Fall Alumni Day ’13

On Saturday, the 23rd of November, the Aztec Navy – past and present – got together on campus for a Fall Alumni Day (and later at the football game = a great, come-from-behind victory over Boise State) for a number of events. First on the calendar was the end-of-the-fall “Erg-A-Thon” by the team. This fundraiser involved races on the ergs in four categories = Lightweight Varsity, Lightweight Novice, Heavyweight Varsity, and Heavyweight Novice. So that nobody was left out, there were prizes for everybody – T-shirts and Aztec Rowing hats and so forth – with the winners getting “first pick” of them. The team’s goal is to raise about $100 per person – which, with such a large team, would total about $8,000! [The team still picks up all of the operations expenses … as it has since the days of Del Beekley = travel, entry fees, racing garb, truck rentals, housing costs, launch fees, etc.]

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Above: The christening of the shells at Fall Alumni Day.

Then, on campus – right in front of the brand new, $120,000,000.00 Student Union (not yet open) – three boats were christened. Unlike the four shells christened at the Crew Classic in April, which were purchased through the generosity of major gifts from several philanthropic alums = Scott Petry, Josh Gruenberg, and Chris Carlson = these shells were purchase by the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation with funds generated during the 2012-2013 fundraising campaign. On other words, everyone who donated during the year that ended in May participated in the purchases.

In the Spring of ’13, with the ever-present assistance of Scott Petry, two matching Resolute racing 4s were purchased from the University of California at Berkeley. These “almost new,” elite racing shells are matched boats. They were purchased not only so that we would have two boats for racing at the highest levels but also so that seat racing in the future would be conducted with precision and fairness. Since the Rowing Foundation had purchased them, and not one individual or group of individuals, the Board of Directors of the Foundation was left with the enviable task of deciding who from Aztec rowing history should be honored by having their names placed on the shells. Several months ago, it was unanimously decided that the two shells should be named after Dave Sheeron and Andy Olson.

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Above: The newly christened “Andy Olson” … with Andy in front, to the left of the picture, in blue jeans. Around Andy and the shell are members of crews in which he raced and Aztecs who he coached in his long, illustrious career for SDSU.

Surrounded by friends of Andy’s from his days on the Aztec Crew, Dan Smith (of the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation Board of Directors) delivered the presentation for the christening of the shell in Andy’s honor. As noted by Dan, Andy Olsen has “done it all” for San Diego State Men’s Crew over the years. As an undergraduate, he rowed for four years, earning a seat in the Varsity boat in just his first year at State. By the time he was a Senior, Andy was so well respected by the members of the team that he was not only elected Captain, but was honored with the H. Del Beekley Award = given every year to the Aztec who most exemplifies the qualities of “Loyalty, Proficiency, and Spirit” that were personified in Del Beekley himself.

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Above: Andy Olson – Varsity rower, Team Captain, H. Del Beekley Award Winner, Coach, Boatman, and Donor – christening his namesake.

After finishing off his career as an oarsman, Andy volunteered several years of his life, ‘giving back’ to the team (in the form of his time and energies) as the Novice Coach. An entirely new generation of Aztecs was brought into the sport and onto the team through his mentoring and motivating efforts. After moving on into private life and into his career in the computer industry, Andy has continued on to support the team in several ways. Possessing a knowledge of boats and shell repair, Andy has regularly volunteered to fix boats and to patch “dings” over the course of more than a decade. And too, Andy has now become a donor to the team – ironically, giving money that ended up being used in part to purchase this very shell!

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Above: Coach Scott Dillard (L), teammate, Kevin Killen (C), and Dave Sheeron at the dedication.

The next presenters on the day were Eric Barge and Kevin Killen who described the rowing career and profoundly important supporting of the team that has come from Dave Sheeron. Dave was a part of our extremely successful Novice program of the early ’80s … and then rowed in the Lightweight 8 that was the fastest in Aztec history (*see “History” page elsewhere here)! His 8 won the West Coast Championships (then called “The Western Sprints”) at the culmination of Dave’s racing experience.

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Above: Dave Sheeron and his wife, Loralynn, owners of Sew Sporty … and on-going Aztec Crew supporters for 30 years!

Then, several years after graduating, Dave purchased four industrial sized sewing machines (for sewing logos on shirts and so forth), and got into the business of making shirts, hats, and other rowing-related garb. His business = Sew Sporty = has blossomed into one of the largest manufacturer of rowing-related garb in the entire country. His warehouse in Vista is filled with thousands (not just hundreds) of hats and shirts and travel bags and sweatshirts and so forth … that are sold to rowing teams from San Diego to Maine!

As a part of his business, Dave has supported Aztec crew now for over 30 years. Each and every year, he gives major amounts of money directly to the team, AND gives “sweetheart deals” to us when we purchase racing shirts and so forth. [For example, there was a shirt created for Saturday’s events that Dave largely underwrote!] As both Kevin and Eric pointed out, Dave has been there “through thick and thin” for the Aztecs … all along from the ’80s through the ’90s and today. He has been a major donor whether the team has been experiencing good times or lean years. As such, Dave Sheeron is perhaps the single most philanthropic Aztec Alum in history!

In addition to the two 4s,  the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation also purchased an 8 recently. It was owned by our Women’s team, and their Coach (Bill Zack) gave us another “sweetheart deal” on the price, once he knew that we wanted it. This 8 – a Resolute racing shell, akin to the “Eric Barge,” purchased for the team by Josh Gruenberg last season – has already been raced during this past fall’s campaign to great success in Sacramento, at home on Mission Bay, and at the Head of the Harbor.

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Above: Bill Lawson (left) and honoree Allan Miller.

Coach Perez and Bill Lawson gave the speeches about the man honored by having his name placed on this shell = Allan Miller. Allan transferred to State from UCLA in 1978, and immediately became the leader of the team. Elected Captain in both 1978-79 and 1970-80, Allan rowed in the 5 seat of crews that won at the Head of the Harbor, defeated numerous teams in dual meets (including Stanford – who the Aztecs swept in his Senior year), and won medals at the Western Sprints – coming in second to Irvine in ’79. At the end of each of his two years with us, Allan rowed at the I.R.A. in Syracuse in small boats (the 4- and the 2+) that each earned Silver medals!

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Above: Allan Miller christening his namesake.

After his rowing eligibility was done, Allan volunteered as the Novice Coach for SDSU for a year, producing the most successful Novice crew ever to race at State. His Novice Lightweight 8 went back to Philadelphia in 1981 and won the National Championship BY TWO BOATLENGTHS! Among the future Varsity rowers in that crew were Gregg Buckley (who eventually rowed in the most successful Varsity 8 in our history) and Eric Barge (who rowed in the most successful Lightweight 8s at that time … as well as in a Cal Cup winning Varsity 8, along with Gregg). Allan then went on to earn a seat in the United States Lightweight 8 (along with another Aztec = Tom Bowman) in 1981. One of only two rowers in history to win the H. Del Beekley “Most Dedicated Oarsman” award TWICE (the other is Mike Buckle … who is still on the team this season), Allan has gone on to be a major donor and fundraiser for the team … and is now on the Board of Directors for the H. Del Beekley Rowing Foundation.

After these events, the team had a huge tail-gate party at the Aztec football game over at the stadium. Set up by Eric Barge (as were all of the events of the day – Eric spent an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to make the weekend the smashing success that it was), this was a fun time that saw everyone from brand new Novices to alums from the ’60s interacting over pizza – provided by the H.D.B.R.F.

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Above: Allan Miller (their Coach), and the members of the 1981 SDSU National Champion Lightweight Novice 8 = L to R, Vince Chadwick, Bruce Russell, Gregg Buckley, Todd Castor, Eric Barge, and Craig Robbins.

Thanks to all who attended this year’s events … and here’s hoping that this “Fall Alumni Day” becomes an ongoing tradition for the Aztec Navy!

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