Sept. 19, 2009
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Tom and Barbara Wilson Rowing Center was officially dedicated Saturday, Sept. 19 at a ceremony held in the center located at the Bohler Athletic Complex on the campus of Washington State University.
"If you talk about sports initiatives that are world class, and Washington State University is a world class place, this is one of those programs," WSU President Elson S. Floyd said. "A special thanks to Tom and Barbara for their leadership. Today is a celebration of both, our athletics excellence and our academic excellence. Jane (LaRiviere) is someone who is so passionate about our university, who has this remarkable sense of humor, who understands the importance of investing in young women."
Construction began on the $1.2 million project in July of 2008 and the indoor rowing center was completed in the spring of 2009. Tom and Barbara Wilson joined other WSU supporters and donated money to the project.
"Since that first call (from Tom and Barbara Wilson), my life has changed, but far more importantly the lives of 110 female undergraduates have changed," LaRiviere said. "Our athletes have something tangible outside their accomplishments that they can feel and see and touch and there's never been more concrete evidence that they matter than this steel and fiber glass structure. They matter to the athletic department, they matter to the university and they just plain matter."
The couple's passion for WSU rowing was made possible through their passion for boating. The Wilsons have traveled throughout the Northwest and the nation on their boat, the Toba. Highlighted in their travels is the Cougar Country cruise. In 2003, the Wilsons visited every Washington waterfront county during the cruise, and, at each stop, the Wilsons held events on the dock and signed up what they estimated to be a couple of hundred members to the club.
"I think what's neat about the Wilsons is they will do anything to help promote Washington State University, specifically, they're involved with athletics," WSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said. "But their main goal is to show what a great place that Washington State University is. They understood the vision for rowing at Washington State and what a facility like this could do for the program. It's been fun, they are great folks and it's just appropriate that we're able to honor them today and celebrate this facility."
Up to 16 people can row in the tank, which has the unique feature that allows LaRiviere to control the speed of the water, which can go as high a rate as 10 knots an hour. The tank allows the coaching staff to instruct in close proximity to the rowers to help improve form and technique, especially when coaching the novice student-athletes who are new to the sport.
"The Tom and Barbara Wilson rowing center levels the playing field with our Pac-10 rivals, it helps with recruitment, retention and training. It raises the awareness of rowing on this campus, around the state and nationally. The facility has revolutionized our novice training and has become the cornerstone of the Bohler Athletic Complex, marking the completion of a renovation that started in the mid-90's. I see our team sitting up a bit straighter, and I see our team trying a little bit harder. In short, the tank has changed everything. We have big dreams and for that we can thank Tom and Barbara."
"This is just an amazing woman that we have leading this rowing program," Tom Wilson said. "The very first thing we have to say is that we're very thankful that Jane called and asked us to participate in this project. It's been a lot of fun and culminates today with the thrilling part, which is how this thing is being used."
"I think I have to say is what's important about this is not having our name up there, it's a little overwhelming," Barbara Wilson added. "What's important about it is that generations of young women will know that things happen at Washington State University because ordinary people step up at whatever level they can to contribute."