Franceine Welcome ’19 awarded Gilliam Fellowship
Olympic medalist Anita DeFrantz '74, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a Connecticut College trustee emeritus, was inducted into the National Rowing Hall of Fame on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Mystic Seaport last month.
More about her induction.
DeFrantz, a member of the rowing squad at Connecticut College, was a bronze medalist and team captain at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. A member of six National Teams, she was a four-time finalist at the World Rowing Championships, winning a silver medal in 1978. She has also won six National Championships.
In 1986, she became the first American woman and the first African American appointed to serve on the IOC. DeFrantz is also a member of the United States Olympic Committee, vice president of FISA (International Rowing Federation) and president of the LA84 Foundation of Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving youth through sports and to increase knowledge of sports and its impact on people's lives.
DeFrantz began her rowing career at Connecticut College, in large part by chance. She was waking across campus when she spotted an odd contraption and asked the man carrying it – crew coach Bart Gulong – what it was. Gulong told DeFrantz it was a rowing shell and then remarked that the 5'11 sophomore would be perfect for rowing. She joined the team.
“I knew nothing about rowing, but I loved the opportunity to be out on the water, and the freedom of being on the water without being in it,” DeFrantz said. “Racing with the school uniform on was something that was magical to me, and I loved working really hard with the team.”
DeFrantz is one of the most influential women in amateur sports, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. She is a passionate advocate for opening the Olympics to more women.
“She is one of sports' true pioneers,” says ESPN commentator Richard Lapchick. “Her influence is written all over the Olympics.” When DeFrantz competed at Montreal in 1976, less than 20 percent of the athletes were women. Today it’s close to 50 percent.
On her Web site, DeFrantz says rowing has been her “life teacher” and calls it the “ultimate team sport.”
“Each team member must be in complete synchronization with every other person in their boat,” she says. “Rowing tends to create people who give back to their community. Leadership is also a responsibility given to those of us from rowing. Perhaps this is because we each have had to learn first how to follow.”
-Amy Martin and Barb Nagy