The December issue of PAW asked readers to write in with memories of crew at Princeton (From the Archives). Where to begin? Much of the writing about the first days of women’s crew focuses on the hardships: lack of facilities, equipment, or support from the men’s coaches. I would like to comment on the joys, some of which were stronger because of the deprivations, some of which are no doubt common to all who row.

In those early days, most of us were “walk-ons.” We had never rowed before; some of us had not been athletes before. But we found common purpose, endorphins, and companionship on Lake Carnegie. The physical and psychological benefits of two hours on the lake at the end of a hard day in classrooms got me through Princeton. The friendships formed with teammates as we strolled down to the boathouse or back up to campus in damp sweatsuits have endured for nearly five decades, and those bonds are stronger than the ones formed with roommates or classmates. The “career advice” from those teammates was more significant than anything gleaned from Career Services. Issues of feminism were explored more fully than could ever have happened at the Women’s Center. The mentorship of coach Al Piranian ’69, a selfless gentleman, was more meaningful than any interaction with professors. 

My affiliation with Princeton women’s crew was truly life-altering.