Ocior Euro

September 23, 2008

Rowing Association president Drew Schreiber '86

Last weekend, Georgetown celebrated 50 years of rowing on the Hilltop. We titled it Never Row Weekend. It was the culmination of one year of preparation and research on the modern history of the crew and endless hours of outreach and event planning by volunteers and staff. To say it went well would understate the outcome of this splendid jubilee. Congrats to rowing alumni president Drew Schreiber '86 and to Hoyas Unlimited assistant director Mara Vandlik '07 for their good work.

Now, as well-versed as I am in the past 50 years of crew, I have a confession to make: I have never rowed.


Presentation of the colors to President DeGioia by student rowers: Captains and Visitation grads

Nevertheless, I learned crew from such stalwarts as Tony Johnson, John Courtin '70, Mike Vespoli '68, Fred Pennekamp '70, John Devlin '71. The list goes on. But most of what I know about crew, I learned from Greg Carroll '71, who died nineteen years ago this month. He was my colleague at work and a true friend.

Greg lived his virtues: loyalty, sacrifice, commitment, selfless service. And, ever the coach, he passed them on to others, including me, through example.

When the weekend ended and I had the opportunity to meet or reconnect with many of the people who have lived the history of Georgetown rowing, I realized that our tribute to crew was actually a thinly disguised homage to virtue. Greg would have loved it.

Many favorite moments of the anniversary weekend will remain with me but one episode stands out. Like the sport itself, it came from the students. Jack Carlson, one of the recently-named captains of the heavyweights, made an historic presentation to University president Jack DeGioia before the assembled mass of returning alumni and friends. His words are quoted below:


President DeGioia, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Most Georgetown students sooner or later are told that the Georgetown colors of blue and gray were chosen to represent the union of the north and south following the Civil War.

Then, it is always a delight to learn that it was students who selected the colors. Not professors. Not administrators. Not the Jesuits. Students!

Then, we are further gladdened to discover that the students who chose the colors were actually Georgetown rowers who wanted to differentiate their racing shells from other schools during regattas.

All of this is true.

In the Georgetown College Journal published in 1876, there is a reported account of the newly formed boat club. It reads in part as follows:

"In a meeting of the boat club on Monday, May 15th, a Committee on colors was appointed, consisting of the chairman, Thomas Kernan, Clement Manly, John Agar, Eugene McCarthy, and Columbus O'Donnell. These gentlemen have decided on Blue and Gray as appropriate colors for the Club and expressive of the feeling of unity that exists between the Northern and Southern boys of the College."

Less well known is a story found in a subsequent entry in the College Journal. It relates how the "girls" of the Convent of the Visitation presented a boat flag as a gift to the Crew with a letter that read in part:

"Please accept this slight testimonial of our esteem and gratitude. May this little flag ever wave over true and noble hearts! May success ever attend you, and while old Potomac echoes back the shout of merry voices, may it carry your bark -- `swifter than the wind' -- down its rippling waters. With regards, THE YOUNG LADIES OF THE ACADEMY."

The Journal account goes on to describe the gift: "The flag is really very handsome. It is a silken pennon, the upper half blue, the lower gray. Above is painted the inscription `Ocior Euro' (Swifter than the wind.) Below, the letters G.U.B.C., Georgetown University Boat Club. The pole is of walnut, surmounted by an eagle."

The boat flag eventually found a permanent home with the University president where it decorated his office for many years. Sadly, there is no record of what became of this flag.

President DeGioia, on this occasion, we, the most recent in the long line of Hoya rowers, join with our predecessors here. On behalf of every Hoya who has ever pulled an oar on the Potomac, we are proud to present to you, a replica flag to replace the original lost to the past. Following our captains in our procession are three Hoya rowers, two current students and one alumna, all graduates of the Convent of the Visitation, to present to you our replacement flag.

As the young ladies of Visitation wrote to us 132 years ago: May success ever attend you. May this little flag ever wave over true and noble hearts!

We have not forgotten. Never Row!


Leave it to students to remind us of the earlier origins of the crew and the story of Georgetown's colors. Well done! The future of rowing at Georgetown is in secure hands.

Now I can get back to blogging.



Founders of modern rowing: the class of '61 takes to the water once again

Women's rowing coaches Glenn Putryae and Jim O'Connor joined some of the pioneers of women's rowing for the reception on Friday evening

Rowers from the class of 1966 were well represented





PJM - View From The Hilltop



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September 10
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September 15
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