John K. Williams, Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award
Honoring An Individual Serving Persons With Disabilities

SR Smith

Established in 1994 by the Adaptive Aquatics Committee of the International Swimming Hall of Fame this award honors an individual who has made significant and substantial contributions to the field of adaptive aquatics (aquatics for persons with disabilities) as a participant, athlete, teacher, instructor, coach, organizer, administrator or media representative.  


Peter Aufsesser, Ph.D.

Peter Aufsesser, PhD.

Peter Aufsesser grew up and obtained his education on the east coast of the United States, but did most of his adapted aquatics work at San Diego State University on the West Coast of the US. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education at Springfield College (1969), an Ed.M at the State University of New York- Buffalo (1971) and a PhD at the University of Maryland (1974), with a minor in Special Education and Human Development. He coached soccer, tennis, gymnastics and basketball at Newark State College (1970-72) and a year at the University of Georgia where he worked with Grace Reynolds and opened the Georgia Retardation Center. In 1975, he moved to San Diego, left his East Coast ties and has been at San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Science ever since. He was the founder and director of the Fitness Clinic for individuals with disabilities, where John K. Williams Jr. is one of his clients.

While not a competitive swimmer after the age of 12, Peter loved to swim and enjoyed being in and around the water. He began his involvement in swimming the summer after he graduated from high school (1965) as the life guard at the Sheraton Hotel in Albany, New York. He began teaching swimming at the University of Georgia where he was an Adapted Aquatics Instructor and Instructor Trainer, and directed the Physical Activity Program at the Georgia Retardation Center.

His involvement in San Diego was centered on being the only Instructor Trainer (IT) for Adapted Aquatics in San Diego County. In addition he helped develop an aquatics program in the Cajon Valley School District with Ed Greaves, the adapted aquatics physical education teacher. For three years he worked directly with a wide variety of children with mental retardation as well as a range of physical and neuromuscular disabilities. Upon meeting Mary Rafalovich of the San Diego Chapter of the American Red Cross, he was made the Instructor Trainer for Adapted Aquatics for all of San Diego County.

In 1983, Aufsesser wrote and received an OSE Federal Grand funding the Clinic for Individuals with Disabilities serving as Director for 28 years. Because of his duties, his time was limited to training adapted aquatics instructors only.

During his 38 years at San Diego University, Peter has authored or co-authored over 29 articles ranging in topics from “Personality of Wheelchair Athletes” to “Liability Consideration for Placement of Students with Disabilities in General Physical Education Classes”. He has written 37 referred proceedings and abstracts including “Fitness for the Physically Handicapped: From Pre to Robotics” and “The Role of Fitness in the Vocational Training of Individuals with Physical Disabilities”. He made professional conference presentations on 72 topics including “Assessment Tools in Adapted Physical Education (Billings, Montana, 1985), Physical Fitness Programs for the Physically Disabled Adult (Las Vegas, Nevada,1987) and “Ethical Practices in Adapted Physical Activity’ (Long Beach, California, 2000).

Peter mentored over 27 graduates and reviewed their thesis presentations. He solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in endowment funds to benefit the “Make Adapted Physical Education Dynamic” program. He held almost every office and leadership position available in the field in California and around the country. He has served as a consultant and an expert witness. He is a USIH and works with Special Olympics. Peter has served as the Chairman of the John K. Williams Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award Committee since 2004, having replaced Dr. Julian Stein.

Previous Award Recipients...
Bruce E. Becker, M.D., M.S.

Ruth Ann Hood Wieser, Ph.D.

Sue Grosse

Dr. Christine Stopka

Mary O. Wykle, Ph.D

Phillip Conatser

John Spannuth

Dori Maxon

Elizabeth "Libby" Andersen

Anne Green

Dr. Monica Lepore

Uri Bergman


Dr. Julian Stein 

Mary Essert (El Cerrito, CA)
Mary Essert is the founder of Mary Essert and Associates, maker of many videos and tapes on water fitness, founder of "Move It or Lose It" and active with Grace Reynolds at the YMCA.

Ruth Sova (Port Washington, WI)
Ruth Sova is founder of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) and the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab. Institution.  She is a well-known entrepreneur and speaker around the world.

Louise Priest (Indianapolis, IN)
Louise Priest is the mother of adaptive aquatics.  She wrote the Red Cross aquatic materials and is now Director of Communications with the Jeff Ellis Organization.

Grace Reynolds (Longview, WA)
Grace Reynolds was head of "Swimming for Special Populations" for the national YMCA for years and head of "Project Aquatics" and "Project Aquatics Mainstreaming".  She is founder/president of Disability International Foundation (DIF).

John K. Williams, Jr. (San Diego, CA)
John K. Williams, Jr. graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. degree in Therapeutic Recreation and is now an aquatic consultant.  Speaker at numerous workshops on Adaptive Aquatics, he spends his summers working at Camp Able.


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