WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In September 2019, Ellen Shew Holland earned the title President of the Purdue Rowing Association. As a rower from 1981–1984, she primarily rowed port at eight and six seats (and occasionally “that other side” of the boat when the team was short on rowers). She stroked the Women’s Varsity four team that took gold at the Eastern Association of Women’s Rowing Championships in 1983. In addition, Holland was seven seat in an eight the previous year, resulting in a second place title at Wisconsin. From 1986-1987, Holland coached the Varsity Women’s squad for one year while working full-time in a corporate sales position. Since then, she continues to be involved with the alumni program.
Ellen and her Executive Leadership Team plan to take the Purdue Crew team to the next level as the program enters the 70th year of rowing on the Wabash. The rich history and success of Purdue Crew is something to be proud of thanks to the Butler brothers (the ones responsible for such a great start). The Purdue Crew team hopes to reciprocate the team’s past success for at least another 70 years!
To celebrate the 70-year anniversary, Purdue Crew plans to host a celebration at the boathouse on October 3, 2020. The Executive Committee will work to revise the strategic plan over the next few months before the celebration. The committee consists of VP Christian Becker, Secretary Ian Burns, Historian Melanie Parks, Communications Director Mark Bucherl, Event Coordinator Jennifer Kramer, John North, Coach Kucik and Crew President Henri LaLiberte.
Ellen credits her interest in Crew to her brother, Ed, who began rowing in the late 70s. After she witnessed her first race, she became enamored with the strength and beauty of the sport. The Holland family consists of several other rowers as well. Ellen recalls that her interest in rowing started because the sport was so mesmerizing to watch from the banks. She knew when she saw it that she would go to Purdue and row. The physics and beauty of the sport combined with the strength and preparation involved is incredible. In fact, she remembers always striving for the elusive yet “perfect” stroke and could never forget her last collegiate race at the Dad Vails where her boat, while in petite finals, was literally “swinging” well ahead of the rest.
That said, Holland recalls Purdue Crew’s critical juncture points. One of those critical points includes a decision made in the early 80s following the start of women’s rowing in the 1970s. With a fairly new women’s crew of about 15-20 women, Purdue offered scholarships, equipment, and the varsity sport status for women’s crew. Yet, because of Title IX, the change would likely lead to the demise of the men’s program, and as is consistent with the sport today, the team voted to keep Purdue Crew a club sport in order to keep the teams together.
While some criticized the decision in the following years, Ellen believes that the decision was the right one. Since then, Purdue women rowers have excelled at the national and international level. Paralympic Silver Medalist Emma Preuschel and Gold Medalist Amanda Elmore proved their success in the Women’s eight at the 2016 Olympics. These women found success without Purdue varsity status, which says so much about the dedication of the club team. To these women and so many more, Holland says thank you for all of the contributions and support.
Ellen uses the lessons she learned from Purdue Crew throughout her career. Many of her closest friends rowed at Purdue, and when she advanced in her career and moved across the United States, she always found support from a rower nearby. While working at Georgetown University as a Risk Control/Analyst, she needed to conduct training for athletes driving 15-passenger vans. Tony Johnson, the long-term coach at the time, helped win over the other coaches to get the training in place. Johnson’s support helped her immensely!
The lessons learned from the Purdue Crew team are lessons not lost. The experiences and memories keep Holland grounded when faced with any challenge. She continues to row on an Erg today. She recently completed the Concept Two Holliday Challenge with sights on the One Million Meter Challenge come May 1, 2020. She hopes that more Purdue Alumni and friends will join her in the upcoming races under the Purdue affiliation!
Ellen Holland’s husband, Bob, teaches Economics at Purdue, and her own business is based in Plano, Texas. As Holland resumes her second year of independent risk management consulting with her firm, Strategic Risk Frameworks, she continues to remember lessons and experiences from Purdue Crew to ground her for the future.