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Dr. Donald P. Van Rossen (1929 - 2014)

Obituary
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  • "RIP coach Vanner"

Dr. Donald P.

Van Rossen

August 19, 1929 -
June 27, 2014

Coach Van Rossen was born on the South side of Chicago on August 19, 1929 to Grace Heitmeyer and Pete Van Rossen. He often reflected on his youth swimming on Lake Calumet, which led to his great love of aquatics. He graduated from Chicago Vocational School, joined the Navy and was stationed in Bremerton Washington where he met and married Mary Dorothy Britton.

After his honorable discharge from the navy they returned to the Midwest where Coach Van Rossen enrolled at the University of Illinois and earned his Masters in Education. They spent the next 8 years with family, having three sons, attending school and assistant coaching the U of I swimming team.

In 1958 the University of Oregon recruited Coach Van Rossen to be its head men's swimming coach. He arrived with his family that Fall and immediately went to work recruiting swimmers signing athletes from throughout the United States and from around the world. He continued as head coach until 1978.

By the early 60's, many of Oregon's swimmers and divers were selected for All-Conference and All-American honors. Oregon finished second at the 1965 Pac-8 Swimming Champtionships behind USC and ahead of well-known powerhouse programs at UCLA, California and Stanford. The team captured ninth place at the NCAA National Swimming Championship and cemented the foundation for the future success of the Oregon swimming program. Coach Van Rossen's swimmers competed on the national, international and Olympic levels.

Coach Van Rossen completed his PhD in sports psychology from U of I and became a tenured professor at the U of O. Coach Van Rossen may be best remembered by his students who were required to rescue him in order to pass their life saving class or to jump off of the three-meter diving board to pass beginning swimming.

Coach Van Rossen continued teaching at Oregon until his retirement in 1987. He served as chairman of the NCAA Rules Committee for swimming and diving, and was responsible for organizing and judging at the NCAA Championship swimming meets. He was also responsible for aquatic facilities compliance at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and always found time to put on summer age-group swimming camps.

In his retirement Coach Van Rossen continued his own competitive swimming setting several masters world records. He participated in the United States Power Boat Squadron and enjoyed cruising on his Grand Banks including a trip up the inside passage from Puget Sound to Juneau Alaska. He was responsible for developing and implementing programs on Oregon Marine and boating safety. He published several books on swimming and developed and taught the national program for certifying swimming pool operators. He was inducted into the University of Oregon Hall of fame in 2012.

Coach Van Rossen continued swimming and coaching Masters swimming until a few years ago. He has been a significant promoter of the sport of swimming and aquatics not only for the U of O but also for the state of Oregon, the nation and the world. He was a father to many swimmers opening his home and family to anyone who loved aquatic activities.

He was preceded in death by his second wife Virginia, is survived by his first wife Dotty, current wife Janice, by his sisters, Jean Sluis and Nellie Tarulis, by his three sons, Pete (Janice), Daniel and Charlie (Marilyn), two step sons Brett and Brad Arvridson and by 8 grandchildren. More importantly, he is survived by thousands who knew him as Coach Vanner, as professor, as mentor and as friend. He will be loved and remembered by all.

Services will be held at Glenwood Community Church, 12201 NE 72nd Ave., Vancouver, WA on Monday July 14th at 11 AM. Remembrances in Coach Van Rossen's name may be given to the church.

Published in Eugene Register-Guard on July 5, 2014
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