Slim's Swimming Scholarship
When longtime USMS swimmer and All-American Dick Webber, 80, read the January – February issue of SWIMMER, he wrote in to tell us that our coverage of the dearth of swimming opportunities for minority children (“The Swimming Race” and “Minorities Still Playing Catch-up,”) would have pleased his longtime friend, Olympian Gordon “Slim” Chalmers, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 89.
Webber first met Chalmers when he coached swimming at West Point and Webber swam for visiting Ohio State. “My jumping the touch in the 200 free relay made him a friend forever,” Webber remembers. Chalmers, a member of the 1932 Olympic swim team, served in the Navy during WWII prior to coaching at West Point.
Chalmers was also athletic director at Iowa State University and Indiana State University, and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. After he retired in 1980, Chalmers moved to Hendersonville, N.C., just as the new pool at the YMCA was being completed. “I met him again in Hendersonville in 1990 where he taught me the fly,” says Webber.
An endowment from the Chalmers family – his widow Mary and their children – created the Slim Chalmers Scholarship, which is helping the Henderson County Family YMCA influence the lives of underprivileged youth in Hendersonville. The scholarship creates opportunities for these children to learn and enjoy the lifelong skill of swimming. In 2009 there were 30 scholarship recipients, ages 6 to 13. The scholarship is now funded mostly through donations from the Chalmers family and some of their friends like Webber and fellow USMS All-American swimmer Jim Scherbarth, 86, as well as from other Henderson County YMCA members.
Through an informal partnership between the YMCA and the Henderson County Boys and Girls Club, the Slim Chalmers Scholarship has been able to reach a diverse demographic. “The Boys and Girls Club [which does not have a pool] allows me to come in and offer scholarships to their members,” says Cory Cunningham, the aquatics director of the YMCA. The scholarship is awarded on a financial need basis, and is available for swim lessons and membership in the YMCA Hammerhead swim team. The scholarship pays for either three months of swim lessons, or six months of swim team dues.