Manchester is a Burt family tradition

Left, Carl Burt ’25, the “father of Manchester football.” Right, Burt with his granddaughter Marianne Burt ’71.

Manchester a lifelong connection for Marianne Burt ’71  

Carl Burt ’25 is a towering figure in Manchester University history. The “father of Manchester football” was a role model who molded the character of the young men he coached and inspired them to achieve more than they thought possible.

Marianne-BurtTo Marianne Burt ’71, who shared this earth with Carl Burt for the first 17 years of her life, “He was a wonderful grandfather.”

Manchester University’s new athletic stadium is just a short punt away from Carl W. Burt Memorial Stadium to the north. Burt’s spirit will remain in the breeze of crisp autumn Saturdays to come, much as it has lived in Marianne’s heart since her grandfather died in 1966.

The Burt family bled black and gold, but Manchester was so intrinsic in their lives that they didn’t need to talk about it much, recalls Marianne. Her parents, Lorin ’48 and Geneva Gibson Burt ’49, went to Manchester as did her uncle, Robert Burt ’59. “I was hauled all over campus my whole life because we would go back for Homecoming,” says Marianne.

Geneva liked to joke that her daughter attended two Commencement exercises at Manchester, tells Marianne, “one when she was pregnant with me and the other when I walked across the stage myself without her help.”

Marianne’s parents and her grandparents remained close to their core of Manchester friends throughout their lives. “We spent every New Year’s Eve” with Manchester friends, recalls Marianne. “It was a generational thing, staying in touch with all of your friends at Manchester.”

Lorin grew up in North Manchester while his dad coached and taught at the college. Carl Burt took over the fledgling football program in 1925. Of the 27 male students who went out for the team, only four had ever played in a football game and most of them had never seen a football. If that discouraged young Coach Burt, he didn’t let on.

“Let’s go!” was Carl’s signature call to action. During his 18-year stint as coach, Manchester compiled 73 wins, 43 losses and nine ties, and won four state college championships. Two of his quarterbacks, Herb Banet ’37 and Don Lieberum ’40, went on to play professional football.

Playing for Coach Burt was hard work, but it was also innovative. An admirer and personal friend of the legendary Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, Burt introduced the Rockne system at Manchester by 1928.

Not only did Carl Burt coach football, he started the formal physical education and recreation program at Manchester and expanded its intercollegiate athletic program. He also coached track and baseball, and was athletic director in charge of intramural sports. He found time to officiate in seven state high school basketball tournaments and was a Big Ten official for three years. In 1942, Burt left coaching to become superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools for 24 years.

It was near Warsaw, on the shores of Crystal Lake, that Marianne has some of her fondest childhood memories. Carl and her grandmother, Ruth, had a home there, only two miles from Marianne’s maternal grandparents. Eventually, Lorin and Geneva had a home there, too.

“We spent all of our summers together at the lake,” says Marianne, as well as weekends in fall and winter and all of the holidays. “My grandfather was a great storyteller and very family-oriented,” says Marianne. “He was a man of true character. He always saw the best in people. I think he was able to bring out the best in people, which is one reason he was such a successful coach. He loved people.”

Marianne spent her formative years in Bloomington, where Lorin was an education professor at Indiana University. He specialized in school law, served as the executive secretary of the Indiana School Boards Association and lobbied at the Legislature when it was in session.

When it was time for Marianne to attend college, she didn’t go to IU because she wanted to go away from home. Manchester was far enough. “I didn’t have a great desire to go anywhere else. It was just a natural progression.”

At Manchester, Marianne found the same kind of lifelong friendships that her grandparents and parents enjoyed, including her roommate of all four years, Allyson Anglin ’71 Santner. “It was a great social situation,” says Marianne, an art major. “I have friends that I still get together with on a regular basis that were my original friends starting first term freshman year.” The friends rotate visiting each other’s homes for three- or four-day visits.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, “we get together every two weeks on a Zoom phone call,” says Marianne.

She also remembers fondly two of her favorite faculty members, Professor Emeritus Stephen Batzka ’62, whom she visited when she returned for her last class reunion, and the late Professor Emeritus Max Allen ’34, with whom she stayed in touch until he died. Regular trips to North Manchester, especially for reunions, is a Burt family tradition that Marianne upholds faithfully.

After Manchester, Marianne enjoyed a long and successful career in sales. She lived in Asheville, N.C., for 23 years, but moved back to Indiana in 2015 to take care of her mother, who died in 2018.

By Melinda Lantz ’81