Dr. George F. Kramer
Director & Head Coach
1953 - 1985
A native of Hagerstown, Maryland, George Kramer came to the University of Maryland in 1950 at the age of 22. After taking a freshman course in gymnastics, he was invited by David Field to come out for the Gymnastic team and for Gymkana. It was a natural progression since George was a physical education major and he had an interest in the scientific basis of movement, which is demonstrated more in gymnastics than in any other sport.
Unfortunately, the Gymnastic team folded after George's first year, but on the Gymkana Troupe, he excelled, later serving as President of the Troupe and being honored by his fellow troupers as Best Male Trouper in 1952.
George Kramer demonstrated his character at a road show one time to Coach Field (a story Dr. Field retold at Dr. Kramer’s retirement).
Dr. Kramer relates the story:
"Dr. Field was always looking for new things to do and new ways of doing them. He found a comealong at a road show one time that would help to taut the slack wire, and he of course decided that it belonged to the Troupe. I merely picked it up and put it back and said that no it wasn't ours. That always impressed him for some reason."
When Dr. Field left the University in 1953, George Kramer took over as director. He was barely in the position before he was faced with his first problem in running the Troupe.
"I was a graduate assistant and the dean asked me to take over the Troupe. He in the same breath said, 'By the way, you can't use the gymnasium.' So I took it clear up to Dean Geary Epley. He called the dean and told him that he couldn't do that. The gymnasium belonged to the students. So that was my first battle."
The following year, George had to relinquish the directorship of the Troupe in order to pursue his academics.
"Right after I finished my assistantship, which was the spring of '54, I went to Southern Illinois in the fall of '54, where I was to start an exhibitional team. I was there for a year, then came back to Montgomery County for a year then was offered a job at Maryland in the fall of 1956. When I did I also assumed the responsibility of the Troupe again."
With the Troupe now practicing in the gym in Cole Field House (having moved there in 1955) came a new problem.
"I always had to battle with Lefty (Dreisel). He wanted the small gymnasium to practice all the time at his terms. He and I of course went around and around a lot, not in a dastardly way, but in a way that he knew that I was going to keep the facilities for when I wanted it too."
The story goes that the basketball team would come in and push all of the gymnastic equipment out of the way so that they could practice. Gymkana would then have to come back in and put the equipment back where it belonged for its practices. This went on for quite some time, until finally George Kramer felt the need to take action.
One day when the basketball team came in, they found that all of the basketball backboards and nets had been taken down.
Problems like this would crop up from year to year and Mr. Kramer often took it upon himself to solve them. As the years went by, he was required to go away from the University from time to time, but he always kept in touch, offering advice and support to Gymkana. He received his doctorate in the late 60s.
In the fall of 1981, Dr. Kramer took a sabbatical from the college. While still helping in directing the Troupe, he turned many of the director’s responsibilities over to Dr. Joseph Murray, whom he had been preparing for the job for almost twenty years.
After his sabbatical, Dr. Kramer went on to serve as acting dean of the College of Physical Education, Recreation, and Health, while still managing to find time to assist Dr. Murray in running the Troupe.
In 1985, once a new dean, John Burt, was selected, Dr. Kramer announced his upcoming retirement. For those who attended his retirement party on May 19, the night was truly memorable (See 1984-85). But it was probably one of the shortest retirements in history. As the months passed, Dr. Kramer came back more and more often, to help with the college and with Gymkana. He soon became an invaluable aid to Dean John Burt while continuing to help the Gymkana Troupe, up to the present day.
Dr. Kramer’s devotion to the Troupe over a period of more than four decades has been an inspiration to many hundreds of Troupers. The 1984-85 Gymkana Troupe perhaps put it best in announcing his retirement in their Home Show program.
"It is with much pride and a certain sadness that we announce the retirement of our coach and director, Dr. George Kramer. Gymkana can never forget him..."
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to completely express the great love, respect, and appreciation we have for him. Dr. Kramer has devoted himself to his students. Even during these past few years as Acting Dean of the College of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Dr. Kramer has taken time to come to the gym as well as help students individually, outside the gym. Through his example, his coaching, his counseling, and his friendship, he has helped each member grow.
"We, the Gymkana Troupe, not only wish to dedicate this show to Dr. Kramer, but feel that the greatest tribute we could pay him is for him to know that the ideals and philosophies with which he has tried to help us are alive within each of us. Thank you, sir, for all you've given us."
Dr. Kramer passed away in 1998, and a plaque in his honor was placed in the gym he helped build. It reads:
Dedicated in Memory of Dr. George F. Kramer (1927 - 1998)
Dr. Kramer was affiliated with the University of Maryland
and the College of Health and Human Performance from 1950 through 1998. During those 48 years he served as Student, Gymkana Performer, Full Professor, Assistant Dean and in addition directed and coached the Gymkana Troupe for 33 years.
Dr. Kramer was a visionary who was instrumental in planning the Health and Human Performance Building and in developing this 20,000 square foot gymnasium into one of the best gymnastic teaching and training facilities in the nation.
His contributions to the College, to his Students, and to the Gymkana Troupe will always be remembered. He will live in the hearts of those who loved and admired him.