USA Swimming’s First-Ever Executive Director Ray Essick Passes Away
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Ray Essick, the first Executive Director of USA Swimming, passed away on Saturday night. Essick guided the organization from its formation in 1980 until his retirement in 1997, when current Executive Director Chuck Wielgus took over.
Essick led the Swimming Committee for the AAU and then joined USA Swimming in Colorado Springs in 1980 when USA Swimming was formed. As executive director, he built a strong infrastructure of programs and support for the National Team.
Named to the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming over the Past 30 Years” list last summer, Essick was also a 2015 inductee into the American Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was awarded the 1998 USA Swimming Award and the American Red Cross presented him in 1997 with the Good Neighbor Award, one of the highest national awards given to an outstanding volunteer.
“Ray Essick led our sport through a period of enormous growth and prosperity,” said Wielgus. “He brought his passion as a coach and his drive for success to his role as USA Swimming’s first executive director. He was a mentor and a dear friend.”
In 1960, Essick started Lake Forest Swim Club as head coach before leaving in 1966 to become head swim coach at Southern Illinois University. After a successful seven-year stint there, he was hired as head swim coach at Harvard University, where he guided the Crimson from 1973-76.