“I was a poor boy from Alabama coming to a great institution – Michigan State University – and we fell in love. It was magnetic, and I just couldn’t leave here,” Clarence Underwood tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. Underwood is a member of the 2017 class entering MSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great honor. And the more I think about it, the more emotional I get about it. It’s overwhelming, and I don’t have the words to describe the feeling.”
Dr. Underwood dedicated his professional life to educating and mentoring students – many of those at Michigan State. He grew up in the south, but after watching an integrated Spartan football team on TV in the 1954 Rose Bowl, he knew Michigan State was the place for him.
He says seeing an integrated MSU football team playing that game on TV while in the military overseas led to his long love affair with MSU.
“I saw hope. I saw opportunity, something I had never even imagined seeing in Alabama, and I said ‘I’m going to go to Michigan State University.’”
He approached his work as an administrator looking to support his coaches and build relationships with student-athletes. For many of those athletes he was a mentor and role model. It’s nearly impossible to measure how many different lives he’s touched, but his impact can be felt in their accomplishments both on and, more importantly, off the field.
“No man lives on an island and is successful, and I had a whole lot of help here. This is a great place to be recognized by; Michigan State University is a great institution.”
Underwood advises young people to “get a vison. Everybody was born with passion. Passion is what you’re supposed to do in life, what you love to do in life.”
The best way to find one’s passion, according to Underwood, involves getting involved in many different, constructive activities and doing your very best at all of them.
“You have to have discipline.” He credits his mother and father with teaching him about discipline and hard work.
Underwood says the biggest change he’s seen over his decades in intercollegiate athletics is the development of women’s athletics.
MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.