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Rosemary Mann Dawson, Pioneer Women's Coach Dies

May 6, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - RoseMary Mann Dawson, a pioneer woman's coach in competitive swimming on the collegiate, school, club and camp levels died on May 3, 2003 Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She was 81. She was born August 2, 1921 in Duluth, MN and daughter of Matt Mann II and Lea Block Mann. The cause was complications due to her 40 year battle as a brittle diabetic.

Known affectionately as Rose Mary to thousands of youngsters and athletes with whom she came in contact over her 62 year career as swimming coach and girls camp director, she considered her greatest contribution to be as director of Camp Ak-o-Mak, a girl's competitive swimming, sports and wilderness camp located in Ontario, Canada. Started in 1928 by her dad, the late Matt Mann, 1952 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame swimming coach and 30 year University of Michigan coach, Ak-o-Mak produced over 40 Olympians and 350 All-Americans, all coached by Rose Mary or her father. Ak-o-Mak and brother camp Chikopi were the world's first competitive swimming camps. Rose Mary was director for over 55 years.

Entering club coaching in 1956, she formed the Ann Arbor (all girls) Swim Club which after two years won six consecutive Michigan State Championships, placed second in the AAU National Championships in 1961 and first or second in nine National Long Distance Championships. Her Ann Arbor divers won four Michigan AAU Championships.

She was a 1943 graduate of the University of Michigan. While coaching her club team, she became a swimming instructor for the University's Women's Physical Education Department. In 1958, she established a women's competitive swimming program in a hostile women's physical education atmosphere which required her to call herself "Advisor" to the Ladies Speed Swim Club. "They didn't think women should be competitive back in those days and to use the words "coach" and "varsity" for women's teams was taboo," she would say. Two years later, she helped establish the first women's National Collegiate Swimming and Diving Championships and her team won the championships for three successive years.

Also during this time, she revived women's AAU Water Polo (dormant for 30 years) and won the first three National Championships. Her two goalies later went on to win Olympic medals: Marsha Smoke Jones (1964 Bronze, Kayaking) and Hall of Famer Micki King (1972 Gold, Diving). In 2002 she received the USA Water Polo Contributor Award for her role in promoting women's water polo.

In 1964, she became the woman's swimming coach at the University of Western Ontario in London, winning another two National Collegiate (Canadian) Championships and becoming the first to win successive National Team titles in the U.S. and Canada.

After two years, she followed her husband Buck Dawson to Fort Lauderdale to start the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She helped form the Hall of Fame Dames (Women's Auxiliary) serving a term as president. She served as stroke coach of the famed Pine Crest School Swim Team in Fort Lauderdale and was named Florida Coach of the Year in 1976. She coached her daughter Marilyn to an Olympic bronze medal.

In 1961, she was selected as coach to take the first-ever age group swim team over seas (Japan). Before that, she was manager/chaperone for AAU teams traveling to England and visiting resident coach for the Puerto Rican and Jamaican National Teams preparing for the Central American Games.

She has published sports books Age Group Swimming (1964), Diving for Teacher and Pupil (1968), and with her husband Buck, All About Dry Land Exercise for Swimming, Diving and Water Polo. She was the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the American Swimming Coaches Association in its second year of existence.

She is survived by her husband Buck, son Bruce Corson (MI), daughters Marilyn Corson Whitney (MI) and Connie Corson (NM), grand daughters Kathy and Beth Corson and brother Matt Mann III. She is predeceased by first husband Bruce Corson and her daughter Marci Dawson Williams.

Following cremation, a service will be held at Camp Ak-o-Mak. A scholarship fund has been set up in her name to send boys and girls to her camps. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: Chik-O-Mak Foundation, C/O Bob Duenkel, 340 Sunset Drive #205, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.