Today We Remember Bob Duenkel, Long-Time ISHOF Employee and Honoree, on His Birthday!!
Bob Duenkel (USA)
Honor Contributor (2021)
FOR THE RECORD: 40+ YEARS OF DEDICATED SERVICE TO ISHOF AND THE HISTORY OF THE AQUATIC WORLD AS ISHOF’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/CURATOR; AWARDS: 1997 GLENN HUMMER AWARD BY USA SWIMMING, 1997 NAMED IN AQUATIC’S INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE AS “WHO’S WHO IN AQUATICS”, 1999 WEST ORANGE (NJ) HALL OF FAME, 2004 ISHOF PRESIDENTIAL AWARD, 2018 HONOR CONTRIBUTOR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON SWIMMING HALL OF FAME
As a young boy he had a love of swimming from almost the day he was born. He began competitive swimming for the YMCA of New Jersey and was a state record holder before being a star swimmer and water polo player at Kansas State University. After graduating from KSU with both an undergraduate and master’s degree in physical education, Bob Duenkel moved to Fort Lauderdale. He taught physical education and coached swimming at Northeast High School, worked as a water safety instructor and worked for the Fort Lauderdale Beach Patrol – all before “Buck” Dawson convinced him to work as his assistant at the Hall of Fame in 1976.
The ISHOF position afforded Bob the opportunity to work exclusively in the field of his passion – swimming. He had time to train as a Masters swimmer at the Hall of Fame Pool and coach swimming at Broward Community College. In 1978 he was named National Junior College Swimming Coach of the Year. In the summer of 1976, he also took over the running of Dawson’s Camp Chikopi, a boys sports and wilderness camp in Ontario, Canada. Chikopi was also the world’s first summer swimming camp, founded in 1920 by US Olympic swimming coach, Matt Mann, Dawson’s father-in-law. When Dawson passed away, he left the camp to Bob and his wife Colette.
Bob’s greatest contribution to swimming, however, was his 40+ years of dedication and service to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Bob not only absorbed the rich history of swimming like a sponge from Dawson, but through the lips of Johnny Weissmuller, Eleanor Holm, Buster Crabbe, Esther Williams, and many, many more. His knowledge of swimming history was encyclopedic. He studied and knew all the minutiae of swimming and swimmers, from the ancient Greek swimmer Leander to the most recent inductee, every Olympiad, every event, every time and every stroke. He was museum curator and presided over 40 years of ISHOF Induction Ceremonies.
From 2004-2005 he served as interim CEO and Executive Director, and then resumed his previous duties until his retirement in 2016. For any visitor to ISHOF, Bob was an invaluable resource, always there to tell a story, clarify any facts or just to toss off a quip or two. He made a wonderful ambassador for the sport and was willing to spend as many hours as necessary to aid a visitor’s knowledge of aquatics.
There will never be another person more knowledgeable about every aspect of aquatics than Bob Duenkel. Bob sadly passed away in February of 2019. During his lifetime of service to swimming he was as much part of the International Swimming Hall of Fame as any Honoree – and now he joins those whom he both served and loved, including his little sister Ginny, a 1964 Olympic Champion and world record holder as an honored member of ISHOF.