Former weightlifters Terry and Jan Todd call Austin their home


Zachary Strain

Terry and Jan Todd, both former competitive weightlifters, are the founders of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, a 27,500 square foot museum and the largest repository for artifacts of physical culture in the world, at the Darrel K. Royal Stadium.

Miles Hutson

Terry and Jan Todd are no strangers to attention. Terry Todd, a former English student, doctoral candidate and lecturer at UT, was the first man to officially perform a 700-pound squat.

Sports Illustrated and the Guinness Book of World Records once declared Jan Todd the “Strongest Woman in the World.”

Terry Todd, born in Beaumont, Texas in 1938, attended the University of Texas in 1956 and competed for the UT tennis team. However, his interest in weightlifting conflicted with his desire to play tennis. Athletic coaches at the time believed weightlifting had a negative impact on athletic performance.

“But since I had experienced myself what the weights could do for me, athletically, physically, then it didn’t matter who said it was not good for you,” Terry Todd said.

Terry Todd began to lift competitively while he played for the tennis team, using assumed names in contests to mask his activity from his coach. However, his coach caught on and Terry Todd gave up his tennis scholarship, moving back in with his family so he could continue his pursuit of competitive weightlifting.

Terry Todd went on to win the first two official senior national weightlifting competitions in 1964 and 1965, and in 1966 earned a doctorate with a self-made curriculum from UT.

In 1967, he retired from competitive weightlifting.

“I was getting ready to become a professor and decided that I’d fulfilled my curiosity about becoming big and strong,” Terry Todd said.

Terry Todd went from about 340 pounds, his peak weight, to 250 pounds, where he stands today. He began teaching at Auburn University and later moved to Mercer University, where he met Jan Todd.

Jan Todd caught his eye when she beat many of his companions at a spontaneous game of log tossing. They were married in 1973 during Jan Todd’s senior year at Mercer University.

Jan Todd began tagging along with Terry Todd to his workouts.

“This is what Terry did for recreation, and I just wanted to understand it a bit,” Jan Todd said.

Jan Todd said she found light workout routines designed for her to be boring, but later found she was able to deadlift 225 pounds. She became inspired to ask Terry Todd whether he thought she could compete in weightlifting.

“For me the transition was from doing light sets of ten to going and seeing ‘Can I do more,’” she said.

Jan Todd, with Terry Todd’s guidance, went on to set more than 60 strength records, competing in men’s competitions because of a lack of women’s strength contests.

“I grew up in the generation before Title IX,” Jan Todd said. “People were generally surprised that I could put a sentence together.”

Jan Todd later earned a doctorate from the University of Texas in American studies, and continues to lecture at UT today.

Jan and Terry Todd founded the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, a 27,500 square-foot museum and the largest repository for artifacts of physical culture in the world, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in 2009.

Jan and Terry Todd, now 60 and 74 respectively, say the Stark Center occupies most of their time but they enjoy the challenge. Terry Todd said he was happy it could be located in Austin, where he felt he belonged.

“This was the place where clearly it means home,” Terry Todd said. “It’s our ancestral home.”

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Retired weightlifters Jan and Terry Todd now teach at UT, consider Austin their home