CHARLES "TIP" TIPTON, Ph.D.

November 29, 1927 – May 2, 2021

National Academy of Kinesiology – Fellow #215


On May 2, 2021, Professor Charles “Tip” Tipton., age 93 of Tucson Arizona passed away. He was a sports enthusiast and runner who loved animals, nature, and time with family. Dr. Tipton was inducted into the Academy in 1971 (Fellow # 215) and was the 2012 Hetherington Award recipient.

Charles Tipton was born on November 29, 1927 in Evanston, IL the third child of Charles M, Tipton and Elizabeth (White) Tipton. His father was a treasurer and senior account manager for a local furniture store in Winnetka, IL. At the beginning of The Great Depression, the family moved to Dickerson, MD, a small rural town in the Northwest region of the state that was close to other family members. As a child he spent his days doing chores and tending cows, chickens and rabbits on his family’s 10 acre farm that lacked plumbing and electricity.

He attended high school during World War II, when many qualified science, mathematics, and physical education teachers were not available or were reluctant to teach in rural areas. His vocational high school had a strong emphasis in agriculture and animal husbandry. His senior year he was selected to lead daily calisthenics during the physical education period and asked to organize class indoor-outdoor sporting events thus laying the groundwork for his future career. Upon turning 18, he enlisted in the Army and served for two years in the Army of Occupation in Japan (1946-48). The Army sent him to school to become a physical fitness instructor, and he was assigned to conduct basic training camps both stateside as well as in Japan (25th Division). After his discharge from military service, he became a physical education major at the University of Maryland and after two years transferred to Springfield College (MA), graduating with a BS in Physical Education in 1952. Following graduation, he obtained a Teaching Assistantship at the University of Illinois, completing his MS dissertation in Physical Education under the supervision of Thomas K. Cureton who was the Director of the Physical Fitness Laboratory.

He taught physical education and coached in rural regions of Illinois for two years before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. His initial area of student was in Health Education and as part of his assistantship, he provided exercise therapy for disabled students. For financial reasons, he changed advisors and began work with Dr. Darrell Hall who was conducting fitness tests on 4-H members. His work and studies led to the development of his passion for physiology the area where he completed his doctoral training.

In 1961, he accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Research at Springfield College, which in essence was a post-doctoral experience in physiology. While at Springfield, he worked with Dr. Peter Karpovich learning how to evaluate and analyze experimental data. In 1963, he accepted a position at the University of Iowa where he was charged to develop a doctoral program in Exercise Physiology. With strong support from Department Chair, Dr. Louis Alley, the program was launched as the first interdisciplinary PhD program in Exercise Science. By 1986, the program had graduated 26 individuals with Ph.D. degrees, of which 25 had secured academic appointments (one individual started his own company). In 2015, publication records of those graduates were evaluated, and their collective productivity was approximately 2,000 publications. Publications by his professional “grandchildren” now number over 3,000.

While at Iowa, he helped change the perception about the ability of physical education graduate programs to produce qualified individuals to conduct exercise physiology research. He established a B.S. in exercise and sport sciences at the University of Iowa in the mid-1980s, which later served as a template for a B.S. in physiology. He is recognized as well for contributions to the fields of Applied Physiology, Experimental Biology, and the emergent field of Gravitational and Space Biology with NASA. He moved to Arizona to become Director of Exercise and Sports Sciences. As Emeritus Professor of Physiology at the University of Arizona, he remained active in retirement with the American Physiology Society (APS) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Under his leadership as ACSM’s 18th president from 1974-75, ACSM authored its first position stand and prepared to move to national prominence. To date, Tip remains among a select group to be honored with both the Citation Award (1979) and the Honor Award (1986). Over his career, he wrote over 150 scientific publications, authored the History of Exercise Physiology, and presented at numerous conferences.  and held multiple academic appointments. He also worked with the ACSM Foundation to establish the Charles M. Tipton Student Research Award to recognize student research and provide financial assistance to participate in the ACSM Annual Meeting. 

He is survived by wife Betty Tipton and daughters Teresa, Paula, Barb, Lisa and foster daughter Pat. In lieu of a memorial service, the family invites contributions to the ACSM Foundation or local food bank.