Frederick William Marvel (1869-1938), first director of intercollegiate athletics at Brown, was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, on Christmas Day 1869. When he entered Worcester Academy after two years of high school, his grandfather gave him this advice, “I’m sending you to school to study. Don’t you go bothering with athletics. And stay away from gymnasiums.” At Worcester Academy he was asked to pace the school’s champion hurdler in practice. Marvel did better than that – he beat him. At a Boston meet Marvel tied for first in spite of a fall at the beginning of the board track. The newspaper praised him, pointing out that he was running without the spiked shoes worn by the other competitors. He sent the clipping home to his grandfather, admitting his participation in athletics. Grandfather’s reaction was, “How much do those spiked shoes cost?”
Fred Marvel went on to win his event in the first interscholastic meet in the United States. He continued his athletic career at Brown, on the track team, class baseball and football teams, the varsity football team, and was the college gymnastic champion, treasurer of the baseball and football associations and president of the Athletic Association. He was also New England champion in the broad jump. He graduated in 1894. He was instructor in drawing and physical culture at Brown from 1894 to 1896, then became Director of Athletics and Professor of Physical Education at Wesleyan University for six years. He came back to Brown in 1903 as Director of Physical Culture, a title which was soon changed to Director of Physical Education. He was the first director of intercollegiate athletics. Marvel was not, however, just interested in intercollegiate sports. His aim was to develop a program of physical education and intramural sports for students not involved in varsity sports. His motto was “a team for every man and every man on a team.” During the World War he was an athletic inspector for the U.S. Army. When he assumed his duties in 1903, Brown participated in three intercollegiate sports and had little in the way of equipment. Thirty-four years later there were ten sports and an athletic plant valued at $1,000,000. Marvel had become known as the dean of college athletic directors, and in 1934 was elected to fellowship in the American Physical Education Association. For many years he was active in Boy Scout work and was commissioner of the Narragansett Council at the time of his death. He died on August 21, 1938 in Richmond, Rhode Island. Two months later the gymnasium he had helped to plan was named for him.