On Thursday, the Hinsdale District 86 High School Board in Illinois approved and selected the name for Hinsdale Central’s new 10-lane pool, which is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021. The board settled on the “Don Watson Aquatic Center,” named after the late ISHOF inductee and former 60s/70s high school swim coach. The idea came from an anonymous alumnus, who promised to match all the total donations at $750,000 as long as the new pool would commemorate Watson’s legacy.
After the alumnus’ donation, the fall 2019 alumni fundraiser raised $1.6 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. This decision follows the district’s December 2018 budget cut, which originally aimed to cut the football, swimming, water polo, cheerleading and bass fishing programs for an estimated $789,000 in savings. However, Hinsdale voters approved a $140 million tax referendum to avert the sports cuts on April 3, 2019, per CBS Chicago’s report.
- Read the full Chicago Tribune article here.
Don Watson was the head boys’ swimming coach at Hinsdale Central during the 1960s and 1970s, producing 12 consecutive state team titles, 167 All-Americans, and four Olympic medalists from 1967-1978. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Watson traveled alongside pupils John Murphy and John Kinsella, where they both took home Olympic gold medals.
In 1980, Watson left Hinsdale, IL to become the director of the University of Texas Swimming Stadium and manager of Longhorn Aquatics. Among his numerous hosting responsibilities for major swimming competitions, Watson played a part in orchestrating the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in Austin, TX. In 2015, Watson was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, two years before his death in 2017.
- Read more on Watson’s legacy here.