March 12, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was a joyful and emotional afternoon at the groundbreaking of the P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse on Wednesday at the Levitt Center.
“I’m going to say one word and that’s finally,” Beckwith said. “This has been a very long time coming. With privilege goes responsibility. I was privileged to attend the University of Iowa College of Medicine, so therefore, it was my responsibility to make sure the opportunity was there for the next generation.”
The boathouse is named in recognition of a $1 milllion gift to the UI Foundation from Beckwith, a Des Moines surgeon and former Hawkeye basketball letterwinner. The boathouse will be a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the art home of the UI rowing team. The facility, located on the banks of the Iowa River across from City Park, will include an indoor training tank, a training and testing center, storage bays for boats and meeting space for the team and community.
“Vision without resources is irrelevant,” said Gary Barta, director of athletics at the UI. “Sue Beckwith made this boathouse vision relevant.”
Iowa has had a varsity, intercollegiate rowing program since 1994, the same year Mandi Kowal was hired as head coach for the Hawkeyes. In 1997, the Varsity four was invited to the NCAA Championships and the Varsity 4+ returned to nationals the next season.
“Since then there has been a little lull in the program and this is going to be the injection we need,” Kowal said. “Not only is it going to show that the department means business, but the school means business in terms of our program.”
The UI rowing program annually boasts a roster of between 70-80 student-athletes, making it the second-largest of the 24 Hawkeye sports (behind only football). Kowal is confident the new facility will elevate the program to a place recently reached by the Hawkeye women’s basketball and wrestling teams. That place is on top of the Big Ten Conference standings.
“We have the athletes, we have the tradition, we have the values,” Kowal said. “We’re going to get there, I know it. I like to win, I want to be there and this is going to help us get there.”
When the initial fundraising campaign began, the UI rowing team was referred to as “the only team without a home.”
“We talk all the time about adding facilities,” Barta said. “This isn’t just an upgrade. This is just having a facility. This is going to be an incredible addition to our program.”
Eight speakers took turns at the podium during the ceremonial groundbreaking — Barta, Kowal, Beckwith, Sally Mason, UI president, Lynette Marshall, University of Iowa Foundation president, Regenia Bailey, mayor of Iowa City and rowing student-athletes Brittany Keyes and Emily Katalinich.
“Intercollegiate athletics and campus recreation are significant to our mission here at the University of Iowa,” Mason said. “Our primary mission is the development of the mind, but we also must be dedicated to the total well-being of our students. Athletics and recreation play an absolutely crucial role in keeping our students’ minds and spirits healthy. So a facility like this is just as much an educational building as it is an athletic one.”
Keyes, a senior captain of the Hawkeye rowing team, will not have the benefit of using the new boathouse before she graduates.
“This is really a dream come true for our team,” Keyes said. “Rowing is more than just a sport. It becomes your passion. It’s a lifestyle and my team has become family.”
Katalinich is a sophomore whose mother rowed on the UI club team in the 1980s. According to Katalinich’s mother, they were a `rag tag’ group back then with little money, poor facilities, but a fire for success.
“We still have that fire and drive,” Katalinich said. “The same one that was going on back in the 80s. We still have it.”
Following her first season as head coach at Iowa, Kowal was presented a medallion that was engraved with the words, `A tradition begun.’ She said she will hang the medallion in the boathouse in honor of all the Hawkeye rowing student-athletes who did not have the benefit of a facility like the Beckwith Boathouse.
Beckwith concluded the 40-minute ceremony with a brief, yet motivational charge:
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