By Brian Savard
SELINSGROVE, Pennsylvania, June 16. GEORGE Edward "Ged" Schweikert III, 65, Susquehanna University's first and only head swimming coach, died June 15 after being hospitalized for two weeks.
In 1977, two students who wanted to start a club swim team at the university approached Schweikert in his office. Schweikert, a swimmer in his undergraduate years at the College of Wooster (Ohio), accepted the invitation to become the head coach of the club team. In 1979, Schweikert coached the team in its first season of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition.
Known for fostering a family atmosphere among the men's and women's teams, he constantly emphasized personal growth over wins and losses. He turned non-competitive high school swimmers into conference championship qualifiers and turned high school state qualifiers into conference champions. He organized the first Susquehanna alumni swim meet in October 2007.
In his 28 seasons as a head coach, he compiled a 126-130-2 record for the women's team and a 114-144 record for the men's team. Schweikert is a three-time Middle Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year award winner, earning his last at the 2006-07 conference meet after his men's team placed third behind Widener and Albright.
His teams competed in the Middle Atlantic Conference from the 1979-80 season to the 2006-07 season. Both teams moved into the newly-formed Landmark Conference this past season.
"Our staff is saddened by the loss of Coach Schweikert. Ged has been the only head coach in the history of SU swimming and the program has continued to represent his ideals throughout the 28 years under his leadership," said Pamela Samuelson, Susquehanna director of athletics.
"His passion for coaching went far beyond the competition in the pool. His uncompromising demand for team unity, respect for all opponents, and respect for the sport as a whole has provided a lifelong benefit to the student-athletes that have competed as SU swimmers. The attitude and sportsmanship of each student-athlete was just as important to Coach as the number of personal records attained. He will truly be missed as a teacher and as a friend."
Schweikert joined the Susquehanna faculty in 1970 as an assistant psychology professor. He served as the psychology department chair from 1982-88 and served a term as the faculty representative to the Susquehanna University Board of Directors. Schweikert taught at the university until May 2007, when he was granted status as associate professor emeritus of psychology.
Upon his retirement from teaching, Schweikert devoted himself to full-time coaching for the 2007-08 season. He set the bar high in his final season as a head coach as the men's team went undefeated for the first time in program history, amassing an 11-0 record. Schweikert's men's team placed second at the inaugural Landmark Conference Championships to the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
Paul Richards, the head coach of Dickinson College, was one of many friends that Schweikert had within the coaching community. Richards said that Schweikert was never afraid to talk about NCAA policies, rules or competitive strategies with him.
Richards first coached against Schweikert as a coach for Bloomsburg University in 1981 when his team traveled to Susquehanna. Richards and Schweikert reconnected in 1994 when Richards became the head coach of Dickinson College. Years later, Richards suggested that Susquehanna should train during Winter Break in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the International Swimming Hall of Fame pool where Richards' Dickinson team practiced every season. Schweikert followed suit, and Susquehanna's swim teams started training in Fort Lauderdale every year alongside Dickinson.
"I never felt like Ged was my adversary in coaching," Richards said. "We always had a sharing relationship. We had both been around coaching long enough to know that there are no secrets in swimming. We all have access to the same information. The difference is how we choose to use and apply that information. He used it well. I am positive that if we polled all the coaches that Ged and his teams competed against, they would all agree that he was truly the 'gentleman' of competitive swimming."
He cared deeply about the team and every individual swimmer. He sacrificed so much of himself so that others could benefit. He will be missed by many and I include myself in that group. He will be a hard act to follow but I suspect that Ged built this program for the long run–guess you would say a distance race–it wasn't a sprint. And it will go on in his memory. I will miss his smile and his laugh. And I will miss his calming and reassuring presence when things start to look chaotic."
Schweikert earned his Ph.D and Master of Arts degrees in experimental psychology from Kent State University.
In February 2000, Schweikert was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was admitted to Evangelical Community Hospital on May 25 of this year because of ankle pain, which was caused by the myeloma. While at the hospital, Schweikert went into cardiac arrest. He was transferred to Geisinger Medical Center on May 31.
Schweikert is survived by his wife, Mary Louise, 61, of Mifflinburg, Pa., his son, Gedd Schweikert Jr., 34, and his grandson, Alexander, 13 months, of Harrisburg, Pa.
A memorial celebration of Schweikert's life will take place June 21 at 1 p.m. in Stretansky Concert Hall at Susquehanna. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Ged Schweikert III Endowment Fund, which will support the Susquehanna varsity swimming program. Further details will be posted as more information becomes available.
Brian Savard is a contributing writer who swam under Schweikert for four years at Susquehanna University. Swimming World Magazine wishes the best to the entire Susquehanna swimming community in this time of mourning.