A lasting legacy has to start some place. In 1946, teenager Peter van Dijk represented the New York Athletic Club at the AAU national swimming championships in Columbus, Ohio. Robert Busbey was swimming for Cleveland’s Fenn College, the forerunner of Cleveland State University. A chance meeting before the meet wound up with the two young swimmers rooming together during the event and establishing a lifelong friendship.
An immigrant from the Netherlands born in Indonesia, van Dijk grew up in Venezuela as his father worked in the oil industry. He continued his swimming career at the University of Oregon and during a two-year stint in the U.S. Army.
He earned a Master’s Degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Busbey (1976 Greater Cleveland Sports hall of Fame) was on his way to becoming CSU Athletic Director. With van Dijk having established his design work with Cleveland’s Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building in the early 1960’s, it was natural that Busbey looked to van Dijk’s firm for CSU’s physical education building and natatorium in 1971.
Van Dijk’s design for the pool’s wide gutters, depth and lighting earned national acclaim as CSU went on to host national championships. He also won acclaim for his work at Blossom Music Center, Cain Park, John Carroll University and Ursuline College.
He also found the time during the past 40 years to compete in age-group swimming throughout the world. He won 50 national championships in freestyle and backstroke. In 2014, he won his 17th international gold medal as he brought home four golds at the Montreal Masters World Championship at age 85.
Northeast Ohio’s landscape bears the lasting legacy of the talented architect with a love for water.