Carl B. (Berny) Wagner
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September 30, 1924 - May 27, 2013
"Track is my life, and it belongs at Oregon State." After seeing the new OSU track inaugurated, and the first OSU home meet in 24 years on the new track, Berny passed away peacefully on May 27th, 2013. He was 88 years old, and his family was at his side. His pleasure and passion in his last years was time with family and friends, and serving as an instrumental contributor in bringing track and field back to Oregon State.
Berny was born on September 30th, 1924, in Fresno, California. The family later moved to Palo Alto, where he graduated from Palo Alto High School. Following high school, he attended Cal Tech and Stanford, then served in the Navy during WW II before graduating from Stanford with a degree in education in 1948. He received his Masters in education from Stanford in 1949.
In 1947, Berny married the the love of his life, Nancy Elizabeth Peterson, to whom he was married for over 50 years.
Berny's coaching career began at the high school level, with stops at Wheatland, Lodi, San Lorenzo, and San Mateo high schools. In 1962, he became track and cross-country coach at College of San Mateo, where his dual meet record was 29-2-1, with conference championships in 1964 and 1965. Wagner's cross country teams at San Mateo won championships as well, in 1963 and 1964, with a combined meet record of 25-1. He was recently inducted into the College of San Mateo Hall of Fame.
In 1965, Berny became head track and cross-country coach at Oregon State University, a position he held for 10 years. He developed 25 All-Americans in 12 different events at OSU, and his Beaver teams included 10 NCAA or open-meet national champions. The Beavers finished in the top 20 at the NCAA championships six times, and in the top 6 four times. Athletes developed under Wagner's watch included such standouts as Jim Barkley, Steve DeAutremont, Willie Turner, Tom Woods, Jim Judd, Hailu Ebba, Ed Lipscomb, and 1968 Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury. Berny supported Dick in developing the Fosbury Flop, a jumping style that revolutionized the high-jump event and which is used universally by high-jumpers today.
Berny left OSU to work with the Whittaker Corporation in Saudi Arabia, helping that country develop a national track and field program. During that time, he was also the men's jump coach for the 1976 USA Olympic team, He then served as Executive Director of TFAUSA (Track and Field Association USA) from 1978-1981, where he was instrumental in ending the 22 year feud between the NCAA and track and field's national governing body, the AAU. From 1981-1989, Berny was National Coach Coordinator for The Athletics Congress, the forerunner to today's national governing body for track and field, USA Track & Field, and volunteered his time to work with Special Olympics.
After retiring in 1989, Berny volunteered his time as an assistant coach for Western Oregon University track teams, working with head coach and friend John Knight. During his time at Western Oregon, Knight's program produced three national champions and 15 All-Americans.
Wagner was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Western Oregon University Hall of Fame in 2009,
Berny was preceded in death by his wife Nancy in 2001, his son Carl, in 1989, his sister Nonnie Hussa in 2012, and a loving friend in his last years, Nancy Sippman. He is survived by his daughter Erica Woodcock (husband Rollie), son Jeff Wagner (wife Eileen) and grandchildren Sophie (Woodcock) Drisko, Lara Woodcock, Erin (Wagner) Sanderson (husband Daniel), and Tully Wagner.
A tribute to Berny Wagner will be held on Saturday, June 8th, at 6 PM, on the track at the new Whyte Track and Field Center in Corvallis, Oregon.
The family asks that remembrances be directed to the OSU Foundation, 850 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, Oregon, 97333. Donors should indicate their gift is for the Track & Field Complex in memory of Berny Wagner.
Published in StatesmanJournal on June 1, 2013