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Don Sammons

Don Sammons, 90, passed away peacefully at his home in Gilbert, Arizona, with loved ones by his side, on Thursday evening, November 24, 2022; after a brief illness. Don had a successful career as a collegiate athletics coach, serving as head coach for the University of Illinois Swimming and Diving program for 22 years, from 1971-72 season through 1992-93. Born in Chicago, Illinois on June 6, 1932, Don joined the swim team at Lindblom High School during his senior year and earned a swimming scholarship to DePaul University. After two years, he transferred to the University of Illinois, where he swam during his senior season, and graduated in 1955 with a degree in Physical Education. Following the completion of a military tour in Korea, Don returned to University of Illinois, where he served as an assistant swimming coach, and earned his Master’s degree in physical education in 1960. After graduation, Don coached Thornridge High School for eleven seasons, winning 11 consecutive South Suburban League championships, and finished fourth in the state championships three times. Don’s impressive tenure as head coach at Illinois followed; where he led the men’s program for ten seasons; and in 1980 expanded his role to include the successful leadership of both the men’s and women’s programs for another 13 seasons. Illinois achieved great results and many successes during Don’s leadership. Every school record in men’s swimming was broken; Don coached seven All-Americans, and the Illinois squad members qualified for 46 NCAA championship events. Don’s personal recognitions included being named the Illinois Collegiate Coach of the Year in 1983; and receiving the John Newman Award for contributions to the sport of swimming in Illinois. Don was a member of the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame; and chaired the conference of swimming coaches organization for four years.

Don is survived by his loving wife, Marilyn (McCall), who recently celebrated 64 years of marriage! Family includes daughter Sharen Sammons, son Mike Sammons (Jackie); granddaughters Katie Sammons (Julius Yu), and Keara Rupp (Galen); and great grandchildren Emmie, Grayson, Jaden, and Lucas Rupp. Following Don’s retirement in 1993, Don and Marilyn established a winter home in Arizona, and enjoyed traveling to visit with family and friends. They loved spending summers at their place on Kentucky Lake, and maintained a home in Champaign for many years. Don was a true motivator, a terrific optimist, and was tireless in providing positive encouragement, not only to his students and colleagues, but also to family, and friends. He lived the example of practicing continuous improvement, and stressed the importance of ‘always doing your best’. Don coached, taught, mentored, and encouraged with passion to the end. A private remembrance ceremony for Don will be scheduled at date to be determined later. Donations in Don’s memory can be made to the University of Illinois Swim and Dive program’s booster club;; or to a charity of your choice.


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