Henderson E. Van Surdam, 1905
An outstanding player, coach, and official in the sport of football during a career that spanned more than 60 years, Henderson “Harry” Van Surdam, also known as “Dutch,” did not let his diminutive size hold him back. Playing at Wesleyan from 1901 through 1905, Harry earned all-New England honors as a quarterback in 1905 despite his 138-pound frame. He led the Cardinals to a 7-2-1 record that year.
After graduation, Harry coached at Marietta College and was one of the first coaches to incorporate the forward pass into his play-calling after it was made legal in 1906. He surprised many opponents as well as officials with his daring maneuvers. From Marietta, Harry moved to the University of the South, then to El Paso Military Institute, which eventually became the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). After returning from a stint in the Army during World War I, Harry began a football officiating career that stretched for some 50 years. In 1963, he was honored by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) with the designation “Dean of College Football Officials.” He also founded and served as president of the Touchdown Club of New York.
Harry was a member of Wesleyan’s varsity track team. He led Wesleyan’s glee club, and his interest in music spawned activity as a composer and conductor. A number of his compositions were highly popular on college campuses. He also spent time in hotel management and as a cruise director.
In 1965, on the occasion of his 60th reunion, Harry received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wesleyan. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1972.
Born in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. in 1881, Harry lived to be 100, passing away in 1982. He wrote a sports column for the local paper, the Hoosick Falls Standard Times, for 30 years. He was honored by the town with a parade and concert to commemorate his 100th birthday on September 28, 1981.