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Overman era ends, legend remains

Pittsburg State University’s legendary former cheerleader Jack Overman died Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. A lifelong Pittsburg resident, Overman spent his life supporting Pitt State until his last year, having celebrated his 100th birthday Aug. 23 at the building that bore his name, the Overman Student Center. 

Born in Girard, Kansas, Overman attended Pittsburg High School, where he began his yell-leading career. He then continued as a PSU yell leader in 1936—then known as Kansas State Teachers College. Overman graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s of science in business. 

“I can’t think of anyone, and I don’t think there ever will be anyone, who is a bigger cheerleader for Pittsburg State University, I mean the guy truly bled red and gold,” said Jon Bartlow, director of alumni and constituents relations. “(He’s) just an amazing man, not only did he do really just wonderful things for the university in so many different capacities but really beyond that he did amazing things for the community…” 

Overman returned to PSU in 1951 as director of the student center until his retirement in 1984. Upon his retirement, the Kansas Board of Regents renamed the student center in Overman’s honor. 

“… He was involved with this institution over a longer span of time than anyone ever has been and maybe longer time than anyone ever will be again,” Bartlow said. “Literally a span over 80 years, you know that’s really pretty unprecedented, so he really made his mark on this university. Obviously we have a building named after him, but I just think it’s a name we’re going to continue to hear and revere for decades and decades to come …” 

PSU President Steve Scott spoke highly of Overman, according to an article on Pitt State’s website. 

“Jack Overman represents everything that’s good about Pittsburg State… His passion for Gorilla athletics, his commitment to individual students, and his enduring love for the institution,” Scott said. “His impact on Pitt State has been evident over the past eight decades and will be felt for decades to come.”  

Mindy Cloninger, director of career services, knew Overman since she was young. Cloninger later attended PSU while Overman was student center director and later were both members of Pittsburg’s Rotary Club. 

“I’ve known Jack since I was a little girl, so my family had a lot of connections with Jack and his family,” Cloninger said. “It’s one of those things where our families’ paths crossed a lot of times over many years… We just had been really lifetime family friends.” 

Overman was an active Pittsburg community member all his life, including the Pittsburg Rotary Club, the First United Methodist Church, the YMCA, and the Salvation Army. 

“… He was incredibly active in the community of Pittsburg, so he influenced a lot of people, I think, in terms of how they give back to the community and because of his example,” Cloninger said. “… He was a very kind person, very thoughtful, and considerate of all people and that’s why he was so greatly loved, because you knew it was genuine. You knew that he genuinely cared about you and that caused people to genuinely care about him. And I also really respected… The way that… He supported (his wife)… I always just appreciated and knew how much he just really truly loved her.” 

Overman’s community and PSU support did not go unnoticed, as he received the Spirit of Pittsburg award. He also received the Meritorious Achievement Award in 1986, naming Overman “the greatest individual fan in the history of Pitt State athletics.” In 2009, Overman was then inducted into the PSU Sports Hall of Fame. 

“He was such a character, and I think the public persona that people saw at the games… I think that enthusiasm was contagious, and so I think people will remember that and kind of continue to cheer just a little be crazier… Also, he was a Gorilla fan whether they were winning or they weren’t winning and that was important. And there’s a lot of people that know that and remember that and I think have applied that to being a Gorilla fan,” Cloninger said.  

In Cloninger’s time spent knowing Overman, she said he “left an impression” on her to take pride in her work. 

“… I shadowed him for my master degree… That was one of the things I learned, that if I would eventually end up in a leadership role, which I did, to take ownership of the things that happen in my department, you know, pay attention to what goes on, support the folks that work for you… I just have a lot of respect for him for putting in the extra effort in everything that he did…” 

Bartlow said Overman showed supportiveness and loyalty to Pitt State unlike any other individual. 

“… I think one of the best things about him was his positive spirit, and he was one of the most spirited people I’d ever seen,” Bartlow said. “So I think as long as people have a lot of pride for this institution, I think that will continue on and on. I think Jack Overman can live through all of us who are proud of this place.” 

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