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Profiling Maxine Merlino

A versatile and successful swimmer

Phillip Whitten | July 19, 2000

Maxine Merlino has again proved herself one of the nation's most versatile swimmers, even at age 85! Maxine had an incredible Long Course Meters season bettering 6 world marks at the regional championship in Mission Viejo. She still holds world records in several of these events in the 75-79 and 80-84 age groups. She was the 1997 SPMA Swimmer of the Year.

Maxine's versatility is not limited to the water. Maxine grew up in Portland, Ore., where she attended the Museum Art School for three years as a scholarship student. Upon winning a national scholarship to the Art Student's League, she moved to New York City. During her seven-year residence in New York, she exhibited, had a one-woman show, did illustration, set designs, and was commissioned to do three murals for the Section of Fine Arts. One hangs in the Record of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C.

During World War II, Maxine moved to Calif., and served as a scientific illustrator for the Army Air Force. At the termination of the war, she returned to New York City for a short period of study, then returned to Hollywood, Calif., to design stage sets and interiors. When Long Beach State University opened in 1949, Maxine changed the course of her interest from the professional world to the academic world becoming one of the original 165 students who comprised the first student body, completing her MA in 1952. Following this, Maxine joined the art faculty and simultaneously worked as the first technical director. In 1961 she obtained her doctorate at USC and in 1972 returned to California State University, Long Beach, as the Dean of the School of Fine Arts until she retired in 1976.

SPMA welcomes Maxine back to the pool after a short absence, and congratulates her on her record-breaking year.

from Swimmer's Source, Winter, 1998

By all accounts, Maxine Merlino, 82, is the best over 80 woman swimmer in the world. But when she won the 1994 Team Masters USA competition last year, she laid claim to the title of most versatile Masters swimmer in America. Competing in the Grand National Race—15 separate short course events (all but the 1,000 and 1,650-yard freestyle)—she bettered the previous records in her age group by a conglomerate time of 2:25.

During the short course season, Merlino racked up 12 first place rankings in her age group, setting 11 national marks in breast, fly, individual medley and distance free. Amazingly, she ranked no less than second in any event.

Merlino's versatility is not limited to the water. During World War II, the Oregon native served as a scientific illustrator for the Army Air Force. After the war she designed stage sets and interiors in Calif. When Long Beach State University opened in 1949, she moved to the academic world earning an MA in 1952 from Long Beach and a Ph.D. from USC in 1961. In 1972, she returned to Long Beach as Dean of the School of Fine Arts until she retired in 1976.

Merlino's keen interest in nature is reflected in a lifetime of creative artistic work and her passion for sports, travel and adventure.

SWIM magazine, March-April 1995

see also Reflections from Barbara Dunbar March 18, 2002


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