The term "trailblazer" gets used often in the world of athletics. Sometimes with good reason, other times it's merely cliché. To be a true trailblazer you must be an innovator, a leader, and possess a certain authenticity that shines through in an instant.
Denison University Senior Associate Director of Athletics Lynn Schweizer is saying goodbye to the place she has called home for the last 44 years. A native of Granville, she didn't have to travel far. Schweizer was hired in 1973 as the head women's basketball coach. Things were different then. The ink hadn't dried on Title IX and she stepped headlong into a sporting world that had long been dominated by males.
While her title may have been Coach, that entailed so much more. In those early years, she sewed the uniforms by hand, drove the van to and from games while mentoring young women through the most transformative time in their lives. Quickly she added responsibilities in the department, becoming the women's swimming & diving coach in 1974. There, she coached multiple national champions and laid the foundation for the program's ascension to national prominence.
In 1983, Schweizer coached a record six Denison athletes to the Division III national championship meet. That year, Nancy Dunn became Denison's first national champion (in any sport) when she won the 50-yard butterfly. In 1986, Schweizer was named the NCAA Women's National Diving Coach of the Year after coaching Natalie Gibbs and Tiffany Jeisel to a pair of All-American performances at nationals. Additionally, Schweizer coached Denison's men's diving teams from 1980-86 and the synchronized swimming teams from 1974-79.
In the late 1980s, Schweizer stepped away from the sidelines, choosing to move into an administrative role. That decision proved to change the course of Big Red athletics forever. From 1985 through 2004 she was the chair of the Physical Education Department. She also took the reins as the director of club and intramural sports in 1986. During her tenure, Schweizer also served on over 40 campus committees.
In addition to her work on various campus committees, Schweizer is active in the local community and has been the chair of the American Red Cross Water Safety board for Licking County for over 20 years. In 2002, she was awarded the Licking County Red Cross Outstanding Community Achievement Award for her 35+ years as a volunteer for the Red Cross.
Mix in her leadership role with Denison's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Schweizer effectively had a hand in every facet of the athletic department. What did all of this really mean?
Through her multi faceted roles within the department, Schweizer had access to an even greater percentage of the student population and the athletics department staff. Through that access, Schweizer's innate mentorship abilities took hold.
"Lynn gracefully employs balance in everything she does," stated Dan Crawford '11. "Whether female or male, scholar, athlete, coach or administrator, she selflessly gives her time and energy to bring people together and make them better."
Grace is a powerful word. She displayed that when working alongside former Director of Athletics, Larry Scheiderer as they combined the women's and men's athletics departments into one entity. A lifetime of mentoring came full circle in 2011 when one of her former basketball players, Nan Carney-DeBord '80 was named Denison's new Director of Athletics.
"Lynn is the quintessential educator who successfully recreated herself each decade to better serve the University and its students," said Vice President and Director of Athletics Nan Carney-DeBord. No one has guided Denison students with integrity and motivation over 44 years of time quite like Lynn. We will miss her lessons, insight and work ethic, but mostly, we will miss seeing a fantastic friend, daily."
"When I accepted the basketball coaching position in 1973, little did I know that this decision would lead to 44 years of working with outstanding people who have touched my life in so many positive ways," said Schweizer. "What I cherish the most are the close bonds that I have formed over the years with faculty, staff and students."
As Lynn and her husband of 46 years, Bob, embark on their next journey one thing is certain to all of us, the mentorship will not stop. The friendships will not end. The phone number won't change. The email account will remain active.
It is simply impossible for us to summarize or include everyone who has been impacted by Lynn but we hope you enjoy some additional comments from some prior mentees.
"Lynn was one of the greatest mentors that I had while at Denison. It was an honor, and blessing to be able to call her a coach, mentor, and now life-long friend. Without her, my successes in the pool would not have been possible. Love you, Lynn!" – Brian Allen '17
"You can't fill the shoes of a living legend. Mentor, teacher, coach, advisor, and a colleague are all descriptors of this incredible person. Gratitude is the word describing her impact. Thank you, Lynn!" – Nan Carney-DeBord '80
"Lynn brought out the best in everyone. She was a coach, mentor and role model who supported and challenged us as athletes, students, and individuals. She constantly motivated us to rise to our potential. I will forever be grateful to Lynn for all she taught me."– Nancy (Dunn) Grune '85
"Lynn has been almost everything a person can be to me: a coach, mentor, mother, and friend. She is one of those special people that make you feel that you are the most important person in the world while she is speaking with you. The amazing thing is that you ARE important to her, and she makes you feel that way always. I love her, plain and simple." – Natalie Mossman '89
"Lynn has been the most influential mentor in my life. She instilled confidence in me as a leader, guided me through challenging transitions, and encouraged me to be my best self. Her kindness and friendship are forever ingrained in my heart, and I can honestly say that without her support, I would not be the strong woman I am today." –Juliana Kahrs '11
"Lynn's mentorship style is natural. A true mentor is always there when you need them – happy, sad, through challenges and everywhere in between…Lynn is there. In my current position with the NCAA I oversee the Student-Athlete Leadership Forum that Lynn encouraged me to attend as a student at Denison. She helped me reach my goals and everything has come full-circle."– Alison Teopas '08
"Lynn expected a lot from us as members of the swimming and diving team. I remember how she pushed me to discover my talents and coached in a way that infused me with skill, technique, and confidence. Yet, she understood that failing was part of the learning process and I never remember her being disappointed. Instead, she'd have that look that said, "That's cool, we'll win it next time. And we would." – Jennifer Thomas '86
"Lynn was my mentor that encouraged me to take risks and follow my passion at Denison. She helped point me in the direction that launched me into my athletic career on the US National Skeleton Team and now as an Athletic Director. I will be forever grateful!" – Keslie Tomlinson '03