A Gift of Gratitude: Women’s Crew Shows Support, Love for Coach
There are no superstars in crew. Instead, the athletes that pull together, stay in synch, and work as a team usually come out on top. So when the Friends of Brown Women’s Crew decided to endow the assistant coaching chair, it was not surprising that a team spanning decades—rather than one VIP donor—answered the challenge.
In the early years of Brown women’s crew, the program, like many female varsity teams during the 70s and 80s, was under-funded. Acting as guests in the men’s boathouse, they were without a locker room and proper rowing equipment, using a retired men’s boat as their first shell.
A powerhouse program
Despite those obstacles, women’s crew became a powerhouse program, an achievement Kathryn Quadracci Flores, M.D. ’90 credits to long-time coaches John and Phoebe Murphy ’82 P’11. During the 20-plus years the Murphys have been at the program’s helm, the team has won seven NCAA National Championships—including the most recent in July 2011. Considering Phoebe works closely with the novices, every student-athlete during her tenure has learned and benefited from her tutelage.
“Phoebe is the one who teaches everyone how to pull, she teaches you guts,” said Flores. “John and Phoebe gave me the knowledge that I could dig down deep and do what I needed to do, be it on the water, in medical school or in surgical residency.”
An appreciation for life lessons
The Gratitude Chair is very unusual. We believe that Brown women’s crew changed us and we want other people to have the opportunity to experience that change as well.
— Jo Hannafin, M.D. ’77, P’12
Looking for a way to show her appreciation to the Murphys for the life lessons they instilled—while also helping ensure the longevity of Brown women’s crew—Flores decided to focus on endowing the assistant coaching chair. But instead of pledging the entire $500,000, she made it a crew effort. And to express their appreciation for their coach, they have named it the Gratitude Chair.
“The Gratitude Chair is very unusual,” said Jo Hannafin, M.D. ’77 P’12, who served on the endowment committee. “Kathryn is using it to show her gratitude to the program and to Phoebe as a person, but it also allows other people to show their own gratitude, be it for the physical activity, the networking or the friendships they developed which remain to this day. We believe that Brown women’s crew changed us and we want other people to have the opportunity to experience that change as well.”
Flores says her next goal is getting the head coaching chair endowed and hopefully one day seeing the entire program endowed. “You don’t have to have a big donor to endow your sport,” she said. “If you get the right group together, it’s possible.”