GW Men's Rowing Honors Class of 2016

Six student athletes earn degrees at special commencement ceremony.

Men's Rowing Commencement 2016
(L-R) Taylor Evans, Matt Palmer, Connor Barley, Dr. Maltzman, President Knapp, Jordan Tewksbury-Volpe, Dan Henry, Keenan Freyburg, Coach Mark Davis, University Marshall Charles Garris (William Atkins/GW Today)
May 11, 2016

The George Washington University held a special Commencement ceremony Tuesday for the men's rowing class of 2016 at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theater at the Marvin Center.

The ceremony formally recognized the six men's rowing student athletes who are unable to join their classmates Sunday for the university’s 2016 Commencement on the National Mall.

Connor BarleyTaylor EvansKeenan FreybergDan Henry, Matt Palmer and Jordan Tewksbury-Volpe will instead be in Worcester, Mass., on Sunday competing at the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond.

The ceremony began with a procession into Betts Theatre, led by President Steven Knapp, University Marshal Professor Charles Garris and Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Forrest Maltzman.

A moving rendition of the National Anthem by senior Maggie Fritz proceeded the opening remarks, when Dr. Maltzman welcomed the student athletes and their families and quoted a passage from Daniel J. Brown's “Boys in the Boat,” the inspirational story of the American Olympic rowing triumph in Nazi Germany in 1936.

Mark Davis, the men’s rowing coach, recounted how this was his seventh such ceremony since coming to George Washington. He said, though, that his speeches never get easier. He explained how his team is a family, and it is never easy to let go of those you grow to love.

Mr. Davis shared a story of a tradition when he halts all activity during practice and has his crews sit in the middle of the Potomac River and simply take in their surroundings. It is a way to explain to his student athletes that nothing lasts forever, and it is important to always enjoy every moment and learn from everything.

Mr. Davis also shared how he urges his team members to remember those moments when everything in the racing shell is “perfect,” when the oarsman is one with the boat and the water.

He told the audience you need to have rowed in a boat to fully grasp what he means, but he knows the six seniors understand and that they will carry that feeling with them forever and remember it every time they see flat water for the rest of their lives.

Dan Henry, team captain, addressed his fellow graduates, taking time to praise each player’s strength and quality.

Mr. Henry said that rowing challenges you to push through and break perceived limitations nearly every day, both on and off the water.

Dr. Knapp welcomed the graduates to the global community of George Washington alumni, before leading the Charge to Graduates, calling for the six student athletes to keep alive the spirit, community and the commitment to service that has defined them as undergraduates.

Dr. Knapp then conferred the six young men to move their tassels as they officially became graduates of the George Washington University.