Men’s Crew Rows Towards Greatness

Since the summer of 1981, the University of Rochester Crew Team has seen over three decades of support and growth.  The team’s historical identity has roots that connect it to both the River Campus and the Greater Rochester Community.  Beginning with just three undergraduates with interest in rowing, the early financial and coaching support from faculty, alumni, and community organizations allowed the team to develop into the competitive force that it is today.

I sat down with Keith McCutcheon ‘16, who is majoring in microbiology, with minors in history, philosophy, and chemistry, and his fellow rower, electrical and computer engineering major Jeremy Warner ’15, to find out more about how the men’s crew team operates.

Prospective new members for both men’s and women’s rowing need not have any prior experience.  “Recruitment is open and very much encouraged for completely inexperienced people,” said McCutcheon.  The rising junior was one of many rowing novices that came into the sport as a novel experience.  “I didn’t row at all in high school, and neither did a majority of the rowing team.”

The team rows out of the Genesee Rowing Club Boathouse, located roughly a mile from the River Campus at the intersection of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. U of R owns and races a fleet of top quality eights, fours, pairs, doubles, and singles, as well as a dedicated ergometer room in the Athletic Center used during winter training.

This year, the team also gained access to a new, indoor training center on the bottom floor of The Flats at Brooks Crossing.  “We used to be limited to a workout room in the basement of the Goergen Athletic Center, but now we have a swing-u-later, a weight lifting area, and a massive ‘erg’ room,” said Warner.  The original plan promised a new boat house available at Brooks, but due to rushed construction, the plan became unviable.  Instead, the Department of Athletics provided new, top-of-the line equipment for the team’s use.  “It’s a very nice upgrade from where we were before in the basement of the GAC,” said McCutcheon.  “Access to new equipment is a big step forward for both the men’s and women’s programs.”

The head coach of the men’s rowing team is John Burnfield, who used to be the head trainer at River Campus.  “At the Head of the Genesee, the open four is called the John Burnfield trophy. It’s got his name on it,” said McCutcheon.  Burnfield, a renowned local rower, is a driving force that pushes the team to competitive excellence.

Men’s and women’s rowing teams compete in major Fall regattas such as the Head of the Charles and the Head of the Schulykill.  Spring championships include the New York State Championship Regatta, Dad Vails, and the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) Championship Regatta.

One high-profile regatta the men’s crew team has recently done very well in is ACRAs.  The national competition, held in Gainseville, Georgia, includes an Olympic course.  “It takes place on this gorgeous lake, where the Olympic rings are still up,” said McCutcheon, who credited the course as one of his favorite rowing experiences.  The team competed last May, staying in Rochester even after commencement to train.  “We’ve had some pretty good successes in small boats, especially in pairs,” said McCutcheon.  “We also raced at head of the Charles this year,” he said.  “It’s the second biggest regatta in the world, after the Henley in Thames. The Charles is a longer Head race — head race season takes place in the fall, with sprints in the spring.”

As far as recent races go, the team has been pretty active with its competitive schedule. “This last week, we were at Ithaca, racing against Ithaca College and RIT.  The week before that we were here, racing against St. Lawrence at home. Starting off this spring, we beat St. Lawrence, pretty handily, by a couple lengths of open water, which is a good start to the spring season,” said Warner.  Other races this year have brought the team to the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Worcester where they competed against schools like Colby, Worcester Polytechnic, and Bates.

The month of April found the team competing for the Kerr Cup on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania.  The men’s rowing team took home a few individual awards for their performance.  For the first time in history, the team will be going to the Liberty League competition, a race usually reserved for only varsity teams.

When asked about his favorite race of all time, McCutcheon shared a story of one of his first experiences on the team.  “We ended up getting second at one of my first races,” he said, still recalling the toothy grin on his coach’s face.  “It was a very new experience. That’s one of the things about being a novice: you don’t know how good you are, so you often surprise yourself.”

Warner, on the other hand, most valued the network of support that he gained through crew.  “One of the biggest benefits that I’ve gotten from being a part of the crew team is the tight-knit community that I’ve embedded myself into. It speaks to how well you get to know everyone on the team, and how close you become to each other,” he said.  “All of that is external from the actual boats and sports. It’s really nice to have a group of people that I know I can always depend on and talk to for something.”

For more information about the Men’s Crew Team, visit their website.

“The Rockys” Celebrate Campus Leadership

Each spring, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership recognize undergraduate students and organizations that have made significant contributions to campus life. Nominated by faculty, staff, and peers, Student Life Award recipients represent diverse interests, talents, and accomplishments but are united in their strength in leadership, fervor for engagement in campus life, and their aim to be a positive influence on peers, all of which help the campus community become ever better.


This year, the awards, also referred to as the “The Rockys,” went to 18 undergraduates and 4 student organizations. “I think the winners represent a large demographic that follows their passions and gives back to others in all sorts of ways,” said Ed Feldman, associate director of leadership programs at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and chair of the selection committee. “With over 200 organizations on campus, students have the resources and capacity to be part of something bigger than just themselves,” he added.  Feldman believes that the leadership opportunities on campus provide students with a means to create and promote positive social change in the immediate community and beyond.

Friends, family, and colleagues of the honorees were invited to an intimate awards reception, which also was attended by University administrators and campus leaders. All the winning students and organizations received engraved glass trophies and certificates.

Active Minds was honored as this year’s Outstanding Student Organization.  For co-president Hayley Harnicher ’15, the most rewarding experience has been being able to watch Active Minds grow as a presence on campus through the expansion of its programming.  “Although we have done a lot, we cannot wait to continue the momentum we’ve gained to continue bringing impactful programming to our community; just as an example, this Wednesday, April 22nd, we will have our final event of the semester – the Garden of Hope,” said Harnicher.

This upcoming event will display 1,100 yellow pinwheels to represent the 1,100 college students who die by suicide every year.  Active Minds hopes that this will empower students to start conversations and break the silence in order to further mitigate rates of suicide on college campuses.

Madeline Freeman ‘15 received this year’s Simeon Cheatham Award for her service specific to the development of children.  Freeman worked as a research assistant in Laura Wray-Lake’s lab for optimal social development, and her background as a psychology major has driven her to provide aid to children with developmental disabilities.  “I’ve learned that a strengths-based approach to academic education and emotional welfare is really the most effective,” she said.

Freeman has been able to apply this knowledge through her service in music, art, and movement therapy for children at the Mt. Hope Family Center, Hochstein School of Music, and the Boston Center. “I enjoyed putting what I learned in lab in action through service.”  Looking forward, Freeman hopes to pursue a career in clinical psychology.


Individual Awards:

Stephaun   Magnifique   Adil

Andrew Fried Prize: Stephaun Ward

Established by friends and family in 1961 in memory of Andrew Norman Fried, class of 1961. This prize is awarded to the man who, upon completion of his freshman year, has shown outstanding qualities of character, superior moral judgment, and interest in serving his fellow students.

Delno Sisson Prize: Magnifique Nsengimana

In 1957, this award was established by a gift from Delno Sisson, class of 1966. This prize is awarded annually to the freshman who has shown the most improvement not only in academic work, but also in adjusting to college life and the student body.

Award for Freshman Leadership: Adil Ali

This award recognizes an exceptional man or woman of the freshman class who has motivated his or her fellow classmates to become actively involved in the campus community.

Elizana   Arnold   Wier

Eli & Mildred Sokol Prize: Elizana-Marie Joseph

This award was established in 1985 by a gift from Eli and Mildred Sokol, class of 1933. This prize is awarded to a sophomore who has emerged as a leader who can be expected to contribute significantly to the welfare of his or her fellow students in the next two years.

Award for Campus Contributions: Abigail Arnold ‘16 and Ryan Wier ‘15

Two awards, one each presented to a junior and senior class member who has made significant contributions to the University community, including, but not limited to, campus life, academic achievement and leadership, and community service. The award winner will have promoted and demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their college experience.

David   Andrew   Alap

Seth H. & Harriet Terry Prize: David Markakis

Established in 1928 as a gift from Seth H. Terry, class of 1883, in memory of his parents. This award is given to the male member of the senior class who, by his industry, character and honorable conduct, has done the most for the life and character of the undergraduate community.

Percy Dutton Prize: Andrew Psarris

This prize was established in 1946 as a gift from Percy Dutton. This award is given to the male member of the graduating class who has excelled in “wholesome, unselfish and helpful influence” among his fellow students.

Award for Outstanding Fraternity and Sorority Leadership: Alap Patel

This award recognizes the positive contributions fraternities and sororities make to the campus community. It is awarded to a fraternity or sorority member who has led with integrity within their fraternal organization while also making significant contributions to the greater campus community.

Antoin   Duncan   alesa

Rob Rouzer Award for Excellence in Student Government Leadership: Antoinette Esce and Duncan Graham

Established in honor of his 28 years of service to the University of Rochester, the Rob Rouzer Award is conferred annually to a student affiliated with either of the three branches of the Students’ Association Government who has shown immense integrity and perseverance in striving to improve student life and welfare

Logan R. Hazen Award for Outstanding Contributions to Residential Life: Alesa Yuodsnukis

This award is given annually to the student who has “made significant contributions to the community and experience of students living in undergraduate residence halls. This student, through his or her actions, leadership, and innovation has promoted community through respect, fairness, and inclusion.”

Rachel   Rutul   Abhi

Award for Athletic Leadership: Rachel Honard

This award recognizes the positive contributions athletes make to the campus community. It is awarded to a student athlete who has demonstrated leadership within their club or varsity sport while also making significant contributions to other aspects of campus life.

Presidential Award for Community Service: Rutul Amin

Established by the Dean of Students in 1990 to recognize University students who are committed to community service. Given to a senior for outstanding participation and leadership in service to the community beyond the campus, this award recognizes a student who has worked selflessly and effectively in addressing social causes. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to, improving literacy, reducing hunger and hopelessness, providing legal or medical assistance to the needy, and serving as a mentor.

Entrepreneurship Award: Abhishek Sharma

The award for entrepreneurship is given to a student, or group of students, who has turned an idea into a venture that benefited others. The recipient will have demonstrated individual initiative and knowledge through awareness of markets and attention to the needs of others.

Anansa   Tori   Maddie

Michael Lowenstein Memorial Award: Anansa Benbow

This award, named for Michael Lowenstein, class of 1960 is presented to the University of Rochester River Campus undergraduate who deepens student, faculty, and community awareness of existing social, racial, or political inequities. This undergraduate through his/her words and actions has endeavored to promote the ideals which Michael cherished. Michael sought to give a fresh view of things around us, to focus upon issues, to probe deeply using fact and objectivity and to open a dialogue with the community to find some answers.

Transfer Student Award: Tori Saldivia

This award, recognizing the unique role of transfer students to the campus community, is given to a student who transferred with sophomore standing or above, and has completed a full year of study at the University. The recipient will have demonstrated a quick, successful, and seamless transition to the institution and will have taken full advantage of his or her time spent at the University.

Simeon Cheatham Award: Madeline Freeman

Established in the 1970s by the Office of the Dean of Students to recognize outstanding University of Rochester students. This award is given to a student who has outstanding qualities in devotion to community service and to growth and development of children.


The Communal Principles Award: Students’ Association for Interfaith Cooperation (SAIC)

Established by the Office of the Dean of Students during the 2011-2012 academic year, this award is given annually to the student(s) or organization that best promote(s) the Communal Principals, as adopted by The College. These principles include Fairness, Freedom, Honesty, Inclusion, Respect, and Responsibility. One of these six principles will be highlighted annually and the recipient will have demonstrated qualities that exemplify the principles and/or created programming and activities related to this year’s Communal Principle: Inclusion.

Student Organization and Programming Awards:

Excellence in Programming: Eastman Freshman Class Council

This Excellence in Programming Award recognizes a student organization or group, either formal or informal, for its exceptional creativity, planning, and execution of a University program. Criteria upon which decisions are based include appeal to a broad cross-section of the University community, originality, and participation by members of the organization during all phases of the effort.

Outstanding Student Organization Award: Active Minds

Awarded to a student organization that has gone beyond the bounds of their membership by helping to create a positive campus environment for all students.

Award for Excellence in Creative Co-Sponsorship: Sigma Delta Tau Sorority

Established in 2004, the Award recognizes a program that was co-sponsored by a minimum of two organizations or groups. The cosponsored program should have been a new effort, one that brought together different facets of campus, and which served to build and strengthen the campus community.

Building fun with UR Makers

By Bob Marcotte
University Communications

Chris Smith has been taking things apart and putting them back together again since he was eight years old.

“For Christmas I got an air compressor. Most kids get an Xbox,” he joked. “It’s always been hands on for me.” Now the freshman in Mechanical Engineering is sharing his skills with fellow UR students as a member of – and mentor for — a new club on campus.

The goal of UR Makers is to bring together engineering, arts, and sciences students who like to design and build things – and want to learn how to use a variety of tools as they do so. Not for a class. Not for credit. Just for the fun of it.

Their playground: The fabrication lab in Rettner Hall, with its state-of-the-art 3D printers, brand new Smithy 3 in 1 drill/mill/lathe machines, and plenty of space to spread out in, accessible 24/7.

“We think there’s a real opportunity here to fill a niche that’s not currently filled,” said club leader Sarah Harari, a junior in Computer Science and Digital Media Studies. “There’s no other space on campus where students of different majors can really work together to build whatever comes to mind.”

The club, still in its first year, has already sponsored:

  • a “retro tear down” event, during which members took apart an aging computer monitor and other obsolete equipment donated by the University.
  • a mouse trap car race night
  • tech talks on a variety of topics.
  • Lego Robotics Night
  • an Arduino Workshop
  • 3D Modeling and Printing Workshops

Currently, club members are finishing up a cabinet with shelves and a plexiglass sign with the club’s name, illuminated with LED lighting. They will be displayed in the space UR Makers has been assigned in a corner of the lab. It is part of the club’s effort “to get our name out there,” Harari explained.

“We want to have multiple projects going on, that students can work on during the week (the club currently meets 4-6 p.m. each Sunday),” Harari added. “We want them to feel this is a space where they can come in and bounce ideas off other students and meet with people who have different skill sets.”During a recent Sunday meeting, everyone got a chance to use various tools.


For example, Lia Klein, a sophomore in Computer Science, wielded a dremel tool to etch the outline of the club’s name in the plexiglass sign. She had never used a dremel before she joined the club and received a 45-minute introduction to basic tools and safety with Jim Alkins, Rettner Hall’s Senior Laboratory Engineer who formerly headed a machine shop, as part of Research and Development at Kodak.

“I didn’t really even know we had something at the school where you could use all the power tools for free and come in whenever you wanted,” Klein said. “And I feel like they’re really treating us like adults, which I appreciate.”

She hopes that, after working on a few projects with UR Makers, “I might gain the confidence and ability to do some projects on my own, and build stuff for my dorm room.”

In a nearby room, Steven Broida joyfully exchanged high fives with Caulin Nelson as the freshmen in Mechanical Engineering successfully cut notches in the cabinet, then fit shelves into them. This was Broida’s first experience using a power saw. “I’m learning as I use it,” he said proudly.

UR Makers is open to students of all majors and interests, regardless of experience. Click here to learn more or e-mail

Red Paperclip Challenge: Sparking Entrepreneurial Interest

A collaboration of student groups, led by Spark Entrepreneurs, hopes to inspire a spirit of creativity and ingenuity on the River Campus with an upcoming competition.  The Red Paperclip Challenge, also supported by Susan B. Anthony Hall Council, Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, Undergraduate Finance and Economics Council, and WRUR, intends to push students to create innovative outcomes from meager beginnings.

The competition was inspired by Kyle MacDonald, a young man who obtained a two-story farmhouse through a series of fourteen online trades, starting with just one red paperclip.  MacDonald’s entrepreneurial stint evolved into an internet company that promotes business ventures and social adventures with unconventional trajectories.

Spark Entrepreneurs, the hosting group, is a community of students with interests in entrepreneurship and business innovation.  The group provides internal, educational events that helps its members grow and learn as young entrepreneurs. They also schedule social events to network with those who are outside the group. Spark also hosts community events with the goal of improving the skills of existing entrepreneurs and exposing the campus community to the culture of startups.

The Red Paperclip Challenge aims to spark innovation and creative problem solving on campus.  It hopes to promote a new understanding of entrepreneurship, assuring that students of all majors, interests, and backgrounds are welcome to participate.

The event is set to begin at 6:00 pm on Friday, March 20 in the first floor atrium of Rettner Hall.

Students can enter as individuals or as a group, with a maximum of four people per team. The challenge is to start with a single red paperclip and explore its entrepreneurial possibilites for 24 hours. Participants will document their trades on Twitter and then present them to a panel of judges on Saturday night.

Dean of Students Matthew Burns, Director of Rettner Hall George Ferguson, Susanna Virgilio from the Center for Entrepreneurship, and Bob Tobin from Simon Business School will serve as mentors and judges for the competition.The winning three teams will take home a $300 cash prize, and all participants will celebrate with free food and a live WRUR DJ.

For more information, visit the Spark Entrepreneurs website.  For pre-registration, visit the event page available on facebook.

Spread the Word to End the Word: A Campus Coalition

A collaborative effort between student groups and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) is hoping to “Spread the Word to End the Word” on the River Campus this week. On Wednesday, March 4th, the student-driven coalition will ask the campus community to work towards mitigating the pejorative use of the R-word, “retard(ed),” as a starting point to facilitate acceptance and constructive dialogue featuring people-first language.

UR Special Olympics and the People First Initiative (PFI), two newly recognized student organizations, are partnering with RCCL, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, and Transition Opportunities at UR (TOUR) to plan a number of events this coming week focused on this year’s communal principle of inclusion.


The campaign is a national initiative sponsored by the Special Olympics organization. It recognizes the R-word as an exclusive, derogatory, and offensive term that has no place in colloquial language. While the word in question began as a clinical description, it has since come into use as a degrading pejorative for individuals with intellectual disabilities. STWTETW aims to reinforce people-first thinking that puts the person before the disability and establishes a new R-word: respect.

On Wednesday, March 4th the campaign will encourage students, staff, and faculty members to take the pledge to end the use of derisive language against the disability community.   Those who participate in the campaign are invited to sign a pledge banner, which will be located on the expression wall on the third floor of Wilson Commons throughout the week, and in Hirst Lounge on Wednesday from 11AM-2PM. STWTETW Day will also feature a whiteboard photo campaign and a “Post-Secret” style submission box in Hirst Lounge that will allow members of the campus community to share their personal stories and motivations for participating.


In the days leading up to STWTETW Day, The People First Initiative, a student group that promotes inclusion of individuals with disabilities, is hosting an array of events as a part of Disability Awareness Week. On Monday, March 2nd, Teena Fitzroy of the Rochester Advocacy Center will host a talk in Morey 321 about her life with cerebral palsy. PFI has also organized a Career Panel for Disability-Related Fields, which will take place on Tuesday, March 3rd. Panelists include pediatric social worker Angela Huss of Golisano Children’s Hospital and music therapist Noa Elimelech. In addition, AmeriCorps Inclusion Specialist and Special Olympics gold medalist Cori Piels will be giving a presentation in Dewey 2110E on inclusion, disability, and the importance of respectful language on Tuesday, March 3rd at 8PM. All are welcome at these events.

While STETW Day has been an annual occurrence on campus, this is the first year that it has expanded to include such a wide variety of programming. RCCL assistant director Catherine Lewis is excited to see the traction the campaign gains with the passion and initiative of these new groups.

Lewis is excited to see all of the positive energy that drives student leaders to support this campaign. “When you want to make college an inclusive place, it’s not enough to just open the door,” says Lewis. She believes that both access and support for individuals with disability is the key to success.

March is also National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which calls for awareness of the strengths and achievements of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In line with New York’s recent move from the outdated “handicapped” symbol to the redesigned “access” logo, movements such as this stress people-first thinking and the primacy of personhood.

“Spread the Word to End the Word” Day is aiming to show that words and symbols matter. More importantly, it aims to prove that disability is an aspect of diversity and calls for universal respect.

For more information on the STWTETW campaign, visit their site at:

Students’ Association stands against sexual assault

The University of Rochester Students’ Association Government is taking a stance against sexual assault by joining the “It’s On Us” campaign. The project stresses the collective responsibility of the community at large to stop sexual assault and to foster a safe and healthy culture at the University. The project urges students to work to change the current culture that allows for sexual violence.

Started as a campaign of Generation Progress and the White House, the initiative has found widespread support from college campuses across the nation, as well as collegiate organizations like The NCAA.  The “It’s On Us” campaign encourages students to take “the pledge,” which works to define sexual assault, highlight the importance of consent, and call for active intervention.

A new video released by the Students’ Association and University Communications features student leaders and administrative faculty encouraging a more active stance against sexual misconduct on campus.  On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, members of the SA Government will be tabling in Wilson Commons in order to promote the project’s launch and to raise awareness about sexual violence in all of its forms.

“It’s on us to foster a caring community of encouragement, compassion, and respect.”  That was the collaborative message relayed by students and staff alike in the video.

Efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault are not new to the River Campus.  UR Segway, a student organization, promotes a two-fold mission of providing education about sexual violence as well as support for survivors on campus.  The group sponsors the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, a march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  MOVE (Men Opposing Violence Everywhere) is dedicated to creating programming for men to talk about and stand against sexual assault.  MOVE regularly partners with College Feminists to schedule open discussions on topics regarding gender-based violence.

“Be the difference; take a stand,” urges senator Delvin Moody ’18.  The Students’ Association hopes that this campaign will galvanize the campus community to lend its support to survivors and actively work to stand against sexual violence.

For more information on the national “It’s on Us” campaign, visit:

“WWOOF” Away Summer in Puerto Rico

By Som Liengtiraphan ‘17
University Communications

“What did you do this summer?” is a common conversation starter at the start of the fall semester. Some undergrads picked up work skills internships or made some extra case with a seasonal job. Nina Listro, though,  ‘17 traveled to Puerto Rico and spent part of her summer “WWOOFing” at an organic fruit orchard.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), Listro explained, is an organization that connects farmers to people who want to learn and experience organic farming. Volunteers receive food, accommodation, and the opportunity to “dig in.”

Listro, along with two friends, Katie Wolfe and Steven Whitney, spent three weeks at an organic fruit orchard this summer in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. A typical day on the farm started at 7:30 am with a breakfast of oatmeal. Then from 8:00 to 11:30 am, the volunteers took care of chores and manual labor on the farm. These tasks include planting cacao trees and weeding. This was followed by a three hour lunch break. After the siesta, another three hours of work was completed before dinner.  Dinner was usually included fruits and vegetables grown on the farm.

After two weeks on the farm, Listro, an English Language, Media, and Communications major, and her friends traveled through Puerto Rico before returning for a final week on the farm. On the bus out of Mayaguez, Listro and her friends met a villa ownership and his son.

“My friends (Katie, Steven and Max–a student from San Diego that worked on the farm with us) and I met Luis Ortiz and his son Tsunami on the bus from Mayaguez to San Juan for an organized march against Monsanto,” a US company that specializes in developing genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds.

“Luis owned an oceanside villa that he rented to vacationers, and he had a week where he didn’t have any guests,” Listro explained. “He asked us if we wanted to help clean and paint the villa during that week and in exchange we would get to stay there and he’d pay for our groceries.” The villa was in Rincòn, the surfing capital of Puerto Rico. We worked Monday-Friday for about six hours a day cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, painting the exterior….  The rest of the time we were free to do what we pleased, which tended to be swimming in the crystal clear, turquoise water. Max even taught us to surf on one of our days off!”

“One day we were cleaning the kitchen window that looked straight out to the ocean and saw 7 wild manatees. We hurriedly put on our swimsuits, grabbed some goggles and snorkels, and got to swim with them. I even touched one–It was magical! We worked there for a week, and  stayed for a few days longer before we had to go to the airport. We still keep in touch.”

To Listro, this experience was a time of learning. Not only did she learn about organic farming and its lifestyle, she also learned a lot about herself. “What I learned most was to control my own anxiety. There were no parents there and I had to learn to deal with it on my own,” she said. “But I had two friends to support me, and I grew up a little.”

Listro said she would recommend WWOOFing. “Definitely! I wished I had stayed longer than five weeks, but five weeks is a good place to start. I would recommend getting to know the farmer you are working with before you go. Travelling is the best way to be in tune with yourself, and by going, I learned a lot.”

For more information on WWOOF, visit their website.

Elan Bacharach ’18: A Real Life Saver!


Elan Bacharach is a freshman from New York City.  This summer he saved a man from drowning in the East River. I caught up with him earlier this week to discuss his spontaneous heroism. Here is his story:

It was too fast to think. If there had actually been any thinking time, I’m sure someone would have come up with a smarter way to deal with it, because what I did was pretty stupid. I work down at South Street seaport, and we train for man overboard drills all the time. They always say the last thing you should do is jump in, because then you have two people in the water. It was the first week of August. It was a maintenance day–if it wasn’t a maintenance day we would have been sailing. I wouldn’t have been there, and who knows what would’ve happened. I was walking back from the bathroom, and the ship I work on was on the opposite end of the pier. And suddenly I hear a commotion. I run over to where this speed boat, a touring vessel, was I figure they were having boat trouble, and I could lend a hand.

I hear a commotion

There’s this guy in the water with a life jacket.  People are trying to pull him up, and he’s bleeding from the mouth…everywhere. Apparently he was a line handler, and the boat he worked on was trying to pull out–it was a massive boat–but the captain didn’t realize that the line was still attached to a cleat. So this guy was trying to get it off the cleat, and it actually ripped the cleat out of the dock, it hit him in the chest and punctured his lung. This spike from the cleat went into his chest, and he was pitched into the water.

elan topsail

There were three or four of us trying to stop the boat with our legs from crushing him into the dock itself. It was a bad situation. There’s all this activity going on, and no one knows what the hell is happening. Finally, we manage to get the boat to stop backing up. And this was a big guy in the water–he’s about 220 pounds. Some other guys from the company he works with come over.  So I figure I should stop and let them handle it. I hand the part of the life jacket I was holding to another guy, jumped over the railing, and I turned around and the guy in the water was gone. The people who were trying to pull him out were holding his lifejacket. His PFD was open, which is how the cleat punctured his lung, and he slipped out of it, into the East River.

The tide was flooding

The tide took him out into the river, and people were throwing life rings for him–there were still a lot of boats in the area.  But he wasn’t really conscious, he was drifting in and out.  He was floundering, and he couldn’t really grab on.  He got 10, 15, 20 feet out, and his head went under the surface. I looked around and no one was doing anything. I remember, someone was yelling “don’t lose him, don’t let him go under.” It wasn’t really doing any good. My grandfather, he died under similar circumstances, he drowned in our pool, so I guess I was kind of sensitive to it or something.

I dove in, and I dove down.

I threw my phone out of my pocket, I dove in, and I dove down. And the thing is, with ‘man overboard,’ you’re supposed to keep a line of sight on the guy at all times. There was someone pointing to where he was, which was good, because if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have been able to find him. The East River is really nasty and dirty and dark. I went down a few feet, and luckily, my aim was good, and I found the guy.  I found him and then I got my arm around him and I swam back up to the surface. At this point I’m just treading water with him, because for one thing, he’s a big guy, and he’s just dead weight. Plus, I had my work boots and my rig on me, all my gear for rigging and sailing–which is a lot– and I was weighed down. It was difficult, so I couldn’t do anything but tread water. The current was against me, and he was bleeding everywhere.

Get him to the dock

At this point, another civilian, dove in and helped me with him. The crew of the boat I worked on managed to commandeer a small Zodiac, which is a rubber raft, to where we able to swim him over and get him aboard, and then get him over to the dock. Shortly after that the police came, and took him to the hospital. I went right back to work.

Shaking hands

After the events of that August day, Elan got to shake hands with the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and the company of the man he saved.  Elan also had an opportunity to meet Ron Carter, widely regarded as the best jazz bassist of all time, who congratulated him on his meritorious actions.

The man Bacharach saved is recovering from his injuries. Elan has been a deck hand on ships for the past three summers.

Interviewed by Joe Bailey

Lifesaver image by