A Lifetime Spent Watching Over Others
By Beth Kohl • October 11, 2016
Joan Sholl has never been comfortable just sitting around.
She had a career in publishing, is a mom and an athlete and among the first women to make rowing her sport. She joined the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club in 1950, long before there was any kind of formalized women’s participation in rowing and competed until she left rowing and Philadelphia to finish her education and start a family with her late husband, Jack.
She continued to be involved as a parent and regatta organizer and then returned to the sport. When the opportunity came to dedicate more time, Sholl became a licensed rowing referee. For the last four decades, she has been a model of fairness and professionalism. During her career as an official, Sholl distinguished herself as a beacon among the referee corps, has served as an official at events in every capacity and became the first American woman selected to officiate at two Olympic Games.
Forty-one years later, Sholl is still an active rowing official and in recognition for her years of service to the sport and the countless numbers of athletes and young officials who have benefited from her kind and steady direction, Sholl will receive the 2016 USRowing Jack Franklin Award, given annually to recognize an official in rowing for a lifetime of contributions to the sport.
“The Jack Franklin Award for outstanding lifetime service represents the highest award bestowed on a USRowing official,” said USRowing Director of Referee Programs, John Wik. “Without a doubt, Joan Sholl is deserving of this honor. She has served as both a mentor and friend to countless referees, providing guidance and encouragement. Joan’s life demonstrates a passion for the sport of rowing and a dedication to the athletes that we serve.”
Sholl will be honored at the 2016 Golden Oars Awards Dinner on Nov. 17 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.
“This means a lot,” Sholl said. “Especially having known Jack Franklin. I worked with him for a number of years back when he was living. And it means a lot to be recognized for the work I’ve done for last 60 or so years.”
“Without a doubt, Joan Sholl is deserving of this honor. She has served as both a mentor and friend to countless referees, providing guidance and encouragement. Joan’s life demonstrates a passion for the sport of rowing and a dedication to the athletes that we serve.”
These days, Sholl continues to spend time keeping things safe and organized for others – in this case, critters. Sholl works as a volunteer at the Living Desert Zoo near her California home. She recently spent an entire day handing out pieces of cake to thousands of visitors who came to celebrate a birthday with one of the zoo’s cheetahs.
“I love animals,” she said. “And I’ve always had pets, some strange ones at times. We handed out cake all day. There were 1,100 people there. It was a big crowd. Since I retired, I spend a lot of time there with the animals. I jokingly say that the animals generally don’t have much to say. I’ve never been bitten by one, except by one bird that bit everybody.”
Aside from her work with animals, Sholl loves what she does for rowing and for the people in it, particularly the athletes.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. You get to see all these people coming up through the system from the juniors through collegians. They are all successful people, and they are working hard. And it is a good feeling to know that you are helping them.”