MIT's service to the community through its athletic program was featured recently on ABC World News Tonight when an inner-city crew coached by MIT, the Mandela Crew of Roxbury, was named as "Person of the Week." The Mandela Crew has been coached by MIT director of rowing Stuart Schmill and some of his varsity crew for the past six springs.
Mr. Schmill says that working with students is the best part of his job, be they from MIT or elsewhere. "The Mandela kids are really great kids," he said. "Rowing is not really the main thing here. I think the chance for them to see that other worlds aren't closed off to them is the important thing. They're eager - this activity, rowing, is unique in their world. Their eagerness is refreshing."
The varsity athletes that volunteer to coach the Mandela crew and other youth groups also enjoy working with the kids. The community involvement makes them feel good, he said.
"MIT is one of the most community-minded boathouses on the river,"said Kate Sullivan, public affairs coordinator for the Metropolitan District Commission, which patrols the river and riverside parkland.
"Hands down, MIT does more for everybody than anybody else on the river. For example, a while back there was a sewage leak that kept folks from Community Rowing from using their boathouse," she said. "Stu let them use MIT's until the problem was cleared up. When gold medalist Holly Metcalf started a 'To the River' program out of Community Boating, Stu donated an eight-oared rowing shell. The stories go on and on. Every time you turn around, MIT's doing something else for someone. I'm on the river myself, so I hear about it that way."
MIT has opened its doors to various other rowing clubs over the years, loaning equipment and access to indoor tanks. The US national team has trained out of Pierce Boathouse, most recently in 1994. MIT offers service to various community and youth programs each year, and allows both the Walk for Hunger and the AIDS Walk to set up in front of the boathouse and use its electric supply.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 19, 1997.