ISHOF Grande Dame Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman Passes Away at 93

Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

According to Indiana Athletics, Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman passed away on August 17, 2017. Counsilman was 93 years old at her time of passing and was a resident of Bloomington, Indiana.

Counsilman is best known for her International Swimming Hall of Fame Grande Dame Honor. She was given the award in 2004 for being a woman “who has been involved in swimming for a long period of time in her life. She is seen as a mom, a helper, an organizer, a promoter, a worker, a teacher, an authority, a friend, an enthusiast and a counselor.”

She served as a surrogate mother to the IU Swimming & Diving teams during the 33-year coaching career of her late husband Doc Counsilman. She provided emotional stability, team dinners and ran many behind-the-scenes operations at swim meets.

Current IU Head Coach Ray Looze described her as “the first lady of Indiana Hoosier swimming in perpetuity.” The team has since created the Marge Councilman Service Award in her honor. She will be remembered for her dedication to the IU Swimming & Diving program and to hard work throughout all aspects of her life.


Photo Courtesy: @IndianaSwimDive

View the full press release from Indiana Athletics below:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Indiana University Athletics is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Marjorie “Marge” Counsilman on Thursday. She was the of late IU swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman and mother to late IU assistant coach Brian Counsilman. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.

During Doc’s tenure as head men’s swimming coach at Indiana from 1957-1990, Marge was right by his side, helping Doc and the Hoosiers win six-consecutive NCAA Championships from 1968-1973 and 23 Big Ten titles, including 20-straight from 1961 to 1980. Doc also saw his swimmers break 52 world records, 154 American records and 106 individual NCAA records.

“Marge and Doc Councilman were the definition of ‘a team’ that lead IU swimming to the greatest achievements of any university in the sport of NCAA and Olympic-level swimming,” Indiana head swimming coach Ray Looze remarked. “I am sure Doc would have been the first person to acknowledge how important she was to the overall success of the program during his coaching tenue. We established the Marge Councilman Service Award to highlight her many behind the scenes contributions to this great era of IU swimming. She will always be remembered as ‘the first lady’ of Indiana Hoosier swimming in perpetuity.”

Marge was an important part of the overall success of the IU team during the 33 years Doc coached. She was the team’s surrogate mother. She was a source of emotional stability during a swimmer’s tumultuous time of competitive swimming. She hosted dinners and gatherings at her home. She ran the swim meets, including the Indiana State Championships, staffed the scoring table and kept the records.

Marge ran the 16mm stroke film and pace clock business from 1959 when the first pace clock was sold until 1974 when the business became incorporated. At that time, she became secretary-treasurer of Counsilman Company until the corporation dissolved in 1990.

“Marge played a vital role in Doc’s and IU’s success in the pool,” said Joel Stager, the Director at the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming. “She represented a surrogate mother to thirty years’ worth of swimmers and not just those who swam here in Bloomington. She was highly respected by swimmers around the country and the world, providing them all with a safe home environment in Bloomington though their own families in many cases were thousands of miles away. Her lasagna dinners remain legendary with all those who were lucky enough to have tasted it She was a full partner to Doc and Hobbie, and while they grabbed the headlines, Marge lived her life with grace and good humor by Doc’s and wouldn’t have had it any other way.  She will be greatly missed by the swim community.”

In 2004, Marge was recognized with the Grande Dame Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which is given to a woman “who has been involved in swimming for a long period of time in her life. She is seen as a mom, a helper, an organizer, a promoter, a worker, a teacher, an authority, a friend, an enthusiast and a counselor”.

In 2012, Marge was bestowed the Bill Orwig Award from IU, which recognizes outstanding contributions made by a non-alumnus to the Indiana University athletic program.

In 2013, Marge and Doc were inducted in to the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame, where it was noted that Marge was “a strong partner in all phases of Doc’s career, typed three books and was the business director of youth camps. Also, was a beloved surrogate mother to hundreds of Doc’s IU swimmers”.



  1. Pat Kennedy

    Prayers and blessings for her family and loved ones.

  2. avatar
    Jack Simon

    A most gracious and wonderful woman. I remember fondly my discussaians with Doc and most of those were with Marge by his side. A life well lived!! RIP Marge!

  3. Wilfred Arzaga

    So much sympathy . Knew her way back in the 60s under the tutelage of Doc. Counsilman

  4. avatar
    Jim N.

    Back in 1990 I went to Indy to watch the NCAAs. Somehow I had scored a great seat, but one evening I arrived for finals, only to find someone sitting in my seat. I recognized Doc Counsilman, and could see he was entertaining a group of fans with a story, so I stayed back, waiting for him to leave. I saw an empty seat right along the stairs so I gently slid into that seat to wait. An older woman was next to me, and she patted my arm and said, “You can sit here for a few minutes, but when my husband arrives you will need to leave.” I assured her I would, and said, “I have a seat, but someone is sitting in it right now – I’m hoping he will leave soon.” “Oh, don’t you just HATE when someone does that,” she said. “Yes, but I don’t want to make a scene – it’s the famous swimming coach Doc Counsilman”, I replied. “OH, Oh no – that’s MY husband”, exclaimed my neighbor, Marge Counsilman! We had a very nice chat – what a sweet lady! My condolences to her family and many friends.

  5. avatar
    Denny ONeill

    She was definitely like a mom to the swimmers. She seemed to know which freshmen needed a little mothering. She would have you over for Sunday dinner. Best pecan pie ever. My wife later on got the recipe from Marge after I talked about it so much.

Author: Diana Pimer

Diana Pimer was a breaststroke/IMer at Keene State College and is the NEISDA Conference record holder in the 200 IM. She is currently an Age Group Coach at AGUA in New York City and has covered major competitions for Swimming World including the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, 2015 and 2017 FINA World Championships, USA Swimming Nationals and more.

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