Alexandra Bertilsson ’26
‘As hard as it was, it was still an amazing experience,’ said rowing alum Janet Youngholm ’75

More than 1,000 alumni, representing seven decades of Princeton rowing, filled spacious tents on Poe Field, reuniting with old friends and meeting current student-athletes to mark the 150th anniversary of the program. The energy during the event was rowdy, noisy, and overwhelmingly celebratory.

“This is just astonishing,” said Peter Raymond ’68, gesturing to the roaring crowd. Raymond, a rower on the men’s heavyweight crew and a coach for the women’s open rowing crew of 1971, recalled Princeton rowing as an experience he felt lucky to be part of.

Throughout the night, alumni repeated themes of community, shared suffering, and lifelong relationships. Bob Baldwin ’76 and Wendell Colson ’76 both married women from the women’s open rowing crew — Margaret Sieck ’76 and Joanne Caspar ’76. Others stayed friends with the teammates from their crews to this day. 

The photo shows spectators on the side of Lake Carnegie, and a line of orange and blue tents.
Alexandra Bertilsson ’26
“We’re back,” said Carol Brown ’75, an Olympic medalist who helped found Princeton’s first competitive women’s open crew. “It’s 50 years since we started, and we have almost the whole team back. We’re still really close friends. We’ve lost teammates, we’ve had all kinds of things, but we’re there for each other for life.”

Brown, Janet Youngholm ’75, and Cathy Brown Peinhardt ’76 all remembered heading to practice at 6 a.m. every day, avoiding hostile male coaches who barred them from using the boathouse during the usual afternoon practice time. 

“We were paying the same tuition, and we were expected to wait before we could have full opportunities,” said Youngholm. “However, the bonding of that — the difficulties, the challenges — you had to constantly fight for things, you had to go to administrators, you had to collaborate with each other and encourage each other that this was worth it. As hard as it was, it was still an amazing experience.”

Returning rowers were on hand Sunday morning for the fall season’s finale, the Princeton Chase, along with other events throughout the weekend. At the Saturday dinner, men’s lightweight rowing marked its 100th anniversary, women’s open rowing celebrated its 50th, and women’s lightweight rowing celebrated its 25th. Alumni stressed the important changes that women like Brown and Youngholm achieved for Princeton’s rowing community.

“We benefitted from the women that came before us,” said Margot Wheeler ’87. “By the time we came, there was real parity that all three programs — women, lightweight men, and men — had equal equipment, resources, and support.”

The photo shows spectators amid a line of tents at the 150th anniversary celebration for Princeton Rowing.
Alexandra Bertilsson ’26
More recent alumni still gave the same account of rowing as a defining undergraduate experience. Molly Milligan ’20 is now a rowing coach at the University of Wisconsin, and she and former teammate Grace Miles ’19 expressed high hopes for the community going forward.

“It feels really special to be here with so many people who had similar experiences, and walked in our shoes before us,” said Miles. “I really want it to shed its kind of elitist reputation, because I think there’s a lot of benefits to rowing — that team nature, that grit you build up, and it’s really beautiful to be out in the water. I think it’s a shame that it has been exclusive for so long. I hope it continues to evolve.”