Jan. 29, 2007
PULLMAN, Wash. - Debbie Pipher, who guided the Washington State University women's swimming program for 20 years, died at her Albany, Ore., home Jan. 24.
Pipher, 53, coached the Cougar women to an 85-62-1 dual meet record before resigning her position in the spring of 1997.
In 2001 Pipher moved to Albany and then worked at Oregon State University as the associate director of medical records at OSU student health.
"I was stunned to receive the call that Debbie had died," said longtime friend Marcia Saneholtz, WSU's senior associate director of athletics. "She was a very private person, and in keeping with her nature, we weren't aware of her health issues. Debbie was a woman of strong character who always put the best interests of her student-athletes first. She built a strong foundation for Cougar women's swimming and all who knew her are deeply saddened by her passing."
Pipher took over the Cougar swim program in the fall of 1977, replacing Wilma Harrington. The 1975 graduate of Illinois State spent the 1975-76 season as an assistant coach at Arizona State and the head coach of the Chandler Marlin's AAU swimming team before taking over the Cougar program. While at ASU she earned her master's degree in physical education.
While coaching she was a member of the All-Academic Committee, the College Swimming Coaches Association and the American Swimming Coaches Association. She also served as chair of the Pacific-10 Conference swimming committee in 1988-89.
Pipher's best seasons at WSU included a 5-0-1 dual meet mark in 1992 and back-to-back 8-4 and 8-2 records in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Her Cougar clubs finished eighth at the Pac-10 Championships four straight years, 1991-94.
"Debbie has guided Cougar swimming through periods of great change, starting with the impact of Title IX on women's collegiate programs," Saneholtz said at the time of her resignation from WSU. "Our swim team has traditionally been one of our most academically successful athletic programs."
A private family graveside service was held at the Yachats Cemetery on the Oregon Coast Jan. 28. A memorial service will be held Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at the United Presbyterian Church in Albany.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Faith in Practice, c/o the Fisher Funeral Home, 306 SW Washington, Albany, Ore., 97321. The organization is a non-profit Christian organization that travels from Corvallis to Guatemala to perform surgical operations to improve the quality of life of the Guatemalan people.
Born in Kokomo, Ind., and raised in Flossmoore, Ill., she was the daughter of William Phillip and Barbara Jeannette (Angus) Pipher. She is survived by her sister Pam Serbin of Phoenix, Ariz.