The Student Life and Cultures Archives recently acquired the letters of Olympian Harold M. Osborn. Dating from September 1924 through August 1928, Harold corresponded with Margaret Estelle Bordner. These letters chronicled their long-distance romance and courtship, with the couple ultimately marrying on September 7th, 1928.
After Margaret’s death in 2003, her daughters discovered the letters tucked away in a shoebox in her bedroom closet. Daughter Susan Osborn Jones compiled the letters into an album. They decided to donate a scanned copy of the album to the Archives, as both Harold and Margaret were alumni of the University of Illinois. These letters were written after Harold’s first Olympics and during Margaret’s studies at Illinois.
Harold M. Osborn graduated from the University of Illinois in 1922. During his time at Illinois, he was a member of the track and field team. Harold helped the team win both indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles in 1920, 1921, and 1922. He also tied for the NCAA and AAU outdoor high jump championships in 1922 . During his Illinois career, Harold set six world records . After his time at Illinois, Harold went on to compete at the 1924 Olympic games. He won the gold medal for both the high jump and decathlon, making him the only athlete to ever do so . He competed again in the 1928 Olympic games. After finishing his athletic career, Harold returned to Champaign to practice osteopathic medicine. He maintained a close connection with his alma mater, helping coach the University of Illinois track team in the 1940s. His world record in standing high jump still stands today .
Margaret Estelle Bordner graduated from the University of Illinois in 1932. While she majored in English, Margaret’s academic career also demonstrated her strong interest in French. In 1927, she studied abroad for 2 weeks in France. While in Paris, Margaret purchased this flapper dress, pictured to the left.
By 1931, Margaret was initiated into Phi Delta Phi, a national honorary French society . Throughout her time at Illinois, Margaret received high honors, including Alpha Lambda Delta. She was involved with the Women’s League on campus, earning both Gold Feathers and Orange and Blue Feathers for her participation. Margaret was also an active member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and Shi-Ai, a women’s panhellenic honor society . After getting married in 1928, Margaret and Harold would have four daughters. They returned to Illinois in 1939. Margaret lived in Champaign until her death in 2003.
Harold Osborn is being inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 30 at the State Farm Center. The ceremony is open to the public and begins at 2pm. More information can be found at: http://uillinois_microsites.sidearmsports.com/halloffame/ceremony.html
References: “University of Illinois Names Inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class.” Illinois Athletics, 23 Feb. 2017, http://fightingillini.com/news/2017/2/22/general-university-of-illinois-names-inaugural-athletics-hall-of-fame-class.aspx?path=general. Accessed 25 Aug. 2017.  “Hillsboro Grad Among First Class Inducted Into University Of Illinois Hall Of Fame.” The Journal-News. 27 Feb. 2017, http://www.thejournal-news.net/sports/more_sports/hillsboro-grad-among-first-class-inducted-into-university-of-illinois/article_9d9ea38a-fc97-11e6-a4ca-2fb852268d2b.html. Accessed 25 Aug. 2017.  “Harold Osborn: A Unique Double Champion.” International Olympic Committee. 17 Jan. 2017, https://www.olympic.org/harold-osborn. Accessed 25 Aug. 2017.  “University of Illinois Names Inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class.” Illinois Athletics, 23 Feb. 2017, http://fightingillini.com/news/2017/2/22/general-university-of-illinois-names-inaugural-athletics-hall-of-fame-class.aspx?path=general. Accessed 25 Aug. 2017.  “9 Students, Faculty Member Initiated by Pi Delta Phi Society.” Daily Illini, vol. 61, no. 58, 14 Nov. 1931, pp. 1. Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The Illio, 1932, vol. 39, pp. 106. Internet Archive. Web. Accessed 25 Aug. 2017.