National Swim School - Hall of Fame

Francis Lieber established the first swim school in America in 1827.  In 1726 Benjamin Franklin had contemplated starting a swim school business but was engaged in pursuit of a printing business (and a few years afterward in founding a country) so he opted instead for teaching and writing about teaching and learning techniques for swimming.  These individuals and others are listed below.

From time to time NSSA selects and inducts additional persons to this Hall of Fame - for their contribution to swimming schools and the swim school name.

Hope you find these profiles interesting and gain some additional pride knowing a little more about outstanding swim school people that have gone before.

(We are working on adding pictures - please check back later)

Greta Andersen

Greta Andersen – Greta Andersen operated her swim school in Southern California from 1960 through 1980. She inspired numerous teachers to open their own swimming schools and was among the first in the United States to teach survival back floating technique to students. A graduate of University of Copenhagen., Andersen was a very accomplished swimmer winning the 100 meter freestyle Olympic gold medal in world record time in 1948. She set 72 Amateur swimming records during her career followed by 18 world records as a marathon swimmer including swimming the English Channel five times. photo from ISHOF

Murray Callan – Murray Callan was a sports enthusiast before and after serving in World War II. He played baseball and football graduating from San Diego State in 1950. He followed with a successful teaching and coaching career in the public schools for 30 years (20 of which he also taught at La Jolla Country Club during the summer). He and wife Joan constructed a school in the Pacific Beach area in the 1970’s. Callan built his reputation emphasizing a soft touch and relaxing style of instruction plus 95° crystal clear water and an imaginative pool design. Teaching babies and young children was his specialty.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin – Benjamin Franklin was not only one of our founding fathers, but also the "founding father of American swim schools." Born in Boston, Franklin was an accomplished swimmer and swim teacher. He studied swim strokes of the time and invented many of his own. Franklin wrote a "treatise on swimming" that was considered the practical, safe, and working method for swimming even 50 years after his death. He taught and swam recreationally even into his late seventies.

Bee Hallet – Bee Hallet, a University of Michigan graduate, operated Green Frog Swim School during the late 1960’s through 1992. During the same time she taught in the Physical Education Department at Central Michigan University. Hallett served as Chairman of the Aquatics Council for AAPHERD, a national collegiate organization. In 1981 she conducted swimming research on infants and toddlers. She served as President of the United States Swimming Foundation organizing three national conferences for learn to swim professionals operating aquatic programs for young children.

Phill Hansel – Phill Hansel was a leading swim school owner operating from the mid-1950’s through the early 1990’s in Houston, Texas. Hansel served as the first secretary-treasurer and president of the American Swimming Coaches Association and head swimming coach at the University of Houston. The Phill Hansel Swimming Academy was famous and a model for other coaches who were also interested in swim school operation. Many of the former Hansel teachers have gone on to become NSSA swim school owners.

Kris Kristenson – Kris Kristenson taught school in the Los Angeles area after graduating from Occidental College and serving in World War II. In 1950 he fulfilled a long time dream of opening a swimming school. Three years later he built a new facility in North Hollywood, California. Kris helped establish age group swimming in Southern California and his swim school swimmers won many championships and set national records. In 1959, Kristenson was appointed Women’s Swim Coach for the Pan American team. Three of his swimmers made the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team. Kristenson was a model coach and swim school owner.

Franics Lieber – Francis Leiber opened the first swim school in America July 23, 1827. Lieber was born in Berlin and immigrated to America when a Boston gymnasium employed him. Lieber also focused on establishing a swim school, but at the time swimming was a lavish recreation and the school was not successful. Lieber’s school was praised time and again by such visitors as President John Quincy Adams and Audubon as well as the Massachusetts Human Society. His swim school founding and continued efforts paved the way for such organizations as the YMCA and the American Red Cross.

Doris Maxwell – Doris Maxwell and husband Mel built their swim school business beginning in 1965 in Santa Ana, California. While many other schools were similarly launched in the 1950’s very few have survived and developed like Blue Buoy Swim School. In the beginning, Maxwell taught and ran the office but, after ten years, she concentrated on management to better manage and grow the business. Routinely she’s the first one in the office and the last to leave the office at the end of the day. This has brought Blue Buoy past its 40th anniversary and into a special place in swim school history led by Doris Maxwell.

Melvin Maxwell – Melvin Maxwell and wife Doris built Blue Buoy Swim School in Santa Ana, California in 1956. They started with two or more rented locations and in 1965 built a two-pool dream school in Tustin. Maxwell believed in teaching in warm water and stressed the teacher’s ability to build rapport with each student as the beginning of the road to success. Few others have understood the swim school business as well or experienced the challenges and continued success as the Maxwells did. The Santa Ana and Tustin locations together operated for 30 years. He held national records for butterfly as a Masters swimmer in the 60-64 age group.

Virginia Hunt Newman

Virginia Hunt Newman – Virginia Newman a competitive diver and swimmer originally from Indianapolis, Indiana began teaching children to swim in 1950 in Los Angeles. In 1962, one of her two-year old students became the youngest in the history of the American Red Cross to complete the beginner’s skill test. Virginia wrote Teaching An Infant To Swim in 1967. Through her book, appearances on national television, and presentations to a variety of swim professionals, she influenced many thousands of students, parents, and teachers. Virginia is also honored in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida.

Betty Perkins – Betty Perkins was the only American woman to have coached a Men’s and Women’s Olympic Diving Team from the country of Turkey (Montreal 1976). Perkins opened her School of Swimming and Diving in 1959 from her backyard pool. It was in 1964 that she built the indoor pool that began Perkins Swim Club. Five years later, Perkins founded Fit by Five Pre-School teaching sports and swimming to 21/2 to 5 year old children. Perkins is also the award-winning author of How to Prevent Falls and The Fun of Fitness.

David H. Robertson – Dave Robertson, long time Illinois coach and teacher, has been honored by 17 different swim organizations and is in six Hall of Fames including the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He used, and further advanced, the "station method" of teaching swimming in his year round swim schools at New Trier and Waubaunsee High Schools (1950’s-80’s). He spoke often to aquatic professional organizations on swim school development and management. Robertson did much to advance the swim school name and shaped school organization and routines used in management and teaching.  More

Crystal Scarborough – Crystal Scarborough was an accomplished teacher and honored aquatic professional in Jacsonville, Florida in the 1920’s and 30’s working for the city. In 1938, her 9-month-old daughter appeared in Ripley’s Believe It or Not going off the diving board and swimming. In the early 1940’s, Crystal moved to Los Angeles and taught movie stars and their children at the Ambassador Hotel. In 1951, at age 47 she built her swimming school in West Los Angeles and over the next 28 became world famous for teaching babies – often appearing on television and the national magazines of the day.

Ray and Zada Taft – Ray and Zada Taft grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, swam competitively at the Crystal Plunge and married in 1941. Ray taught swimming and diving at the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the next14 years. In 1955, using the GI Bill loan program, they constructed a swim school pool in San Mateo. Ray Taft taught and Zada ran the office. Their philosophy was to have fun and build enjoyment of swimming as a lifelong activity. Ray and Zada lived that love of swimming by continuing to be outstanding Masters Competitive swimmers. Taft Swim School – going strong today for over 40 years.

A love of teaching swimming, infectious enthusiasm and unparalleled commitment are at the heart of Jan Thomas' contribution to the swimming world.

At the age of 18 Jan left her childhood home of Wolsey, South Dakota to train at the LA Athletic Club.  While training, she also taught for both Jen Loven and NSSA Hall of Fame inductee, Crystal Scarborough, pioneers of infant swimming.

But in 1958, Jan hung her own shingle in Fresno, California.  Within a short time it was clear that Jan's avocation would rapidly become a successful business.

As the Jan Thomas Swim School expanded, Jan developed a unique teaching method - combining love and discipline in the proper proportion to create the undeniable elixir of personal success in each of her students.  Jan instills in her swimmers the dream of accomplishment, generously shares her enthusiastic support and confidence in her swimmers' potential, and wraps them each in an abundance of love for unparalleled success.

Jan infectious enthusiasm, love and commitment have resulted in more than 55,000 new swimmers.   The Jan Thomas Swim School currently employs 36 employees in her summer program to teach approximately 2,000 swimmers and give approximately 15,000 lessons.  But perhaps the greatest testament to Jan and her contribution is the loyalty of her teachers and students.  Having been a part of Jan's extraordinary program, Jan's teachers consistently return year after year, some fro as many as 30 years.  Jan's swimmers also consistently return and in such great numbers that Jan's teachers' schedules fro an entire summer are booked within weeks of opening registration.

Jan deeply believes in the benefits of membership in NSSA.  Jan is a founding director of the National Swim School Association.  In addition to being a regular motivational speaker in her community, Jan has been a regular speaker at, and contributor to, programs, articles and other activities of NSSA.  Jan readily credits NSSA for raising the standards of excellence in the swim school industry at large and significantly contributing to the success of all swim school owner members.


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