St. Philip’s College Brings Back Swimming Lessons

May 22, 2024

SPC Marketing & Strategic Communications

Photo from the 1974 St. Philip's College 75th Anniversary Yearbook.

The historical significance of swimming lessons for St. Philip’s College (SPC) dates back to Segregation, when it was one of the few places where African Americans had access to community pools. William Allen Hudgins, for whom the college health and wellness center is named, taught 3,000 Black children from San Antonio’s Eastside how to swim.

During his hiring interview in 1949, then president, Artemisia Bowden, told him, “One day, we’re going to have a swimming pool here.”

Hudgins, who loved to swim, had grown up around the water, and this became a selling point for his employment at the college.

St. Philip’s College Director of Institutional Advancement Dr. Sharon Crockett-Ray shared her experience as a ten-year-old taking swim lessons with Hudgins.

“In 1969, my siblings and I used to walk to St. Philip’s College in our swimwear carrying a towel and 75 cents our mom had given us to eat a hamburger and fries from the cafeteria. Coach Hudgins was a gentle giant, but he was serious about teaching us. I think he knew how important it was for us to learn how to swim. He even taught some kids how to be junior lifeguards,” said Crockett-Ray. 

Even today, differences in access to swimming lessons continue to be a barrier for African Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning death rates for Black Americans were 28% higher in 2021 than in 2019, and 63% of Black adults have never taken a swimming lesson. While Segregation and lack of access are no longer barriers, the legacy of each still impacts the community.  

This summer, swimming lessons will return to the college as part of the Kids’ Academy summer camps, in partnership with the YMCA. Lessons will be held on campus in the William Allen Hudgins Health and Wellness Facility during the month of June and July.

To learn more about the Kids’ Academy and for a full schedule, click here.

Image Source: Steven M. Zuniga