Jane Katz, EdD, is a competitive swimmer, swimming educator, and professor of health and physical education at the City University of New York since 1964. Dr. Katz’ interest in teaching aquatic sports was inspired by her father, Leon, who learned to swim after nearly drowning as a teenager and went on to teach swimming at a local YMCA for the next 50 years. She describes water as “the great equalizer,” and her father’s experiences left her with a desire to pay it forward and help others find the same freedom and empowerment in swimming. She holds a Bachelor of Science in health and physical education from the City College of New York and a Master of Arts in organizational administration from New York University, and went on to pursue a Master of Education in therapeutic recreation for aging in 1972. Dr. Katz completed her studies in 1978 with a Doctor of Education in gerontology from the Teachers College at Columbia University, and is an American Red Cross-certified water safety instructor.
Her first foray into education was as a high school health and physical education teacher at Seward Park High School in the 1960s, and in 1964 she moved into higher education as a professor of physical education for Bronx Community College. She left Bronx Community College in 1989 to teach health and physical education at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with the City University of New York, and would remain with the school until 2019. Among her proudest accomplishments are K.A.R.E. and W.E.T.S for VETS, two programs created to offer youth exiting the juvenile justice system and veterans leaving the military an opportunity to readjust to civilian life and develop resiliency and life skills through swimming.
Widely recognized as one of the leading voices in aquatic fitness, Dr. Katz serves as a reviewer for the American Red Cross’ water safety and swimming guidelines and has spoken on a broad range of topics related to fitness, aging, and disability for audiences including the 2005 CUNY Conference, Stanford University, the Disability International Foundation, and the Fifty-Plus Fitness Association. She is the author of dozens of books and journal articles and has been featured as a subject matter expert in instructional videos for more than three decades, with recent works including “Swim Basics” in 2009, “Drug-Free Healing” in 2008, and “Swimming for Total Fitness: A Complete Program for Swimming Stronger, Faster, and Better,” which has been in continuous publication since 1981.
A trailblazer in competitive synchronized swimming, Dr. Katz competed in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, is an 11-time Maccabiah Games gold medalist, and was a member of the inaugural United States Masters All-American All-Star Team, where she continues to serve as vice chair. She remains an internationally recognized and record-setting Master’s-level athlete in 400m and 800m freestyle events, backstroke, butterfly, and fin swimming, and was named one of the Top 10 All-Time United States Masters Swimming competitors. Since 1957, Dr. Katz has served as captain of the United States Maccabiah Games swim team, and in 2018, she was honored as a Legend of the Maccabiah for her groundbreaking history as both a leader and a competitor in the event.
Dr. Katz is the recipient of dozens of awards and accolades for her contributions to increasing the visibility of aquatic fitness as a sport and a therapeutic modality, including a 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition and induction into the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and she is the namesake of the United States Water Fitness Association’s greatest honor, the Dr. Jane Katz Cross-Training Award. She is a longtime member of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Update Your Medicine Committee and the National Council on Women’s Health and has served as co-chair of the United States Committee Sports for Israel’s Women’s Swimming Committee since 1979. Dr. Katz considers teaching others to swim successfully to be the most rewarding part of her career, describing each student’s first moment learning to stay afloat as “priceless,” adding that she feels privileged to have had the chance to teach swimming for more than five decades.