Purdue University Department of Health and Kinesiology: A Brief History

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

While its current structure only dates back to 1976, the Department of Health and Kinesiology is grounded in campus developments in the early 1900s.

More than a century ago, Purdue University students who participated in the men’s and women’s recreation and athletic programs received lessons from former physical director Frank Curtiss. Curtiss offered general lessons in exercises, sports and games as well as larger lectures, which focused on topics like the importance of taking a bath after exercise, for example.

In 1916, a department of physical education was created to offer a space for men’s intercollegiate and intramural athletics as well as the teaching of sports skills and the training of future coaches. In 1923, a similar department was created for women with a primary focus on hygiene.

As the programs grew in popularity, the need for a new building became evident. The Fieldhouse and Gymnasium project began in 1938 to house the men’s program and later the women’s program when the two departments merged in 1976. The new facility included spaces for the Purdue basketball team, a swimming pool, squash courts, more modern offices and an indoor practice field for football and baseball. In 1971, the building was renamed to Lambert Gymnasium and Fieldhouse after former Purdue basketball coach Ward “Piggy” Lambert, and it still houses the Department of Health and Kinesiology today.

The pioneering program was the first in the country to receive accreditation for a formal curriculum in athletic training and created the country’s first degree in movement and sport sciences, shifting the focus to the science of human movement, and in 2010, it joined the newly formed College of Health and Human Sciences.

Today, Health and Kinesiology offers programs ranging from kinesiology to athletic training to exercise psychology across the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, seeking to find new, innovative ways to help people of all ages ultimately lead healthier lifestyles.