The joy that Betty Philcox Voss brings to those around her is
astonishing. As a person she is both inspiring and persistent; as a
woman she has accepted challenges and assignments normally taken by men.
As an ISHOF Grande Dame she is untouchable.
Born on May 15, 1908, Betty grew up on the shores of Connecticut, swimming
three times a day in the bay not far from her grandfather's ship building yard
at Gregory Point. Gertrude Ederle became her childhood hero when Ederle
swam the English Channel in 1926 as the first woman to make the
crossing. Betty wanted to do it, too. She started by becoming the
first woman to swim from shore to Peck's Ledge Lighthouse and back in 2½ hours, a long swim for the 1920s. Although she never made the trip to
the Channel, she did accomplish many firsts for a woman of her time.
Fortunately for us, she stayed in swimming.
When Betty's daughter turned 8 she, like her mom, wanted to swim too.
But with no swim team, there was nowhere to go. Betty stepped in and in
1942 started the Norwalk YMCA Girls Swim Team, where she coached for the next
42 years, 35 of them as a volunteer. "I was more interested in
working with the girls than the money," she said. It started
competitive swimming for girls in Connecticut. The "Y" team
won many local and regional competitions and place high in the National YMCA
Championships at the Hall of Fame Pool for many years.
Because Norwalk only had a small, 20-yard pool, Betty's husband Stan Philcox,
a carpenter by trade, built a 50-yard bulkhead pool in the lagoon behind their
home. During the summer months, it became the place to swim and train in
the area. Betty became the girls' coach for the Norwalk High School swim
team and age group coach for 10 all-star teams traveling to Puerto Rico,
Hawaii, Virginia and New Mexico. Her 5-year high school record was 37
wins - 7 losses. During that time, she attended and officiated at all
AAU and USS national swimming championships from 1947 to 1984, including 10
U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.
But Betty's contribution to the sport did not stop on the pool deck. She
became the first woman president of an AAU Association - Connecticut
Association. She served on many National AAU committees including the
Women's Swimming Committee, Progress Award Committee (Chairman), Swimming
Rules Committee (23 years), Olympic Women's Swimming and Diving Committee (12
years) and the Executive and Foreign Relations Committee consisting of Betty
and 44 men. For 5 years, she served as chairman of the prestigious
National AAU Sullivan Award Committee which selects the top amateur athlete in
the United States. She also served as Chairperson of the U.S. Swimming
Region I Committee and was a member of the U.S. Swimming Board of Directors.
She traveled as team manager with U.S. National swimmers to Australia, Peru,
Venezuela, Soviet Union, Jamaica, Trinidad, Uruguay and Germany. In
1964, she was the U.S. Olympic team manager and chaperone of the women's
swimming and diving team in Tokyo, Japan. Four years later in Mexico
City she was the U.S. representative as official timer for the 1968 Olympic
Betty has received almost every award at the local level including Connecticut
State High School Coach of the Year; as well as on the national level winning
the Ken Pettigrew Award for officiating. The Betty Philcox Award is
presented annually in her home state to the top female high school swimmer and
to the Norwalk City champion.
Betty has been a Life Member of ISHOF since its inception and her lifetime of
support and volunteerism to swimming exemplify the characteristics of a Hall
of Fame Grande Dame. Her 93 years of active participation in the sport
will remain a mainstay in the swimming community.