Passages: Evanston’s William Burton, 92

EVANSTON, Illinois, September 13. LEGENDARY ETHS coach William "Dobbie" Burton passed away Thursday, September 8 at the age of 92.

In March 2011 family members, former students, colleagues, and friends paid tribute to the revered swim and golf coach when the District 202 Board of Education voted unanimously to name the ETHS pool the William "Dobbie" Burton Aquatic Center. He was also inducted into the ETHS Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year and in 1969, he was inducted into the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame.

The natatorium dedication campaign yielded more than $1 million worth of pledges and gifts to help fund $2.2 million in capital improvements of the aquatic center. Donations were made on behalf of numerous swimmers, divers, and golfers who learned invaluable lessons about teamwork and perseverance from Coach Burton. At the time of the dedication, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon credited the legendary coach with "putting ETHS on the map as the school with the pre-eminent swimming program in the state and in the nation."

In the 38 years that Dobbie Burton guided the ETHS boys swim program, the Wildkits racked up five state championships, more than 400 dual meet victories and 23 conference titles. At one point, Burton put together a record unmatched by any other coach or program in any sport in the history of the Illinois High School Association.

Under Burton, Evanston finished in the top three in team standings at the IHSA state finals for 20 years in a row, including outright state titles in 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1960. Throughout his career, Burton developed many student athletes including 200 All American swimmers; one Olympian silver medalist, Dick Hanley (Class of '55); five NCAA Division I National Champion swimmers; and hundreds of NCAA Division I, II & III swimmers and scholars.

William "Dobbie" Burton, 1919-2011

"The statistics and trophies Coach Burton accumulated are incredible, but those just tell the end result of the most important contributions Coach Burton made, and those were the daily lessons he taught his swimmers, golfers and students everyday he spent in the gym, golf course and swimming pool," said ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino. "He is an absolute icon in the world of high school swimming and a life-long mentor to the students he served for 38 years at ETHS."

Burton's coaching accomplishments were recognized by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association and the National Federation of High Schools, but for many, it is the testimony of his former students that speak to his true impact on others.

"Coach Burton was an important and inspiring figure in the lives of many of his athletes," Tom Unterman (ETHS Class of '62) stated in a March 2011 letter to the school. "He quietly imparted a strong work ethic, high personal standards and determination that served many of us well throughout our lives. I am so pleased he will be permanently remembered."

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