When Nan Carney-DeBord organized a surprise party five years ago to honor Lynn Schweizer, her former basketball coach at Denison, she began with a call to the alumni office.
To cover all the lives Schweizer had touched at Denison, Carney-DeBord needed a lengthy list of names: the physical education majors since 1980; swimmers and divers, both men and women, from 1975 to 1986; members of the women’s basketball team from 1973 to 1980; any intramural or club sports participants since 1986.
Each of those alums, Carney-DeBord realized, shared the experience she had with Schweizer in the late 1970s, when Carney-DeBord was a four-year letter winner in basketball and field hockey.
Today, Carney-DeBord is Denison’s director of athletics and Schweizer its senior associate director of athletics. The 2013-14 academic year was Schweizer’s 40th with the school, and in those years her relationships with student-athletes have made her someone they want to catch up with when they return to campus.
“Even after all these years she’s still putting in 12- and 15-hour days and has all the energy in the world,” Carney-DeBord said. “She is selfless in her leadership style and has always been others-oriented. She’s someone who creates everything behind the scenes to make the situation better.”
The Granville, Ohio, native started as a part-time women’s basketball coach in 1973. Since then, she has coached five varsity athletics teams, served as chair of the department of physical education for 19 years, and worked as intramural and club sports director for 28 years. She also has taught a long list of the physical education courses.
“We never considered athletics an extracurricular,” said Larry Scheiderer, director of athletics operations. “It was more co-curricular and about what coaches were doing off the field, how they participated on campus and understanding that connection between athletics and the academic mission of the institution.”
Former football student-athlete Dan Crawford graduated in 2011 and worked with Schweizer on the Denison Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He recalled the “unparalleled spirit” she brought to the campus and the North Coast Athletic Conference.
“Lynn is the epitome of Division III athletics,” Crawford said. “Lynn gracefully employs balance in everything she does. Whether female or male, scholar or athlete, coach or administrator, she selflessly gives her time and energy to bring people together and make them better.”
Sarah Cepeda, who played basketball at Denison, met Schweizer the first week she stepped on campus. The 2003 graduate worked in athletics as a student assistant to coordinate the intramural and club sports with Schweizer, who was also her academic adviser. Schweizer was also instrumental in Cepeda’s application process for the postgraduate scholarship Cepeda was awarded.
Schweizer is also known for pinch-hitting. During the 2013-14 school year, Denison hosted the conference men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships for the first time. In addition to her administrative duties, she announced the diving portion of the championship. And at the end of the five-day marathon event, when most people are beginning to feel the effects of chlorine inhalation, Schweizer removed signs and picked up trash for nearly two hours.
She stepped in again in fall 2013 when the diving team experienced a midseason coaching change. Schweizer hadn’t coached since 1986 – the year she was named Division III National Coach of the Year – but took the interim role.
She knew back in 1966 she wanted to pursue a physical education career, but coaching and working administratively in college athletics wasn’t even on her radar screen.
“Little did I know at the time how lucky I was to accept Denison’s offer, and the rest is history,” Schweizer said. “I have been fortunate to have had supportive colleagues and administrators that have challenged me and helped me to grow as a professional.”
Schweizer isn’t yet planning for retirement. But that party will have one massive guest list.