Passages: Former USA Diving Chairman, ISHOF Paragon Award Winner Don Leas, 84

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

1999 ISHOF Paragon Award winner Don Leas passed away Thursday morning, his family was able to confirm to Swimming World. “He had suffered from an aortic aneurism for several years and it finally caused his death.” He was 82-years-old.

Leas had been around the sport of diving since starting high school diving in 1950. He dove at Michigan State and also was a gymnast there. He was the diving coach and assistant gymnastics coach at Southern Illinois University while earning his Masters Degree. He coached at Clarion University of Pennsylvania from 1966-1990 where he developed 36 national champions.


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Leas was well known for his contributions to the sport of diving in an administrative role. He was the Chairman for USA Diving for almost every committee including rules, certification, safety and membership. He was the chairman for AAU Diving before USA Diving was around. He was also the USA Diving Rules Committee Chairman and rulebook editor.

Starting in 1981, Leas was the International Chairman of Diving for the World University Games. He was a part of the team that would inspect and approve new facilities, and offer suggestions for design of new or retrofitting of old facilities. He was also a part of the team that would determine the competition schedule, select the judges and referees, and oversee the competition as it unfolded.

Leas had been the technical liaison to numerous organizations and events including the Goodwill Games, US Olympic Festival, the FINA World Cup, etc. He had been an advisor and referee to numerous international events, including being the diving coordinator at the 1996 Olympic Games. He was an author or editor to over 12 book publications on diving and diving rules.

Leas was on the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee and was a member of USA Diving’s Board of Directors.

Leas was also the 1984 NCAA Diving Coach of the Year and was the NCAA Diving Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. He was inducted into the Clarion University Hall of Fame in 1997.

Leas was also the 1999 Paragon Award Winner for the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of the Joseph G. Rogers Award in 2007 for his volunteer work with the sport of swimming and diving at the YMCA National Championships. Leas was also the 2012 recipient of the Duraflex International Diving Award, which recognizes outstanding international contributions to the sport of diving.

Leas also was the originator of a computer diving program which was used for the management of diving meets and the analysis of diving judges’ performance.

Don is survived by Carol, his wife of more than 20 years. The couple lived in Clarion, Pennsylvania.

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3 years ago

RIP Don. You meant so much to so many. I cannot measure your profound influence on me and my career. You will be greatly missed.

3 years ago

Lost personal touch with Don a long time ago…but followed his significant work for the U.S diving community! He was a great teammate at Michigan State in the 50’s and I will miss him and the memories of our 4 years together with the Spartans. RIP