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Updated 11:00 AM May 17, 2005




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Donald Canham

Former athletics director Donald Canham died May 3 at University Hospital following surgery to repair a ruptured, or burst, abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was 87.
(Photo courtesy Department Of Athletics)

Described as a visionary and leader in the field of intercollegiate athletics, Canham served as the University's athletic director from 1968-88, pioneering the idea of progressive marketing and promoting of collegiate athletics. Under his watch U-M football began its current streak of 186 consecutive crowds in excess of 100,000, beginning in 1975.

During his tenure, Wolverine athletic teams won 72 Big Ten Conference championships. An important voice in the arena of collegiate athletics, Canham served on a multitude of Big Ten and NCAA committees during his tenure, including the NCAA television committee during the 1970s, which helped to significantly increase the popularity of college sports.

One aspect of Canham's success as an athletic director was his experience as a student-athlete. He won an NCAA national championship in the high jump in 1940.

He became Michigan's head coach in track and field in 1949, where he remained until his 1968 appointment as the fifth athletic director in U-M history. His track and field squads won 11 Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships, and one cross country title during his tenure.

Long after his retirement on July 1, 1988, Canham remained a sought-after advisor and consultant in the world of business and intercollegiate athletics. Shortly after his retirement, the Donald B. Canham Natatorium on campus was completed and dedicated in his honor.

Canham graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical education, history and science from the University in 1941 and completed a master of arts degree in 1948 after returning to his alma mater.

Following his days at U-M, Canham successfully ran his family-owned business School-Tech, Inc., in Ann Arbor, which he started while coaching in 1954. An independent manufacturing and distribution company marketing instructional films, as well as recreational, educational and athletic equipment, School-Tech has expanded into a multi-million dollar operation.

Canham is preceded in death by first wife, Marilyn (Bunny), and is survived by second wife, Margaret. Survivors also include his brother Robert Canham (Donna); his son, Don Canham Jr., and daughter, Clare Eaton (Don); grandchildren Amelia and Don Eaton; stepdaughters Karla Schoemer and Kirsten Roberts (Shawn); and step-grandchildren Aaron, Allison and Joslin.

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