Harry Meisel, 1922-2010

Humble Educator, Coach, and Mentor

By Bobby Davis ’82

Harry Meisel

For more than 30 years, Rollins students watched Harry Meisel guard his beloved Alfond Pool like a hawk—most of them not knowing he was one of Central Florida’s most distinguished swimming coaches. Meisel, who taught Central Florida-area youngsters how to swim for five decades, died June 25, 2010 at 87.

Jilen Siroky Bouwer was only 5 when she started swimming for Coach Meisel at the Rollins pool. “Even though I was young, he saw how much I loved swimming. My career started when he said, ‘Yes—get in the water and try to keep up.’ Bouwer went on to swim for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team.

Susie Cochrane Aspinwall ’65 entrusted her three children, now in their 40s, to Meisel when they were 6. All went on to win college swimming scholarships.

Meisel was born December 6, 1922 in Stamford, CT. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and afterward attended Stetson University on the G.I. Bill. Meisel and his wife of more than 60 years, Jeanette, raised five children, daughters Karen ’74, Mary, and Teresa, and sons Steve and Kevin ’82.

Meisel began his career teaching high school biology in Orlando in 1950. The sports enthusiast also coached football, basketball, tennis, tumbling, and swimming. Although his only formal training in swimming was in a YMCA program while in high school, he led swimmers to 20 state swim championships.

In 1963, Meisel joined the Rollins faculty, teaching physical education and serving as aquatics director until his retirement in 1997. In 1972, he formed the Blue Dolfins, a swim club for area youth that produced many swimmers who went on to compete at the college level.

Meisel was instrumental in the building of Alfond Pool. “Breaking ground for the pool provided this ‘Renaissance man’ a stage to develop the isokinetic swim bench and revolutionize dry-land training for swimming,” said Meisel’s son Kevin. “He took great pride in the pool’s role as a daily congregating point for students. Rollins provided my dad a great place to work with learners of all ages and to help kids pursue Olympic dreams. He instilled in people the value of “Pete and Repeat”—and he did it daily and unselfishly, whether it was in the classroom or on the pool deck.”

Working with children was what he loved most. Friend Tina Bojanowski said, “My children and I have many fond memories of Harry. There was no slacking in Harry’s pool. If a child complained that there was something green in the bottom of the pool, Harry would say, ‘Put your goggles on and keep swimming.’ He expected the best from his kids and they gave it to him. He taught the kids that they had a job to do and not to let the little things get in the way of that. He didn’t just coach; he taught life lessons. He coached not for the winning, or to show that he was a good coach, but for the kids to achieve their best.”

Read a more in-depth tribute to Harry Meisel.