crewBy Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

Most mornings, at about 6:45 or so, I head into MIT on Memorial Drive. The men and women rowers are already out. They are out in freezing rain. They are out with lights in the dark of winter. They get some relief, I suppose, when the Charles River freezes over, but they are back as soon as a little patch of water appears. You can’t help but be amazed by their incredible dedication.

This year, the MIT men’s heavyweight crew and the MIT women’s lightweight crew earned invitations to the IRA National Championships in Sacramento, so the seniors will miss graduation next week. Instead, they had a sort of in-lieu-of-graduation ceremony at the MIT boathouse yesterday.

Luke Urban, co-captain of the heavyweights and a student in two of my classes, asked me to come hear his speech. When Luke finishes his MEng at MIT next year, he thinks he will head for Oxford or Cambridge, where he can continue to row competitively. I thought if I went to his speech, I might learn something about why those rowers are so intense.

I did. Luke said it’s all about working hard knowing that the guy next to you is counting on you. It’s about never giving up. Suffering together on the worst of the grim, cold, early mornings completes the bond.

Come to think of it, crew is a particularly intense version of MIT undergraduate life. Suffering together through those despised problem sets, quizzes, project reports, finals, and sleepless nights for four years creates a bond that lasts forever.