Catching up with Rob White

How did you get started in rowing?
I started rowing in 1986 at the University of Rhode Island.  It was the spring of my sophomore year, and I had spent the last half of the fall recovering from a cycling injury. I was living with a group of rowers and they let me joint them in their winter training, helping to jumpstart my training again.  It was time for them to go out on the water and me the road, but something happened and I ended up sitting in a boat with socks on my hands and an oar in my hands.  I was very interested and tried to make it work for two more semesters before I took a year off to hike the AT. When I went back to school I realized sculling was in my future; I’m not the greatest team sports guy. I purchased a used Vespoli single and proceeded to win my first race in Albany where Burt Aphelbaum  saw me and asked me to join his guys (PVRA) rowing out of Trinity college’s boathouse.

How did you end up at Riverside?
1995 was the year.  I met Wendy Harland hiking with friends.  She was a member of the summer lightweight program and she introduced me to Jamie Ames.  And that is how I started rowing again after a four year break.

Rob with his family at his boat dedication.

Rob with his family at his boat dedication.

You were President of the club from 2005 to 2007, tell us about a major project or projects you facilitated? 
I was Captain of the club in 1998. It was the year the master’s sweep programs came to life in a big way. The challenge was equipment and managing expectations, all the typical stuff with a group of eager new members that want to be on the water as much as possible during core hours.  AND then the ramp collapsed!  We replaced all the ramps with the current ones.  It was all about keeping my head above water.  At the time I only had email at work, and the emails were coming in at such a breakneck pace, that I was forced to have our IT guy put a filter in to turn emails back.  At the end of the year I decided to run for Trustee and was elected.  With the shellacking I took as Captain, I realized the best thing I could do as Trustee was to help the Captain get off to a good year.  I worked with Cheri Ruane, the new captain, to make her life easier by initiating a captain’s committee and assistants to help with scheduling.  My three year term didn’t even make it to a year when I decided to take a two year ex-pat assignment in Germany with Bosch.  I took off in the fall and brought my boat with me. I had two great years of rowing in Strasbourg, France.

When I returned from Germany it was late fall and elections were coming up.  Savas asked me to run for VP and I did.  I wasn’t elected, but on the spot I was nominated and elected for Trustee.  It was an interesting first year as Trustee.  My first main task was to have an open forum to discuss teaming up with either Simmons or G-ROW to improve the boathouse.  It went down like a ton of bricks; we’ve come a long ways since then!  After that I worked with Caro on the bathroom reconstruction, the sweep bay rubber roof and skylights, the heating system, the exterior lighting, repair of the rubber roof over the porch, managed the rigger, and many excel spreadsheets about building expenses, program costs…

Then I was asked to be President.  I thought Patricia was crazy, but between Sarah and Patricia they persuaded me to do it.  I’m certainly not the most charismatic leader, but I got into the nuts and bolts of running Riverside with the goal of getting the financial picture squared away such that RBC could entertain teaming up with another organization to improve the club.  Additionally with Sarah running the membership, we were focused on staying connected with supporting members, alumni, Simmons, Brookline and other clubs on the river with the goal of creating a larger RBC community than those of us that row regularly.  We also made some of the first bylaw changes since they were originally written. We added a presidents committee to the club that had grown by nearly 100 members since I had joined; it was becoming less manageable.  I can’t deny that there were a number of frustrating moments while on the board, but I’m glad I did it.

Tell us about a memorable racing experience.
My first speed order down at Princeton was an 8k Saturday evening.  I was 4th overall and the fastest lightweight with the previous year’s single sculler behind me.  The next morning we did 2ks. I won the lightweight men’s single by 2 open lengths. At this point I had only been sculling a year.  It ended several months after that with a herniated disk in my lower back.

You and Kevin are pretty quick in the double, any future athletic endeavors on the horizon?
Kevin is great to row with.  He makes me row so much better than when I am by myself.  Sarah doesn’t know this, but I’ve been contemplating cycling again.

What are you reading/watching right now?
Downton Abby – this is Sarah’s evening soap opera.

Tell us something we do not know about you.
I like to cook everything!  Dishes I crave are a northern Italian lasagna made with a ragu, béchamel sauce and homemade pasta.  I love to make fruit crisps, custards and English trifle.  When there is time I also like to make bread.

One additional fact, I stood 8 feet away from a 500lb grizzly bear in Alaska, we surprised each other and I didn’t make my underwear untidy!