By Philip Whitten//Contributor | Friday, April 28, 2017
Dr. Philip Whitten was the editor-in-chief of Swimming World Magazine and an ISHOF inductee.
It was with profound sadness that I learned last Sunday morning of Chuck Wielgus’s passing. His many friends and admirers – among which I count myself – not to mention his family and the world swimming community have lost a true giant.
As both a leader and administrator, he was without equal, tempering the need to make tough decisions with an easy sense of humor and with genuine respect for those with whom he was dealing.
I first met Chuck nearly 20 years ago at the Long Course Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a meet that graphically illustrated that Murphy was right: everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. For starters, there was a chlorine spill. Then, one of the lane lines broke during the men’s 100 m free, causing the race to be re-swum. It was a turbulent welcome for Chuck, who was coming to us from the relative calm of the Canoe and Kayak federation. Few would have believed that in just a few short years, he would build USA Swimming into the world’s premiere sports federation.
Back in Nashville, I asked Chuck for 5 to 10 minutes of his time to introduce myself and Swimming World magazine, of which I was then the Editor- in-Chief. I don’t think he had a clue as to who I was, but we had a wonderful discussion – the first of many – and he wound up giving me more than an hour of his precious time. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a lifelong friendship. We didn’t always agree on issues, but when we disagreed, it was with mutual respect and understanding.
I fully expect that Chuck’s successor will be an outstanding individual, one who will carve out his or her own niche in the saga of USA Swimming, but Chuck will never be “replaced.” He was unique, one-of-a-kind, a Mensch. We shall miss him profoundly.
- Phillip Whitten