The History of Duke Men’s Rowing 1978 – 1998
In an insightful letter, Olympian rower John Moore (Trinity ’87) shares the story behind the establishment of Duke Men’s Crew:
Two Duke undergraduate women, who had rowed at Exeter, founded Duke Crew in 1978 with a donation from Harry Bergman, founder of The Record Bar, a former NC record store chain. Bergman donated the funds needed to construct the boathouse (originally one bay) and to buy a Pocock 8. At about the same time, the women got the Naval Academy in Annapolis to donate a wooden Pocock 8, Garafalo 4, and a rare stern-loaded Garafalo pair with, all worn-out artifacts. At that point, the men had no team and no boats.
In the fall of 1980, Jim Farrell, Trinity ’84, arrived with a fervent rowing desire and with great coaching from TC Williams High School’s Charlie Butt Sr. Before Jim had a chance to scoure Duke and build its first men’s team, he frequently rowed with the women as Duke’s sole male oarsman. Jim soon assembled a team and borrowed boats. During one of Duke’s first big races, the Southen IRA Championships in Oak Ridge, TN, their borrowed boat lost its rudder and swept lanes one through six for most of the 2000 meter race.
By the fall of 1982, Jim had recruited Dick Dickson, Trinity ’86, Chris Lamb, Trinity ’86, David Lund, Trinity ’85, and others. Together, they pitched in to purchase a dilapidated Schoenbroad 8 from Boston University for much more than it was worth. This group in turn recruited me in the fall of 1983, as well as Jim Blitch, Trinity’ 87, Norman Vickers, Trinity ’87, Joe Abrams, Trinity ’86, Trux Dole, Trinity ’87, Paul Groff, Trinity ’88, and others. For my four years at Duke, we rowed that warped sponge of a Schoenbroad until the wheels fell off. We beat Chapel Hill and UVA men’s programs in that boat. After my freshman year, I sold my 1964 Mustang to raise funds to buy a second Schoenbroad, with the promise from my teammates that they would drive me to practice. Our coach, Randy Schweickart, Duke Engineering Graduate School ’87, hailed from a successful MIT lightweight team (Head of Charles medalist) and stuck with us for those years, despite no coaching pay, his wife a full-time student in the Duke Medical School, and demands of an infant daughter at home. We took several second and third place finishes at the SIRAs and won the Augusta Invitational. We also placed fourth at the Dadvails, without Jim Blitch, who, on the weekend before, had injured himself by steering our pair into Ohio State’s freshmen eight.
In the spring of my junior year, I was summoned by the Development office to the Duke Cancer Center to meet Ery Kehaya, whose father founded The Standard Commercial Tobacco Company. Mr. Kehaya, who had rowed at St. Paul’s School and Yale before serving in WW II and going on to become Standard Commercial’s Chairman/CEO, asked me for our equipment needs. At that meeting, he raised my $1,000 oar request to $100,000 for oars, boats, and more. Overnight, the University was informed that Duke Crew, care of me, was getting $100,000 in shares of Standard Commercial stock. The next day, the Athletic Department questioned who I was and what Duke Crew was. The University then hired two administrators to supervise Duke Sports Clubs, as well as to watch me with such a relatively large number of Standard Commercial shares. I elected to divide the funds from the shares evenly between the men’s and women’s teams. Together, we bought a few fiberglass boats, set up a depreciation schedule, and built the side wings of the boathouse with our own hands. That money kept the men’s and the women’s programs alive well into the 1990’s. Mr. Keyhaya died in 1998, long after that fateful hospital visit and after he had lived a long, successful, and eventful life. That donation transformed Duke Crew.
History from 1998 to 2004
In 1998, Duke Crew split up into a Varsity Women’s Program (NCAA D1 Rowing) and a Club Men’s Program. Manuscripts are available about the split in the Rubinstein Rare Manuscripts Library in Perkins.
History from 1998 to 2004 by Alfredo Garcia
I arrived to Duke in the fall of 2004 and started rowing with Scott and Sophie (I forget their last names, but older rowers will remember it). The team had a solid V4+ that medaled in SIRAs and in Dad Vails (if I remember correctly). Our team was in transition at that point since Scott and Sophie were on their way out. We were also in transition because at the end of that 04-05 school year, all the novices except for one (ie: me) quit. After that year, I was basically the only member of my year, which made things a bit difficult.
We hired Suzette Lugo to be the coach of the team at that point, and she was the head coach through Kasey Geibel’s tenure as president. Our spring breaks were still in Tampa at the time. Paul Harvin was the novice coach, and he stayed on until I graduated in spring 08. The team was small and struggling in those years. We were trying to build numbers mainly. When I took on the presidency in the fall of 06 (starting Jan 07), my goal was to leave the team with new boats and oars. We were fundraising by any means possible: selling carnations (delivered to your door!) for Valentine’s Day, referreeing intramural basketball games, selling gear, etc. We tried everything, but we ultimately were able to buy new oars and a new Resolute 8+.