Grande Dame Award
2006 Mary Oppenheim
Since 1965 Mary L. Oppenheim has been a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and has served on the Board of Directors and International Congress for many years. As an original member of the Hall of Fame Dames she has helped with many projects over the years. She has been active in the formative years of ISHOF’s Henning Library, as a volunteer director and as a Henning Library Committee member since 1993. She has served on ISHOF’s Adapted Aquatics Committee and has been an ISHOF Trustee for many years.
Mary learned to swim at the family summer home in Lake George, New York. After graduating from college in 1951, majoring and working in merchandising, she trained to be a Water Safety Instructor. As a faculty member at the Red Cross National Aquatic School, she taught life saving techniques from 1956 to 1973. She organized Red Cross Swimming Programs in Albany and Lake George, NY from 1956 to 1974. In 1952 she taught swimming at Miami Beach, Florida, passing the Florida Pool Operators course. From 1952 to 1979 she attended the Women’s National Aquatic Forum in Hollywood, FL and Pompano Beach, FL and served on its Executive Board as Treasurer. She was also a member of the Men’s Aquatic Forum of the CSCAA.
From 1955 to 1984, Mary judged AAU and US Synchronized Swimming championships in the north and southeast United States. As a life member she served on the historical committee of US Synchronized Swimming and in 1986 passed Levels Iand II of coaching in USSS.
She was a member of the Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics serving on many committees including the 1965 Pre-School Swimming Survey Committee to determine who approved or disapproved of Pre –Schoolers learning to swim. As a member of the Aquatic Bibliography Committee she helped published Aquatic Bibliography receiving the Recognition of Appreciation Award in 1972 from the CNCA.
In 1960 Mary toured Denmark, Finland and Sweden with Norma Olsen’s Synchronized Swimming Group, putting on watershows and clinics. The tour included a synchro exhibition at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Upon returning home she was a speaker at the Women’s National Aquatic Forum and at Green Mountain Junior College in describing the Synchronized Swimming Tour.
As a member of America Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Mary published an Article “Public Relation and Aquatic Programs” in Aquatic Guide, July 1979-July 1981. Public relations play an important part in planning aquatic programs. In 1982 she published a book, Aquatic Aide - A Guidebook For Water Safety Instruction, which describes qualifications, teaching methods and skills to teach with the American Red Cross and YMCA Swimming and Life Saving Programs, as an Aide.
Mary is a Life Member of the American Swimming Coaches Association (1969), the International Academy of Aquatic Art (1975) and the US Swimming Foundation (1975). She is a past member of United States Water Fitness Association.
In 1994 Mary was inducted into the Endicott College Athletic Hall of Fame for demonstrating the qualities that combine athletic success with leadership.
Her life has been filled with the experiences and achievements which represent the character of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame Dames.
Recipients of the Grand Dame Award.
Alice Lord Landon
Aileen Riggin Soule
Norma Dean Maxwell