Honoring a Mentor & Remembering a Friend

Lively, personable, quick with a story and highly opinionated (in the best possible way), anyone who knows Sheila Tolle for only a few minutes feels like they have known her for years. She has stories about her favorite rowing courses, her best races and plenty of stories about her good friend and late referee icon, Julian Wolf.

“Julian is who got me into refereeing,” said Tolle. “He was my mentor and a good friend, as he and I both were involved with UCLA men’s rowing as well as refereeing together.”

It’s fitting then, that Tolle will be honored this weekend with an award in his namesake. The Julian Wolf Award pays tribute to a rowing official in the USA that stood apart from the rest in his or her contribution to rowing in the past year. Selected by five past Wolf award winners, Tolle will be presented with the award on Saturday evening at the USRowing Convention Awards Reception.

“Winning an award with his name on it is something I really can’t believe,” said Tolle. “It’s huge. One of the things that Julian did that was pretty impressive for his time, was be an active advocate for bringing women into the sport. Not just women athletes, but women referees as well. He truly developed rowing in southern California by helping young clubs get their footing and influenced nearly every referee on the west coast during his time. He was an active recruiter and a supporter of anyone who wanted to become involved in the sport.”

A USRowing referee since 1980 and a lead referee in the southwest region, Sheila has averaged 15 regatta days a year for more than a decade. So far in her career, she has been the chief referee at more than 20 regattas including the 2016 NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships.

Tolle credits her long tenure as a USRowing referee to the ability to know when to push herself to take on more regattas and when to dial it back.

“Sometimes you have to make hard choices, and other times you say ‘go for it.’ I have made sacrifices, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Growing up, my son honestly thought that Mother’s Day means that your mother goes to Lake Natoma for the weekend. If he ever gets married and has a child, I am going to have to straighten that fact out for him.”

Tolle has worked as a FISA umpire for 13 years and currently serves as a FISA candidate sub-committee member. She began her rowing career at the University of California as a coxswain from 1974-1978 before coxing the Harvard Business School Crew for two years. She is a member of the Board of Directors and an executive committee member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of UCLA Men’s Rowing.

For all that she gives to the rowing community, it always seems to be giving back, she says.

“The longer you referee, it becomes more about getting to see a great race. Is it safe? Is it fair? If your answer is yes to those two things, then let’s see a great race! It sounds cliche, and people say it over and over again, but there is no high like sitting in the launch overseeing Cal, Ohio State and Virginia battle over the top spot in an excellent race. Refereeing does give you the best seat in the house.”

A mentor to many a young referees, Sheila makes an effort to instill the values that her mentor Julian Wolf gave to her years ago.

“Julian taught me that it is always, and should always, be about the athlete. Give the athlete the absolute best, safe and fair experience they can have, and just stay out of the picture frame.”

The USRowing Annual Awards Reception will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. The night will begin with a cocktail hour, followed by the presentation of awards. For more information on this year’s 2016 USRowing Convention Annual Awards Reception, click here. Read about the other award winners and the 2016 USRowing Club of the Year.

About the Julian Wolf Award

The Julian Wolf Award pays tribute to the one 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.

Past Winners:

1986 – John Quinn
1987 – Chuck Colgan
1988 – Ron Chen
1989 – Howard Smith
1990 – Pat Ferguson
1991 – Don Craig
1992 – Don Langford
1993 – Bob Appleyard
1994 – Sam Dempsey
1995 – Peter Kay
1996 – William Fritz
1997 – Kris Grudt
1998 – Roxanne Everetts
1999 – Larry Tolle
2000 – H. Ray Duff
2001 – Kate Godwin
2002 – Nikola Vajda
2003 – Robert Walton
2004 – Bob Cummins
2005 – Dennis Smith
2006 – Kirsten and Howard Meisner
2007 – Ryszard Obuchowicz
2008 – Not Awarded
2009 – Bob Scurria
2010 – Not Awarded
2011 – John J. Cavanaugh
2012 – Lloyd McDonald
2013 – Letcher Ross
2014 – Jean Reilly
2015 – Not awarded

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