Henry F. Dreyer

Inducted: 1968
Born: 1911
Died: 1986

Henry (Hank) F. Dreyer, one of the most outstanding athletes in University of Rhode Island history, holds numerous world records in the weights and was a member of the 1936 and 1948 Olympic teams. He was selected for the Helms Foundation honorary Olympic teams in 1940 and 1944 and won 21 national AAU championships. A seven-letterman in track and football and captain of the track team, he was chosen by his 1935 senior class as having done the most for the former Rhode Island State College, now the University of Rhode Island. He was the winner of numerous IC4A and national collegiate titles in the hammer, 35-pound, and 56-pound weight throws.

He was born in Providence on May 20, 1911, a son of F. Herman and Amy (Glennon) Dreyer. A Hope High School graduate, he had never tried weight throwing until he was a freshman at URI. Under the tutelage of coach Fred Tootell (inducted into RIHHOF in 1968), Dreyer blossomed as an athlete despite a childhood injury that left him unable to straighten his left arm.

Dreyer won his first national title in 1934, winning the 35 lb. weight throw at that year’s AAU indoor championships with a throw of 53 ft 8 in (16.35 m). Representing his college, he also won the 1934 indoor IC4A weight throw title, throwing 55 ft 2+1⁄4 in (16.82 m), a world record. At that summer’s NCAA championships, he won the hammer throw, throwing 169 ft 8+3⁄8 in (51.73 m) and defeating 1932 Olympic bronze medalist Pete Zaremba; only Fred Tootell, the 1924 Olympic champion, and Dreyer’s own coach, had ever thrown farther at the NCAA meet.

In 1935, Dreyer broke his own world record in the 35-pound indoor weight throw with 57 ft 9 in (17.60 m) and repeated as national champion in the event. He also won his first national outdoor title, winning the hammer throw with 168 ft 8+1⁄2 in (51.42 m). The previous week, he had thrown 181 ft 5+3⁄16 in (55.30 m) at the New England championships in Newport, the best throw in the world that year. On February 29 1936, he threw the indoor weight 58 ft 4+1⁄2 in (17.79 m), regaining the world record from Irving Folwartshny, who had thrown 58 ft 1+1⁄2 in (17.71 m) at the national championships the previous week. He only placed third in the hammer at that year’s national championships, losing to two other Rhode Island State alumni, William Rowe (inducted into RIHHOF in 1968) and Folwartshny. However, at the Olympic Trials, which were held separately the following week, he threw 171 ft 11+1⁄2 in (52.41 m) and won by two inches over Rowe, qualifying for the Olympics in Berlin. He placed ninth at the Olympics, throwing 165 ft 5 in (50.42 m).

Dreyer won no national titles in 1937 or 1938, finishing second to Folwartshny in the indoor weight throw in both years. He regained the indoor weight throw title in 1939; in 1940, he finished second to Niles Perkins but won the outdoor 56-pound weight throw for the first time, throwing 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m). He won seven consecutive national titles in the indoor weight throw from 1941 to 1947, a streak that remained unparalleled until Lance Deal won eight times in a row starting in 1989. Dreyer also won the outdoor weight throw in 1945 and the hammer throws in 1943, 1944, and 1945.

Dreyer’s indoor weight throw streak ended in the Olympic year of 1948 when he placed third as Bob Bennett won and Sam Felton took second. However, he regained the outdoor title; his throw of 41 ft 2+5⁄8 in (12.56 m) exceeded Matt McGrath’s old world record of 40 ft 5+3⁄8 in (12.32 m) from 1911, but the implement used was found to have been too light. He also qualified for his second Olympics in the hammer throw, placing third at the national championships (again behind Bennett and Felton) and second at the final Olympic Trials in Evanston, where he threw 173 ft 4+3⁄4 in (52.85 m) and defeated Felton. At the Olympics in London, Dreyer finished ninth, just as he had twelve years before; this time, his best throw was 168 ft 6+3⁄8 in (51.37 m), three feet better than in Berlin.

In 1949, at age 38, Dreyer successfully defended his outdoor weight throw title. He also set his hammer best of 183 ft 3 in (55.87 m) and placed second to Felton at the national championships with 175 ft 6+1⁄2 in (53.50 m). Track & Field News ranked him eighth among the world’s hammer throwers that year, the only time he made the top ten as the rankings were first compiled in 1947. Dreyer reached career-best form with the 56-pound outdoor weight in 1951; at the Metropolitan championships in June, he threw 41 ft 7+1⁄2 in (12.68 m), again breaking the world record and now legitimately, although as the IAAF didn’t recognize official weight throw world records it was only ratified as an American record. He also won the national championship, throwing 41 ft 6+3⁄4 in (12.66 m), a meeting record. He placed second to Felton in the hammer throw, throwing 182 ft 8+1⁄4 in (55.68 m), his best mark ever at the national championships. He won a final national title with the 56-pound weight in 1952, throwing 40 ft 3+1⁄8 in (12.27 m). His attempt to qualify for a third Olympic Games at age 41 was unsuccessful as, although he threw 173 ft 3+1⁄2 in (52.82 m) at the 1952 Olympic Trials, it was only good enough for sixth place.

Dreyer graduated from URI with a mechanical engineering degree and worked in engineering sales with New Haven Railroad, Baldwin Locomotive Company, and Humble Oil and Refining Company. He retired from the Exxon Corporation after 30 years of service. He married Marion (Baughn) Dreyer in 1936, and the couple had two children, Meredith and Stephen. He later became President of the New York Athletic Club and the Spiked Shoe Club. He was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1968 and The University of Rhode Island Hall of Fame in 1973.

Henry Dreyer died on May 27, 1986, at 75.

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