Anne Ross Fairbanks
Anne Ross Fairbanks died June 18, 2009, in Troy, N.Y. A former Olympic athlete, Presidential Point of Light, teacher, scholar, and Skidmore aquatics coach, she was 85 years old.
Born Nov. 28, 1923, in Port Washington, N.Y., the daughter of Kenneth Ward Ross and Mary Wells Ross, Anne was valedictorian of her Port Washington High School graduating class. She earned a bachelor's degree at Barnard College and a master's degree in physical education at Wellesley College.
From 1941 to 1944, Anne was the U.S. national springboard diving champion, earning acclaim for her grace and athleticism, as well as nine Amateur Athletic Union titles. She was the first woman to execute a 2½ somersault pike in competition, as well as an inward 1½ somersault pike.
Considered the "Queen of Springboard Diving," Anne was a member of the 1944 U.S. Olympic Team for the games that were canceled due to World War II. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1984.
Anne began teaching in 1947 and held appointments at Washington University in St. Louis, Stellenbosh University in South Africa, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Rochester, and the Troy YWCA. She wrote a book titled Teaching Springboard Diving, published in 1963 and long considered the definitive text for teachers and coaches.
In 1967, Anne joined the Skidmore College faculty. Bev Becker, professor emerita and former chair of the Department of Physical Education and Dance, remembers the department's excitement at the news. "We were eager to have that level of expertise; an Olympian and a full-fledged educator! Anne was a master teacher in all phases of aquatics. She was always fair and looked first at what was right and best for the students."
Bev said that Anne launched a swim program for the children of faculty and staff. Many children in the Skidmore community during the 1970s and 80s learned to swim from Anne, who taught kinesiology and swimming and diving, directed the aquatics program, and coached. She retired in 1985 and was inducted into the Skidmore College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.
In addition to teaching and her family, Anne also was a committed volunteer at St. John's Episcopal Church in Troy, traveling frequently as part of its Haiti Mission, and the Red Cross. Her community service captured the attention of the White House, which named her one of President George H.W. Bush's Thousand Points of Light in 1984.
Anne's husband, Andrew Jason Fairbanks, died in 1976. Her survivors include daughter Mary and her partner, Lise; granddaughter, Ana; stepdaughter, Berthaida; step-granddaughter, Linda Sargent, and her brother and sister-in-law, Gordon and Darla Ross.