Remembering Swimmer John DuPont - 1938 - 2010
John E. DuPont passed away on December 9, 2010 at the Laurel Highland Correctional Facility, in Pennsylvania. An heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, DuPont was very generous funding Olympic athletes and programs and supporting organizations such as the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF).
On January 26, 1996, DuPont shot and killed his close friend, Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler Dave Schultz. He was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and sentenced to prison for from 13 to 40 years for the crime of “murder in the third degree but mentally ill.”
“I knew him as a very humble individual who put the interest of sport ahead of his personal well being and he was ever ready to help athletes, coaches and organizations like ours when in need,” said Bob Duenkel, ISHOF’s Executive Director and Curator. “It was a tragedy not only for the Schultz family but for all of us who knew John before his illness.”
DuPont was an accomplished author, athlete and coach in wrestling, track, modern pentathlon and swimming. As an aspiring Olympic pentathlete, he promoted a separate, three-event swim, run, shoot. In 1983, ISHOF executive Director Buck Dawson called him the “Father of Modern Triathlon” having held the first race in 1966 on his estate and sponsoring his Team Foxcatcher Triathlon Team. DuPont was the official starter of ISHOF’s USTS triathlon series competitions held in Fort Lauderdale in the early 1980’s. He competed as a 55 and over veteran in wrestling for many years as well as in swimming during the early years of Masters swimming and was a six-time National Masters Swimming Champion. He attracted many top coaches to his Foxcatcher Swim Club on his Foxcatcher Farms estate in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. The late six- time, Olympic swimming coach George Haines was one, along with Dick Schoulberg, Frank Keefe and Jack Simon.
He was the founder of the Delaware Museum of Natural History, writing extensively as an ornithologist credited with discovering over two dozen species of birds. As a philatelist, he collected some of the world’s rarest stamps. At his alma matre Villanova University, he funded the basketball arena and the swimming pool, having worked very closely with swimming coach Ed Geise. In 1967, when the ISHOF needed funding for the Celebrity Room Auditorium, DuPont stepped in with the full $65,000 needed to complete the wing. That would be almost $500,000 in today’s dollars. Many of his books are found in the Henning Library at the ISHOF.