This particular meet was different than any other for the Kempfs, though, as after more than 30 years of guiding collegiate swimmers, this may have been their last as coaches.
Asbury University announced Monday that Gary Kempf — who became athletic director at Asbury in 2005 and who helps coach the swimming and diving teams along with his wife, head coach Dorothy Kempf — will be leaving the school at the end of the semester to become the athletic director at Sterling (Kan.) College.
“Six years ago we felt a calling to come to Asbury and to help build a stronger athletic department,” said Gary Kempf, who was an athletic administrator at the University of Kansas before heading to Asbury. “We feel truly blessed for our time at Asbury and the opportunity to work with so many great people, great coaching staffs and the opportunity to mentor and care for students, especially. But as we did six years ago, we feel called back to Kansas.”
The Kempfs met in Kansas, where Gary was a swimmer (1972-76) and coach (1976-2000) for the Jayhawks. Dorothy, who remains the only woman swimmer from Emporia (Kan.) State University to be named All-American, coached elite club swim teams after graduation and was an elementary school teacher in Lawrence, Kan., for 13 years. The Kempfs have family in Kansas, as well, including their son Paul, who recently graduated from Sterling. They also have a daughter, Faith, who attends Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.
“It will be difficult to leave Asbury, for sure. We’ve had significant growth — going from 124 student-athletes to more than 300 — and we’ve upgraded all of our facilities,” Gary Kempf said. “When people come to the Asbury campus, the first thing they say is ‘This is wonderful.’
“The foundation at Asbury is very strong, we feel we’ve been a part of growing something very special. There is no doubt it will keep going in a positive direction.”
Gary Kempf said he would be glad to be involved in whatever way is needed to assist in finding a new athletic director and helping with a smooth transition.
“It’s hard to quantify all of the positive ways in which Gary and Dorothy have impacted the athletic program, and the University campus at-large, over the past several years,” said Dr. Jon Kulaga, Provost at Asbury University. “The spiritual, emotional and leadership values they have helped instill in our student-athletes are those intangible components that will be greatly missed, as they have been greatly valued.”
That time spent with Asbury student-athletes is something Gary Kempf said he and his wife will forever cherish.
“Though our overall winning percentages at Asbury are over .500, the outcomes of the games isn’t what is important,” Gary Kempf said. “Athletics can be used as a platform to minister to many people and for us, it has been an opportunity to be with kids we learned to love. At Asbury, we’ve certainly felt blessed to have a chance to share a life with them.”