The University Rowing Club of Carnegie Mellon University had its start on the twenty-sixth day of September in 1987. On that beautiful Saturday afternoon, Harry Printz, the founder of our Club, drove throughout Pittsburgh enjoying the good fortune of a sunny day in Pittsburgh. When crossing the Allegheny on the Fort Duquesne Bridge, he and his companion noticed an arch of balloons crossing the river. Realizing that a crew race was going on and having rowed for a term while at Oxford, he watched the races while walking through Roberto Clemente Park alongside the Allegheny. While at the race, he talked to Don Schock of the Three Rivers Rowing Association (TRRA) who expressed interest in having a Carnegie Mellon student as a rower.
When Harry first had an opportunity to row with Three Rivers, the outing was in need of a coxswain. Since, at the time, he was tutoring a student whose build and attitude seemed right for a coxswain, he successfully recruited Edouard Servan-Schreiber as the coxswain for that first outing. On that first outing, Harry and Edouard were joined by Mike Lambert and Don Shock of Three Rivers, Gus Antonioni, and a CMU student who had rowed at Tabor. Although the water was choppy and rough, their first outing returned to the trailers without incident. After the outing, Mike Lambert,the TRRA president, asked Harry if he was interested in organizing the student at CMU into a rowing club. Harry had been considering the idea and decided to go ahead and attempt to form a club. With a flyer drafted and posted to announce an organizational meeting, the campus was asked:
Men and Women, do you want to Row?
A video of the US Men's Eight served as the main focus of the meeting; however, the meeting, which took place on October fifth, was closed with a call for all interested in organizing the club to come forward. The eight people who showed interest at that time became the first board of the University Rowing Club.
In the next three months, the board reviewed their options in regards to equipment and attempted to formulate a budget. They estimated the cost for starting the club at seventeen thousand dollars for equipment with an additional contribution to the boathouse. In addition to a budget, the board prepared a constitution which it could present to the Student Senate Funding and Recognition Committee. Once recognized, the club could obtain funding from the Senate for operational expenses. Unfortunately, recognized as a club by the Senate, costs for equipment would not be covered by the senate funding. Therefore, the board sought a meeting with Dr. Cyert, the President of the University, to request funding for the equipment expenses. Edouard, whose father worked in the administration, requested a meeting with Dr. Cyert and was successful in obtaining a time to meet with the president. Harry, Edouard, and Molly Johnson, another board member who rowed as an undergrad at Dartmouth, gave a presentation to Dr. Cyert about rowing and the club which they wished to form at Carnegie Mellon University. After listening to the presentation, Dr. Cyert asked if seventeen thousand would be enough to start a rowing club at the school. The prospective rowers conceded that a considerable amount of additional funding was necessary to reserve a spot for CMU in the boathouse which was planned by Three Rivers. Dr. Cyert told them that he would consider their case for funding and appointed Bill Elliot, Vice President for Enrollment, to look into the possibility of rowing at CMU.
On February third, Harry and Norm Veenstra, a board member, attended a meeting of the Student Senate's Funding and Recognition Committee to represent the club and request status as a funded organization. There are two levels of recognition given by the senate, recognized (given official status as a campus organization) and funded (recognized and allowed to request funding out of the fund generated by the Student Activities Fee). Happily, the club was given funded status and appropriated enough money to print a flyer.
The board created that flyer, announcing the first general meeting of the University Rowing Club in the next week. On that night, over one hundred people paid their five dollars for dues and signed on as members of the rowing club. Having grown more than tenfold in that one night, the club returned to senate as one of the largest organizations on campus and requested funding to assist in the payment of the operating expenses. As the club began to grow and look forward to rowing on the water, the search for a coach began. From the board, two members, Molly Johnson and Mike Mills, were appointed to search for a coach. Mike Lambert of Three Rivers directed the club to Liz Winter, an experienced coach who was new in Pittsburgh. Previously, Liz had coached in Britain and Australia before coming to America. During her time in Britain, she had rowed and coached at Oxford before spending time coaching clubs and at a boy's school. Since she was not tied to a club and was one of the most experienced coaches in the area, the club contacted Liz and persuaded her to volunteer to coach Carnegie Mellon. The club expressed its wish to hire Liz to the administration. The administration endorsed the club's wishes by having Bill Elliot extend Liz the offer of a position as coach starting in April 1988. Liz obtained her H1 visa, a visa which requires a sponsoring organization, that fall.
Through the month of March, the club was anxiously awaiting word of Dr. Cyert's decision on the funding of the club; however, preparations were being made for racing in the spring through the rental of boats from Three Rivers. On March seventeenth, the club received word from Dr. Cyert that the amount of seventeen thousand dollars was being credited to the account of the club. Having reached a decision in the previous months that two Schoenbrod fours would meet the clubs current needs, the club called Schoenbrod on that day and ordered two boats. In addition, the club ordered oars from Concept II to meet their needs. Later that spring, a local regatta was arranged involving the crew from Pitt, Duquesne, and Carnegie Mellon. Carnegie Mellon, being only a few months old, went into the races with modest expectations of possible victory, but a great determiniation to finish better than last. In the first race of the day, the CMU women rowed to a second place finish ahead of a Duquesne boat that crabbed and brought up the rear. The pressure then rested on the men to live up to the performance of the women. Harry rowed two in the men's boat, and was accompanied by Jon Knight, a rower at Andover, at stroke, Mike Mills from the Mendota Boat Club at three, Norm Veenstra from Groton in bow, and Edouard as coxswain. The men rowed to a third place finish ahead of one of the two Duquesne boats. After six months of planning and organizing, Carnegie Mellon established its existence in the rowing world through competition.