Dr. Robert Clayton
Dr. Robert Clayton

Aquatics expert, teacher, author and mentor Robert Clayton Jr., Ed.D, died on Oct. 17, 2016. He was 85.

“He had such a diverse background," said Robert Ogoreuc, assistant professor and aquatic director of physical education at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Penn. "It was always a pleasure to be able to talk with him and get his views. He’ll be dearly missed,"

Clayton was founder of Aquatic Partners, an agency certifying aquatics directors and pool managers.

He authored or co-authored numerous textbooks, including Aquatic Instruction (1970); Teaching Aquatics and Aquatic Specialist (1981); Professional Aquatic Management (1989) and a series of certification manuals in the 2000s, such as Certified Aquatic Manager, Certified Aquatic Director, Certified Aquatic Administrator.

He remained active in the industry into his 80s. His 2015 output included Professional Aquatic Management, Aquatic Professional and Certified Aquatic Director for Aquatic Partners.

His works were definitive guides for young professionals entering the field.

"His 1989 Professional Aquatic Management text was the first aquatic leadership text that I owned as an aquatic director," said Leland Yarger, aquatics coordinator and kinesiology instructor at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. "He was a great guy and was always advancing the field."

He left a lasting impact on those he taught, some of whom rose to prominence as industry leaders. Early in her career, for instance, Starfish Aquatics Institute Founder Jill White served with Clayton on the board of the Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics.

"Dr. Clayton was one of my early mentors... and was instrumental in shaping my career in aquatics," White said. "He was a gifted educator and entrepreneur who was always looking to help others improve and create opportunity."

Clayton's career in aquatics was indeed diverse. He was a director of college aquatic programs, president of a private aquatic management company, president of two national aquatic organizations, Red Cross instructor, and a high school and college swimming coach.

Robert Clayton was born in Fargo, N.D. on May 26, 1930, to Robert and Lillian Clayton. A lifelong passion for aquatics began in Longview, Wash., where Clayton was a decorated swimmer, winning state championships in high school and earning varsity letters at the University of Washington.

He would continue to swim competitively throughout his military service, and at the Master's level while pursuing a doctoral degree in educational administration. In 1959, Clayton married fellow educator Joyce Carlson of Stratton, Neb. His last teaching position was as professor and chairman of the physical education department at Colorado State University from 1975 to1980.

Clayton's love of swimming and education culminated in Aquatic Partners. For more than 20 years he conducted an annual Aquatic Management course for the American Swimming Coaches Association.

The fact that his children were all competitive swimmers, teachers and coaches was a source of personal pride for him.

Besides his wife of 57 years, Clayton is survived by his children, Lisa, Lora, Robert, and Lynn, along with many grandchildren.