Legendary Grinnell College Coach Passes Away
GRINNELL, Iowa – The Grinnell College community lost a great friend Saturday morning with the death of Ray Obermiller.
Obermiller, Professor Emeritus of Physical Education at the college and a highly successful swimming and diving coach for the Pioneers for nearly three decades, was inducted into the Grinnell Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural 1995 class.
“Obe” enjoyed an illustrious 29-year, 20-championship career as swimming coach. A Grinnell staff member since 1966, he had his first conference title team in 1970. After that, his men’s teams took the Midwest Conference crown 16 more times, including a string of eight in a row. Obermiller-coached women’s teams were also successful, winning the league title in three of his final four seasons as coach.
Obermiller retired from his fulltime teaching and coaching position in 1995. He had continued involvement with the Pioneer swimming and diving program until recent years by serving as an assistant coach.
Obermiller was born in Clinton, Iowa, and attended Iowa State University, where his performance as a diver helped the Cyclones win the Big Seven championship in 1951.
He received his master’s degree from the University of South Dakota while coaching and advising at Sioux City Central High School for 11 years. Sioux also named him to its Athletics Hall of Fame.
Obermiller wore many hats for most of his Grinnell career. While coaching, he also was Grinnell’s first director of academic advising and testing, a position he held for 25 years.
“Obe” was proud of his athletes’ achievements, both in the water and in the classroom. Eighteen of his swimmers won All-America honors by placing at NCAA national meets while two divers were national champions.
Funeral arrangements are pending, and more information will be posted as it becomes available.