The health and fitness world is once again mourning the loss of a longtime leader. William “Bill” Austin, an IHRSA founding father and one of the architects of the modern health club industry, died on Friday, April 14.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Bill was a former rowing coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, before becoming a popular industry leader. He ran successful health clubs in New York for more than 45 years, including several Gold’s Gym franchises. His track record as a coach, health club operator, and promoter of active living earned him the nickname, the “Godfather of Fitness.”
As the head crew coach at Marist College, Bill recruited talented rowers, founded the women’s crew program, and won the Dad Vail Regatta—the largest collegiate regatta in the U.S.—in 1972. He also taught physical education and health, worked in the Alumni Relations and Development office, and served on the U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee.
In 1978, Bill left coaching to pursue his passion for fitness, becoming one of the founders of All Sport Fitness & Racquet Club. Shortly after opening the facility, Bill became a founding member of IHRSA, serving on the search committee that selected John McCarthy as executive director.