

A graveside service is planned for Wednesday morning, April 17, at Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Tacoma. Information about a memorial service will be announced at a later date.

- PLU -