PITTSBURG — Few people can claim that a town has named an entire day after them. Even fewer get that honor while celebrating their 100th birthday in a building named after them.
However, Jack Overman did Thursday when Pittsburg City Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan showed up at Overman’s birthday celebration at Pittsburg State University with a proclamation announcing that August 23 will be known in Pittsburg as Jack Overman Day.
“It’s very exciting to have Jack with us, and still being such an integral part of the community,” O’Bryan said prior to the event.
Overman is a fixture on the PSU campus. He first bounded onto the scene as a yell leader in 1936, found being a Gorilla to his liking and continued his pride and exuberant love for the college for the next 82 years.
His love of the university led him to return to Pittsburg State in 1951, not as a student this time, instead he had been tasked with running the new student center. The campus changed around him, but according to friends and family Overman didn't. His PSU pride was bone deep, and continues to be.
“He is an important part of the university,” said Janeil Bryan, a long time friend and former student. “We have had a lot of fun, but when you’re around Jack you ALWAYS have a lot of fun.”
His influence was felt so heavily throughout the years that the student center was eventually renamed for him. Overman is often called the “unofficial cheerleader” for the college. PSU president Steve Scott described Overman as both an icon and a legend.
The legend rolled into his namesake building a little tired — and at the century mark — has a right to be. Overman’s daughter Sandy Haile said he'd been battling an infection. The medicine makes him sleepy she said.
He greeted the adults there to welcome him, and seemed happy to be there, although he was more sedate than usual. His family brought his wheelchair near the front of the room, and a murmur began among the students gathered in the Overman building.
One said quietly “I've heard of him.” PSU announced his arrival over the microphone and students pressed closer. As they began to approach Overman brightened.
He smiled a little at them, and seemed thrilled when the cheerleaders came up before the ceremony to say hello. The old spirit began to bubble up. Age may try to dampen it but inside Jack is still Jack.
“It’s special that my party is here,” Overman whispered with a small smile.
Following the presentation of the proclamation by O’Bryan, Scott took to the podium to praise Overman and told the story of being kicked out of the student center by Overman during his time as a student. He said one of his friends had become rowdy during a study session and broke a coffee table causing Overman to boot them all.
“I am the only PSU president ever to be thrown out of the student center by Jack Overman,” Scott said with a chuckle.