Professor Jane Katz, John Jay’s long-time apostle of all things aquatic, has added yet another entry to her already gleaming résumé, as a recipient of the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
The annual award is presented to individuals whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement of physical activity, fitness, sports and nutrition-related programs nationwide. Recipients are selected on the basis of the span and scope of their careers, the estimated number of lives they have touched and the impact of their legacy.
Katz has taught swimming, aquatic fitness and water safety at John Jay since 1989, and at the City University since 1964. She has been honored worldwide for her unflagging devotion to the sport, with kudos that include an award of merit from the International Olympic Committee, a citation by Aquatics International magazine as one of the top 25 leaders in the aquatics industry, induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award from John Jay. Still, she says, the latest honor is “very, very special.”
“I remember in the third grade, we were challenged to do all these things to meet the standards of the President’s Council,” she recalled. “At the end, you got a badge and a pin. The President’s Council, obviously, has had a tremendous impact on me, though who could have foreseen that all these years later it would come to this?
“This award ranks as a huge culmination of the many things I’ve done,” Katz added.
Over the course of a career that shows no signs of slowing down, Katz has shared her love of the water — “babbled about bubbles,” as she puts it — to a broad array of groups, including the elderly, pregnant women, military veterans, triathletes and at-risk youths, to name a few. “The water is democratic, the great equalizer,” she said, adding proudly that many of her former students and protégés are now teaching, coaching and mentoring throughout CUNY and all over the world.
Crediting her passion to her first swim coach — her father Leon Katz, now 93 — Katz has spoken at the Pentagon and at the Army War College, led group stretching for 35,000 cyclists prior to Bike New York’s Five-Borough Bike Tour, dedicated pools and natatoriums on CUNY campuses and throughout the United States, and served as a consultant to the President’s Council. She is the author of 14 books on swimming, fitness and water exercise, and was a member of the synchronized swimming demonstration team at the summer Olympics in Tokyo in 1964. She still competes around the world in Masters-level swimming events, and typically returns home from such events with a neck full of medals.
She shows no sign of slowing down. “Swimming is for a lifetime,” said Katz. “It’s still interesting, and it’s still exciting. I see myself as instilling something good and wonderful and valuable in people.”