Academies dedicates Olympic-quality rowing center

A throng of hundreds braved chilly winds off Lake Max­inkuckee Friday, Oct. 5, for the official dedication of Culver Academies' majestic new White Devries Rowing Center, which not only replaces the longtime "crew shed" at the eastern end of the campus, but places in Culver a rowing facility to compare with the finest in the world.

That theme was taken up by several of the speakers at the dedication ceremony, as was that of the power of the ancient sport to enhance teamwork, bring out the best in athletes, and connect students -- in the case of Culver, at least -- to their school and its importance in their lives.

Head of Schools John Buxton particularly emphasized the latter during his opening remarks, in which he quot­ed from a fictional (though drawn from real life) account of a Culver student's powerful experiences with rowing at Culver.

Culver senior Celeta Dodge, of Walkerton, Ind., said the new center, which boasts Olympic quality, indoor rowing tanks among other features, will "instill greater purpose" in future student rowers. Culver rowing team captain Dan­iel Gaynor, also a senior, noted the team has already started to benefit from the new facility, which also includes its own weight training and workout room and enhanced stor­age for crew shells and equipment. He called the building "the ultimate facility to better ourselves," adding he was unaware of a high school level facility to compare.

The two-story, $7 million-plus structure also includes a second-floor alumni lounge, viewing center, and outdoor deck overlooking Lake Maxinkuckee, as well as a gi­ant-screen, interactive media center showcasing the current
White also cited the assistance of fellow donors George Devries, Mike Huffington, and Nix Lauridsen -- who were also present -- as well as architect John Chipman (CMA 1968), son of 1945 graduate Eugene Chipman, of Plym­outh. White further praised the "exacting perfection" of Academies Facilities director Jeff Kutch.

Describing the genesis of the building project, whose discussion he said began with a conversation eight years ago with Buxton, White said the "heartbeat of Culver rowing will beat from this facility."
George Devries III (CMA 1977), the other half of the Rowing Center's moniker, described a childhood devoid of the father who died when he was one year old, and a financially challenging youth. Culver Academies, he said, awarded him almost a full scholarship, and Devries chose to row crew at the school.

"Attending Culver instills a sense that you can accom­plish anything," added Devries, who also rowed at the University of San Diego and is today the CEO of Ameri­can Specialty Health. He said two of his sons are rowing competitively today.

"Culver and rowing have inspired so much in my life," said Devries. "I hope this facility will inspire future Cul­ver students."

Also addressing the audience was Nix Lauridsen (CMA 1968), who noted three of his own children attended Cul­ver and emphasized the value of crew as a team sport. Fel­low donor Mike Huffington also spoke, calling the new center "the best facility in the world" and encouraging current students to give back to Culver in the future.