Athletics & Recreation
Dr. Gary Dilley
In just seven years, Gary Dilley went from learning to swim in Huntington’s Lake Clare to standing on a podium in Tokyo, wearing an Olympic silver medal around his neck.
He was not the first champion swimmer in his family. Gary’s father, John, learned to swim from Huntington’s legendary YMCA coach Glen Hummer, and earned a YMCA national championship and later an NCAA title as a swimmer at Purdue University. When the time came, John took his boys, Gary and Andy, to learn the sport from Hummer. From eighth grade through high school, Gary earned 10 national individual YMCA titles, helping the Huntington YMCA to three straight national team championships.
After weighing many college offers, Dilley decided to attend Michigan State University. At that time, freshmen were ineligible for college competition, but Dilley was still eligible for the 1964 U.S Olympic trials, where he won the 200 backstroke and a berth on the American team.
At the 1964 Games in Tokyo, the 19-year-old Dilley and Princeton’s Jed Graef set the pace in the 200 backstroke competition. Through the early heats, Dilley and Graef traded setting new Olympic records. In the championship race, the two pulled away from the field. At the finish, Graef used every bit of his 6-foot-6 frame to edge the 6-foot-1 Dilley at the wall, winning in a time of 2:10.3 with Dilley a fraction behind in 2:10.5. Both swimmers eclipsed the world record.
Dilley returned to Michigan State and was dominant at the collegiate level. He won the 100 and 200 backstroke events three straight years in the Big Ten championships, and was NCAA champion in both events in 1965 and 1966. He was undefeated in his college career until the final meet of his senior year, where Indiana’s Charlie Hickox edged him in the two backstroke events at the 1967 NCAA finals.
Dilley finished his college career as a 12-time All-American. He earned eight Big Ten titles and won two gold medals in the 1967 World University Games in Budapest, Hungary. As a senior at MSU, Dilley was chosen to receive the school’s Chester Brewer Leadership Award.
After graduation from Michigan State, Dilley decided to forgo a chance to swim in the 1968 Olympics in favor of attending Indiana University to pursue a degree in dentistry. Dilley and his wife, Diane, also a dentist, moved to North Carolina where Gary taught for eight years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He opened a private practice specializing in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics in 1983 and retired in 2012. Gary and Diane remain active with the North Carolina Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Dilley was inducted into the Michigan State athletic Hall of Fame in 1995, and was presented with the Bill Heusner Service Award in 2003 for his continued support of the MSU swimming program.