May 14, 2013
The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team mourns the loss of alum Sidney Wolfenson, who passed away in his sleep in Galveston, Texas, on May 13.
Wolfenson, who turned 95 on April 20, lettered for the Gophers in 1939 and 1940. He was back on campus this year for the Hall of Fame meet against Air Force on Jan. 26. The night before the meet he was honored with the men’s gymnastics Lifetime Service Award at the Minnesota Gymnastics Hall of Fame Banquet.
“When I first got here to Minnesota, I was doing some research on some of our older alumni and Sid’s name came to the forefront,” said Gopher coach Mike Burns, who presented Wolfenson with a new varsity letterman jacket during Minnesota’s final home meet of the 2011 season. “I touched base with him and we instantly became really good friends. I got a chance to go to Galveston and visit him many times when he was in better health.
“It is hard anytime you lose a really good friend, but he is in a better place now. His health had been deteriorating in the last year, but he said many times that he was still around at his great age because of what gymnastics had done for him. It was always nice to hear that. He will be missed.”
Wolfenson’s best event at Minnesota was tumbling, which at the time was performed on a narrow mat padded with horse hair. One of Wolfenson's early achievements was to convince his good high school friend, Newt Loken, to attend Minnesota and to join the gymnastics team. Loken went on to capture the NCAA all-around title in 1941.
After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, Wolfenson worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority before moving to Houston, where he oversaw 1,000 electricians during the construction of World War II Navy destroyers at the Brown Shipyard. He later accepted a position at Brown & Root, as a design engineer for electrical systems. In 1960, he began Wolfenson Electric, Inc., from his garage. His company eventually developed into one of the largest electrical contracting companies in the state of Texas.
Throughout his life, one thing has remained constant - Wolfenson's love for Minnesota gymnastics. Wolfenson initiated two endowed scholarship funds for the men's program - The Sid Wolfenson Fund and The Ralph Piper Fund. Wolfenson was such a gymnastics fan, he once funded the travel expenses for both Minnesota and Michigan, then coached by Loken, to come for a tri-meet at Houston Baptist University. He also started the Newt Loken Fund at Michigan, where his former friend served as coach for 36 years.
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