men’s crew team on the Raratan river


Over the past century and a half, the men’s crew team has known considerable intercollegiate athletic success. The legacy includes national team members, world-record holders, and Olympic medal-winners. Crew alumni celebrated the team’s 150th birthday in March on the College Avenue Campus.

Nick Romanenko

When the first Rutgers oarsmen dipped their rowing shells into the Raritan River, Abraham Lincoln was trying to figure out how he might preserve a more perfect union. That 1864 crew team even preceded the Rutgers footballers whose conquest of Princeton, 6–4, on November 6, 1869, is regarded as the first college football game. Over the ensuing 150 years, the men’s crew team created an epoch of intercollegiate athletic success at Rutgers.

That legacy includes a roster of national team members, world-record holders, and Olympic medal-winners. Chuck Logg RC’52 and Tom Price  won gold in the pairs competition at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. The four-man boat that finished third in the 1993 world championship contained three Rutgers rowers: Sean Hall RC’89, James Neil LC’90, and Jeff Klepacki LC’90. A year later, Hall, Klepacki, and Robert Kaehler CC’86 qualified for the national team’s eight-man boat, which won the 1994 world championship in world-record time. In 2012, Kaehler and Klepacki were inducted into the U.S. Rowing Hall of Fame.

Klepacki is among the most decorated Rutgers’ rowers: an 11-time national team member, three-time Olympian, and three-time world champion. Arriving at Rutgers, Klepacki received a $2,500 scholarship—half the funds allotted to men’s crew, he says. “Kids join the rowing program because of everything else, not because of the financial reward. That’s the last thing on your mind.”

The team’s success has bred loyal alumni. When the team became a club sport seven years ago, former rowers Henry Bartels and Bruce Nicholas ENG’49 seeded a coaches’ endowment, now worth $2.4 million. Stephen Wagner RC’76, UCNB’90 as coached crew at Rutgers for 31 years. “The way the alumni responded was not to complain about it,” says former rower Tom McKay RC’69, “but to do something about it.”

More than 500 friends of the crew team, including scores of former rowers, convened in March for a 150-year anniversary banquet at Brower Commons on the College Avenue Campus. “I saw people I hadn’t seen since I graduated 38 years ago,” Wagner says. “It was like you had seen them yesterday.”

Wagner has lost none of his passion for the sport. “We do all this other office stuff, like fundraising,” he says, “just so we can spend a couple hours a day with some of the finest people you’ll ever meet.”