The campus reception on August 22 to celebrate Jack Overman’s 95th birthday turned into a Gorilla family reunion. Friends and former colleagues joined community members, current staff and students to wish the campus icon a happy birthday and many more.
PSU President Steve Scott presented a Gorilla statue to Overman, saying “you bring life to us. You inspire us.”
The president said he had a story to tell about Overman, but it was one he would save for his 100th birthday celebration.
Jack didn’t disappoint the crowd. He led early arrivers in a spirited Pitt State cheer, gave hugs and high fives to Gus when he arrived and clearly enjoyed the attention he received from current Pitt State cheerleaders.
“I want you to know,” Overman said, “from the bottom of my heart, how much I love this institution and this community. Thank you for coming to see this old man.”
Overman said the event had him “charged up for the next two weeks!”
Overman, a 1941 PSU graduate, has become an iconic figure for generations of Gorillas. The former cheerleader and student leader, returned to the campus in 1951 to serve as the first director of the newly built student center. He served in that capacity for nearly 40 years, retiring in 1984. In 1985, the building was named in his honor.
Even after his retirement, Overman remained a part of the day-to-day activity on campus, which was made easier by the fact that he and his wife, Doris, lived just across the street from McCray Hall.
Even at the age of 95, Overman rarely misses an athletic contest and he is a frequent guest at important events in the life of the university. He continues to be active in the YMCA, Rotary Club and a host of community organizations.
Overman’s trademark noisemaker is a cowbell that he rings at football games. He says it is the same one he bought at a local feed store as a student in the ‘30s.
Johnna Norton, director of alumni and constituent relations, said alumni have great fondness for Overman.
“Perhaps because they all share such affection for Pittsburg State University,” Norton said.