“I never wanted to do anything else,” Dr. Jane Katz said simply.
The swim instructor and competitor cannot imagine a different career path for herself. Her passion for the sport has led to thousands of medals and induction into several aquatic halls of fame over the years.
This month, two more prestigious awards are coming her way. On Sept. 16, Katz will join other honorees in Washington, D.C., to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Four days later, she’ll be inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in Scotland.
Katz’s career has been quite a journey.
For over 50 years, the swimmer extraordinaire has spent countless hours in the water. Since 1965, she’s taught aquatic fitness and safety at City University of New York, and has instructed firefighters and police in swimming techniques at John Jay College, also in NYC, since 1989. She’s also imparted aquatics skills to seniors, youths and veterans.
She loves watching people float for the first time, or a baby’s first pool experience.
“People say, ‘Beginning swim class must be boring for you.’ No!” Katz said emphatically.
As she likes to point out, “Water is the great equalizer. Whether you’re in wealthy or sparse urban communities … it refreshes and renews your spirit.” Indeed, she’s so connected to the water that hardly a day goes by that she doesn’t slip into a pool somewhere.
Small wonder, then, that she has attained fame in the swimming world. A competitor since her teens, she’s racked up awards at the Maccabiah Games in Israel; was on the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Performance Team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; was named a U.S. Masters Swimming All-American 33 times and won 10 USMS long-distance championships. She’s also been recognized as one of the most powerful people in swimming by Aquatics International, sister publication to Pool & Spa News. And that’s just a sampling of the honors that have been bestowed upon this native New Yorker in her 71 years.
She’s also written 14 books on swimming, fitness and water exercise, as well as instructive videos.
So, what is the origin of her desire to teach and swim? Certainly, family has been an influence. Her father taught her to swim, and both parents were college professors. Katz is the oldest of four, all of whom swim for fitness. Her late husband, Herbert Erlanger, was an attending anesthesiologist at a New York hospital and a staunch supporter of his swimmer wife.
This lifelong aquatics professional also loves to paint in her spare time, often depicting — surprise! — water. She enjoys music and dancing, and says friends always tell her to “cheer down.”
Indeed, her infectious enthusiasm for life comes through in everything she does.