For a boat to glide across the water, each rower must pull their oar in unison. Only collective, synchronized power can propel the team to victory. In many ways, the sport prepares you for the community of supporters who invest in UCSB Rowing. Whether they entered the water as a student or later, UCSB Rowing supporters make the experience of every rower an adventure.
UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee Claudia Webster ’75 and her husband, Alec ’76, participated in the team’s first decade. Alec rowed, and Claudia helped run logistics as part of the Shell and Oar women’s group. Twelve years ago, the Websters realized they could help student-athletes compete while enriching the community by offering scholarships to students who mentor elementary schoolers. Several rowers have decided to become teachers thanks to the Webster Mentorship Program.
“Everything Alec and I do with our philanthropy is about community — not just the community of students, but the community the university inhabits,” said Claudia. “We need everybody to get involved, including young alumni who will realize what the program has done for them.”
A few self-taught men in borrowed boats began UCSB Rowing in 1965. Thanks to generations of alumni and friends committed to the program, the co-ed team has grown to over 120 athletes. Some have medaled at national championship regattas and even gone on to the Olympics with the help of supporters like Caroline Robillard and her partner, UC Santa Barbara physics professor Roger Freedman, the “unofficial parents” of UCSB Rowing.
“They know that we’re going to be there,” said Caroline. “They will talk to us about rowing and come to us for advice. I know we’re going to be involved in their lives as long as we’re alive.” Beyond mentorship, Caroline and Roger helped the rowing team acquire state-of-the-art boats, including a vessel that will be donated to the team after an alumni Olympic hopeful competes.
“It’s an honor to watch them use the boats that they named for us,” said Roger. “Hands on the Roger, hands on the Caroline!”
You might also hear a coxswain yell ‘push ten’ or ‘cadence’ or ‘catching a crab,’ which is when an oar blade snags in the water — sometimes launching a rower up. John Sanger fell in love with the details of the sport 25 years ago.
When he began supporting UCSB Rowing as a community member, boats would get weathered and sometimes damaged. In addition to his endowment support, John contributed to a second boathouse at Lake Cachuma.
“Humanity, work effort, camaraderie: From what I see, the members of the rowing team are the best examples of good citizenship that UC Santa Barbara could have,” said John. “If the endowment grows, it will make rowing even more accessible.”
No one understands the bond of rowers better than Alumni Association Board President and UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee Joel Raznick ’81. Joel looked up to his cousin Steve, a Gaucho and oarsmen in the early 1970s. When Steve passed away unexpectedly shortly after graduation, Joel’s aunt and uncle, Cherie H’88 and Aaron H’88 Raznick, got involved in his honor and memory.
The Raznicks dedicated the first boat in Steve’s name in 1975. Since then, there’s always been a “Raznick” shell on the water. Joel continued the tradition with the encouragement of Aaron, a former UC Santa Barbara Foundation trustee.
“I highly recommend that alumni stay involved with UC Santa Barbara,” said Joel. “The university is comprised of everyone who has ever taught, worked or gone there. It’s a continual community, but it happens on a one-on-one basis.”
Gifts to the team are the wind at the rowers’ backs. UCSB Rowing Vice President Coleman McGrath ’20 feels honored to represent the UCSB Rowing community in shared leadership with President Kelly Garvey ’20.
“We appreciate how much donors give, but their impact is more than financial,” said Coleman. “When they come to our races, seeing them gives us an extra boost when we’re out on the water trying to hang on for life. Their presence is always felt.”