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About Kent School Rowing: The First 100 Years

Kent School, the Connecticut preparatory school founded on the values of Simplicity of Life, Directness of Purpose and Self-Reliance, pioneer of the concept of Self Help, will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of its rowing program in the Spring of 2022, just a little more than three years from today. Plans for many celebrations, including the 50th Reunion of the Kent Crew that won the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at the 1972 Henley Royal Regatta, are well under way.

In June of 2018, Father Richard Schell, Headmaster of Kent, approached me and asked me to take on the task of assembling a special Centenary book to honor the full history of Kent Crews, the Varsities, Boys' and Girls', the intramural crews, Form Crews before 1948 and Club Crews after, their triumphs and their disappointments, the individuals who made up the crews, their adventures, the lessons they learned and how they applied those lessons in later life, those who went on to represent their countries in rowing, those who became coaches around the world, the alumni who returned to Kent to give back to future generations, the faculty members who have coached the crews, the heritage that continues to be passed down year by year.

It's a huge responsibility, and I relish the challenge.

The story begins with our founder, Frederick Herbert Sill, the son of an Episcopal priest whose ministry was Hell's Kitchen in New York City. Young Fred was so active at Columbia University that it took him five years instead of four to graduate. He was coxswain of his freshman crew. Three years later he was manager of freshman football, managing editor of the school newspaper and coach of that year's freshman crew. In his final year he was manager of the varsity crew and the coxswain who steered Columbia to victory in the very first Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta at Poughkeepsie, New York. Most of the fundamentals of the Kent Crew he started 27 years later were already formed in Fred's mind by the time he graduated from Columbia University.

In its early years, Kent School had perhaps the highest media presence of any New England prep school, and the face of Kent was Father Sill, charismatic headmaster in a monk's white cassock. How he skillfully managed his image is a fascinating story and perhaps the only way to get past the legend that has grown up around this remarkable man, as he was described in Reader's Digest, "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Met."

It was the legend of Father Sill which preceded and accompanied Kent's first appearance at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1927. It is the legend of Father Sill which has looked down on Kent students ever since as they have eaten their meals in the Dining Hall, and it is Father Sill's spirit which has inspired and guided Kent Crews for upwards of a century.

Many of the stories of early Kent crews have been at risk of being lost. I am combing campus and newspaper archives. I and the Kent staff are combing through letters and books, and reaching out to former opponents, to alumni and families, asking for documents, memories, anecdotes and photos. If you have something to contribute, please post it on the KSBC/KGBC Facebook website, contact the Kent Alumni Office, contact Coaches Houston and Smith. Reach out to your teammates. They'd love to hear from you.

Or reach out to me. This book is a celebration of the values of the Kent Community and of rowers in general around the world.