From Rags to Riches : Ram’s edition
The club was officially established in 1966 by Ralph Kopperman, an assistant math professor of Mathematics at URI with a degree from MIT, and a resilient passion for the sport of rowing. With two shells donated to him through connections to Brown University’s crew team, two sets of oars, and upwards of 55 fresh athletes (or athletes to-be), the newly acclaimed coach took out his crew out on Wordens Pond in Point Judith, RI in November of 1965. He followed alongside them in a skiff with a small leak in the bottom and an outboard motor from the URI Yacht Club.
Little did the team, or let alone anyone, would know that the first race on April 2nd, 1966 against Drexel and C.W. Post was the beginning of an eventful rowing era for the crew. Writer Dave Philips documented nearly every race the club had for the first three years of its life. Philips kept an eye on the up-and-coming team by giving statements in articles saying the happenings on the team such as how “It’s a good thing Kopperman, youthful coach of URI’s fledgling crews, isn’t the fretful type. Otherwise, he might have thrown up his hands long ago in the view of the problems he and his 34-men squad face”.
Lack of funding from Student Senate, and harsh boat-destroying weather on the Worden’s Pond are just examples of some of the challenges that the team faced within the first years. However, Kopperman and the men of URI Crew Club showed their resilience and took on any challenge that came their way without the blink of an eye. By the third season, Philips showed how strong and stubborn the rowers had been, by describing “despite all of the problems, the morale of the club members is high”. The crews would go on to have multiple wins and losses, but showing nothing but determination and grit.
More than forty-seven years later, the club’s moral has been higher than ever, and would come to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. Each year, the team prospered in every way that a team can. Building not only physical and mental strength, but also making unforgettable memories through many accomplishments. Throughout the years, the team has competed in countless national events, most of which included victories. Additionally, many individual crew members have gone to compete internationally with world-renowned rowers, and also compete in the Olympics (including John Riley ’82, and Steve Peterson ’85). The hardware from these victories can be seen decorating the walls of the current boathouse located on the Narrow River on Walmsley Ln. In Kingston, RI.
URI’s Crew Club are the underdogs of the collegiate rowing world. Starting from rusty old shells barely making it through practice rows, transforming to a team competing in carbon-fiber boats that cross the finish line at the American Collegiate Rowing Championships in times faster than ever. The journey of the club shows the strength and stamina of the Rams, which is still proven every day by the strong men and women of the team.