About Us: A Brief History of the Museum

The John P. Metras Sports Museum was founded in 1984 by the former ‘W’ Club. Situated at the front of Alumni Hall in Room 100, the museum served to make visible what had long been the pride and joy of student’s and staff at Western: the university’s legacy of excellence in athletics. The museum’s first curator, legendary Mustangs coach Dutch Decker, worked tirelessly to honour that legacy, teaming up with Bob Gage of the London Free Press to establish a collection of photographs and artifacts, many of which were donated by staff and alumni along with an array of financial contributions. Bob would take over as curator from Dutch in the 1980s and carry on in that role through the new millennium, using his vast knowledge of Mustangs athletics to help build the museum into a valuable part of the university. With support from the ‘W’ Club and encouragement from many close friends at Western, Bob sat down in the 1990s to write a history of men’s athletics at the school titled Mustang Tales, which has served as the foundational text of the museum since its publication along with Helen Luckman and Pat Morden’s account of women’s athletics– also titled Mustang Tales.

When Bob passed away in 2009, he bestowed over $1 million to Western Athletics, with a large portion of that money going to the museum to ensure that Western’s athletic legacy would continue to be preserved. That task fell to Ted Hessel (BA ’58, BEd ’69), a close friend of Gage’s and a long-time volunteer with the ‘W’ Club. Over his tenure as curator, Hessel oversaw a significant expansion of the museum’s collection, beginning with the opening of the museum’s workroom in Thames Hall that allowed him to move his large collection of memorabilia from his basement to campus. Along with his work of creating exhibits and entertaining visitors, Ted made it his personal mission to collect and digitize all of Western’s team photographs– an ambitious task that has required him to enlist the help of countless hard-working individuals, including many from the [former] Women’s Athletic Alumni. Today, the museum is partnered with the Western Mustangs Athletic Alumni to keep the museum as strong as ever.

To read more about the museum’s history, growing collection and current volunteers, click here.