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Posted on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

Newt Loken, 'father of Michigan men's gymnastics,' dies at age 92

By Staff

Newt Loken, who coached the Michigan men's gymnastics team for 36 years, died of natural causes at a retirement home in Oregon on Tuesday. He was 92.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Ann, and four grown children. The family is planning a memorial service for Loken in Ann Arbor later this summer.

Loken coached the Wolverines from 1948 to 1983, winning two gymnastics team national titles (1963, 70) and two trampoline championships (1969, 70). His teams had a 240-71-1 (.771) record with 12 Big Ten team championships and 69 individual conference champions in that time. Michigan

The Michigan men's gymnastics training center was named and dedicated in his honor in 2003.

"I was fortunate enough to not only be mentored by him as a student-athlete but as a coach as well. There are many of his principles I still use today," current Michigan coach Kurt Golder said in a statement. "Newt will be missed by many, but he will always be remembered. He will forever be the father of Michigan men's gymnastics."

Loken, a native of Minnesota, won the NCAA all-around title in 1942 while attending the University of Minnesota.

Last year, the Michigan gymnastics program posted the following excerpt from a 1995 documentary by Royce Toni on YouTube. In it, Loken chronicles his first years with the Michigan program.


Drew Paterson

Fri, Jul 1, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

Newt didn't want to brag about this (or maybe didn't want Bo to know) but he started the wave cheer at Michigan. Friday night before the game (I forgot which one, maybe MSU, maybe Homecoming) a small Pep rally was held next to the Union in front of the Sigma Chi house. Newt speaking into an improv microphone, got the crowd of about 1,000, mostly students, to throw up their arms one after the other north to south then south to north. Once they seemed to get the idea, he said "Now tomorrow in the stadium, do that again, only stand up when you do it. It will take a few tries, but the alumni and faculty will eventually catch on." The next day he and the cheerleaders got the students started and eventually the whole stadium produced the first "wave" cheer. Bo and the boys were so taken in by what was happening that they picked up a delay of game penalty.


Sat, Jul 2, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

That's an interesting piece of Michigan history. Thanks for sharing it. I knew Mr. Loken in a capacity unrelated to his gymnastics tenure. He was a most kind and gracious gentleman.

David Briegel

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

What a truly great and genuine Michigan Man. He lived a full life and lived it well. I first met him in 1960 while working at McDonalds. He would mischeviously try to do coin tricks to pay for his tab. I was a kid and he challenged me. He always had a friendly smile and welcome hello whenever we met over the years. I know several of his former athletes and they truly admired this fine Michigan Man!