What is a Spartan?


Many of you have and have heard various interpretations of what it means to be a Spartan—a member of the extended community, reaching around the globe that we often call “Team MSU.”

Pat Gallinagh from the 1967 MSU yearbookA couple of weeks ago, Pat Gallinagh—who was part of the legendary 1966 Spartan Football team, an Academic All-American and is a member of the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame—was back on campus for the anniversary of the famous 10-10 tie with Notre Dame in 1966.

I knew Pat played for that famous team. And I knew he’d coached high school football in the UP for some 30 years. But what I didn’t know is that Pat is also what he describes as, “an amateur poet.”

He recently was moved to put his version of “What is a Spartan?” into writing, inspired by his experiences here as a student-athlete and (in his own words) by “the philosophy, vision philosophy, vision and leadership of the man I consider the greatest Spartan of them all, John A. Hannah.”

Pat crafted his work, not only for other students-athletes, but for all members of our MSU family. He’s given me permission to post it here:

What is a Spartan?

By Pat Gallinagh MSU Class of `67

The Aggie logo served its turn as long as MSU was still
A small Midwestern college geared to teach the farmer’s skill.
But as its mission grew in time, a new image was desired;
One with such universal fame its bearers surely be inspired.

The new name would be the Spartans, a warrior class who knew no fear,
Who pledged their lives and honor to causes they held dear.
State’s athletes would be held to a much higher standard now,
To play their heart and souls out ‘til the last drop of sweat ran from their brow.

But the Spartan mascot encompasses more than just the athletes of the school;
Every member of Michigan State’s family carries this title proudly too.
But what exactly was this new image meant to symbolize
In a world where reputation and achievement are still a treasured prize?

A Spartan is a fighter, a fearless soldier for a cause,
Who competes with strength and courage, without asking for a pause.
A Spartan is a guardian, a protector of the trust,
Of the precious gift of liberty for which all humanity does lust.

A Spartan is a dreamer who asks why things cannot be done,
And sees a better future with projects yet begun.
A Spartan is a doer, a pragmatist at heart,
Who uses skill and knowledge to tackle problems from that start.

A Spartan is a thinker, one who ponders and dissects
Philosophies and edicts for faults they might detect.
A Spartan is a scholar, a student of the land,
Who seeks a better understanding of Providence’s grand plan.

A Spartan is an artist, a creative soul and muse,
An architect of beauty, song and verse for common use.
A Spartan is an activist who speaks out when they see wrong,
Who combats ignorance and hatred with truths buried far too long.

A Spartan is a worker, one who’s not afraid to sweat;
While moving towards a vaulted goal, labors without regret.
A Spartan is helper, an altruistic being we’re told,
Providing comfort for the homeless and shelter from the cold.

Above all, a Spartan is a champion no matter what the final score,
Who’s intensity and spirit produces feats of storied lore.
For they know that sports are but a game to teach the survival skills of life,
For a real world which beckons them filled with challenges and strife.

A Spartan is a compendium, a sum of all these much sought parts,
Combining the grace and wisdom of Athena with Hercules’ strength and heart.
Tho few are blessed with all the gifts of these mythical deities,
All Spartans strive to reach these heights within their own realities.

Spartans now span the globe and carry forth the torch
To light the darkest corners of this earth, while steering a progressive course.
But no matter where they wander, be it near or be it far,
They bear the Spartan title proudly as they keep reaching for their star.


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