University of Rochester

Rochester Review
January-February 2010
Vol. 72, No. 3

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In Memoriam

Tribute Anne Ross Fairbanks: ‘Doll-fin’ Mentor

I knew Anne Ross Fairbanks as “Miss Ross” when she taught swimming and diving at Rochester in the late 1950s. She left the year after I came, moving to Troy, N.Y., to marry Andrew Fairbanks. But there were many of us who felt privileged to have this warm, intelligent, talented woman as our instructor.

Miss Ross was an assistant professor of physical education and the faculty advisor to the Doll-fins synchronized swimming group from 1957 to 1959. She was also known among swimmers and divers from around the globe as one of the world’s best women divers and as the U.S. National Springboard champion from 1940 to 1944. Recognized for her gymnastic ability and grace, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale in 1984.

She welcomed all swimmers in the Doll-fins regardless of ability, and it was one of the most enjoyable groups I have ever been in. Her creativity made it a lot of fun.

Each year the Doll-fins put on a show. One year for the finale Miss Ross had us all wear red, white, or blue fluorescent bathing caps and float in formation to form an American flag. The overhead lights were turned off, and to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” those of us on the end of the flag kicked up a big splash and propelled the formation across the pool.

A year or so after leaving Rochester, she visited with her newborn baby girl in her arms. It was unbelievable that this incredibly trim woman had been pregnant. She was in town to conduct a teaching clinic for diving instructors in the Rochester area. I had the good fortune to be the beginning diver chosen to demonstrate the simple dives.

Miss Ross died peacefully June 18, 2009, at age 85.

Thank you, Miss Ross, for some fond memories.

—Carol Riesz Nielsen ’62

Nielsen was a member of the Doll-fins synchronized swimming group from 1958 to 1962 and took courses with Fairbanks in Red Cross life saving and water safety.