USRowing Announces Six Awards to be Presented at Annual Convention

PRINCETON, N.J. – The 2016 summer competitive season has come to a close and rowers across the country can reflect on the past year’s accomplishments as they transition to fall. Medals were won, friendships were forged and records were broken as athletes of all ages, abilities, genders and races now have another year in the books.

USRowing is proud to recognize six outstanding members of the rowing community that will be honored at the USRowing Annual Convention in Springfield, Mass., on December 3.

  • John J. Carlin Service Award – Peter Wilhelm
  • Clayton Chapman Award – Polly Whiteside
  • Man of the Year – Dr. Gavin White
  • Ernestine Bayer Award (formerly the Woman of the Year) – Tessa Spillane
  • Joan Zandbergen “Mama Z” Award – Melissa Chun
  • Julian Wolf Award – Sheila Tolle

Read more about the awards and the inspiring stories of this year’s recipients below.

The John J. Carlin Service Award, given this year to Peter Wilhelm, honors an individual who has made significant and outstanding commitments in support of rowing.

A coach, a boat-builder and a friend to all at Narragansett Boat Club, Peter Wilhelm has made NBC one of the premiere junior sculling programs in the country. His teams brought home four of the sculling medals from the 2016 USRowing Youth National Championships and competed in numerous events at the 2016 World Rowing Championships.

In the past 10 years, Peter has focused his attention on volunteering as the coach of NBCs youth rowing program, where he is a respected guru for top youth rowers. Peter has combined old-fashioned tried-and true approaches with new advances, spending time researching various methods of coaching the rowing stroke. The result has been a powerful group of young scullers that has emerged from NBC, ready to take on the U.S. and the world.

The Clayton W. Chapman Award is presented annually to an individual who best emulates Chapman’s 30-year stewardship of the Eastern Sprints and IRA Championship Regattas. The awardee is an individual who has consistently served in behind-the-scene administrative roles that have previously gone unrecognized. The recipient may be an athlete, coach, referee, administrator, volunteer, regatta organizer, sponsor, vendor or any other individual involved in the staging of a regatta. Polly Whiteside is this year’s Clayton Chapman award winner.

For 30 years, Whiteside’s number one passion has been the Head of the Charles Regatta, where she has managed numerous committees and has brought countless volunteers to the HOCR hierarchy. Starting in 1988, she took over and streamlined the layout of the event footprint, converting the registration area into 16 one-stop stations. Whiteside’s event ideas have been adopted by several major regattas worldwide and her practices have made competitive rowing a more enjoyable experience for all.

The 2015 Man of the Year Award recognizes outstanding contributions to men’s rowing and/or to an outstanding man in rowing. This year’s recipient is Dr. Gavin White.

Dr. Gavin White, who has coached the last decade while managing Parkinson’s disease, served as head coach of Temple University men’s crew program for 35 years until announcing his retirement earlier this year. Under his guidance, Temple Crew achieved distinction both nationally and internationally. His boats won a record 20 Dad Vail Regatta varsity eight titles including an impressive 13-consecutive titles between 1989-2001.

Honored as the 2003 Schuylkill Navy Coach of the Year, White coached the men’s four at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, where his crew finished fifth overall. A five-time U.S. national team coach, White also coached the men’s pair with coxswain to the gold medal at the 2003 World Rowing Championships in Milan, Italy.

1 of 6 Peter Wilhelm
2 of 6 Tessa Spillane
3 of 6 Sheila Tolle
4 of 6 Melissa Chun
5 of 6 Polly Whiteside
6 of 6 Gavin White

The Ernestine Bayer Award, formerly Woman of the Year, recognizes outstanding contributions to women’s rowing and/or to an outstanding woman in rowing. Wellesley College coach Tessa Spillane is this year’s recipient of the award.

Now in her 11th season at Wellesley College, Tessa Spillane has guided Wellesley College Crew to its first-ever national championship and first NCAA team championship in school history. Spillane was named  CRCA Division III National Coach of the Year and CRCA Division III Coaching Staff of the Year, alongside her two assistant coaches.

At the helm of the Blue Crew program since the 2005 season, Spillane has guided Wellesley to seven consecutive appearances at the NCAA Division III Championships, five consecutive NEWMAC Conference titles and has coached 10 All-America honorees. Under Spillane, the 2010-11 Division III National Coach of the Year, Wellesley has been ranked in the top-10 nationally for each of the last seven seasons.

Spillane has served as the DII/DIII At-Large Representative to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Board of Directors. She has chaired the Membership Committee and the DII/DIII Awards Selection Committee and has served on the NCAA DIII Rowing Committee, representing the New England Region from 2009-2011. She previously served on the USRowing Board of Directors.

The Joan Zandbergen “Mama Z” Award is given to a USRowing official who has demonstrated sustained superior performance during the course of their career. The award is limited to referees with three to 10 years of service. Melissa Chun is the recipient of this year’s award.

Celebrated for her positive attitude and organization, Melissa Chun has been involved in the USRowing referee community since 2012. Though relatively new to refereeing, Chun has already made a significant impact. Working the last three NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships, Chun also operated as the deputy for the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association and will chief the event in 2017.

Chun joined the USRowing Referee Corp. as a way to support athletes and give back to the rowing community. Chun started her rowing career 15 years ago as a coxswain for her high school team at Serra Notre Dame and Mercy in San Mateo, Calif., before being recruited to the women’s rowing team at the University of California and winning the NCAA Division I Championship in 2006. After college, she joined Jack London Aquatic Center and was the assistant coach for the high school program in 2009 and middle school rowing program in 2010.

The Julian Wolf Award pays tribute to a rowing official in the USA that stood apart from the rest in his/her contribution to rowing in the past year. It is based upon one, several,  or all of the following: outstanding performance, dedication, heroic acts or outstanding  contributions to officiating. The winner is selected by five past Wolf award winners. Sheila Tolle is the recipient of this year’s award.

A USRowing referee since 1980 and a lead referee in the southwest region, Sheila Tolle has averaged 15 regatta days a year for over a decade. In her career so far, Tolle has chiefed more than 20 regattas including the 2016 NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships. Tolle has worked as a FISA umpire for 13 years and currently serves as a FISA Candidate Sub-Committee Member.

Tolle began her rowing career as the University of California coxswain from 1974-1978 before coxing the Harvard Business School Crew for two years. Still active from her southern California home, Tolle serves as a member of the Board of Directors and an Executive Committee Member of the Board of Directors for the Friends of UCLA Men’s Rowing. Hailed for her ability to manage the start tower, Tolle leads by example and is a model for the next generation of referees.

For more information on this year’s 2016 USRowing Convention Annual Awards Reception, click here.

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