When Wellesley opened its doors in 1875, it became the first college in the country to establish a women’s rowing program. With its win last season the College’s crew team clinched back-to-back NCAA National Championship victories and its third overall championship, cementing its legacy as a powerhouse in the sport. Though each year is a clean slate, the 2024 team is as eager and engaged as ever in its pursuit of greatness.

This legacy of success is due to the tremendous commitment of today’s student-athletes and the generations of rowers and coxswains who came before them, bolstered by the enduring philanthropy of the College community. “Rowing is an incredibly expensive sport,” says crew head coach Tessa Spillane, acknowledging that athletes in NCAA Division III rowing programs are often asked to pay for training trips or raise funds themselves for new equipment.

Recent gifts to the program from Michele and Dave Livingston P’19 and Debby Lundstrom McMullen ’61 show how unwavering support can remove those economic barriers and have a tangible impact on the team.

Michele and Dave Livingston P19

$250,000 to establish the Wellesley College Crew Equipment Fund

Wellesley parents are an integral part of the crew program’s support system. Michele and Dave Livingston, parents of rower Katie Livingston '19, were among a group of alumni, parents and friends fondly dubbed "super fans" of the crew team by Spillane. This was a role they embraced wholeheartedly, hosting team dinners and braving many rainy, cold regattas. They were impressed by the invaluable life skills, academic and emotional support, and lifelong friendships the crew team provided Katie.

While their daughter was on the team, the Livingstons made a generous gift to establish the Wellesley College Crew Equipment Fund, which enables the program to purchase and maintain crew shells and other equipment, such as launches and trailers. After Katie graduated, they continued to contribute to the fund. Thanks to the Livingstons’ generosity the team has acquired a new rowing shell, Hillseeker, which was christened last month.

“Beyond the mere purchase of equipment, our hope is that this support extends far beyond the transactional realm, providing the crew team with resources that empower them to excel,” Michele and Dave say. “Our donation is a statement of our belief in the transformative power of sports and education, and our commitment to facilitate access to such opportunities for all.”

Debby Lundstrom McMullen ’61

$250,000 to create the Debby Lundstrom McMullen Endowment for the Wellesley College Varsity (only) Crew Team

Before Wellesley created an official crew team, Debby Lundstrom McMullen ’61 was a member of her class crew team. They raced other Wellesley classes on Lake Waban—and won, which she found thrilling. She relished having a break from the classroom and says being on the water energized her and gave her the mental clarity she needed to complete her never-ending anthropology readings. “It’s important that the girls have a fun way of having an outlet, away from their studies,” she says. When she decided to support the College in 2023, she wanted to give back to something she had loved at Wellesley. For her, that was crew. McMullen says she hopes her endowed fund can cover “the nitty-gritty stuff, the everyday expenses” that come with this sport, such as transportation to practice and races.

Spillane says the incredible generosity of the community enabled the team to purchase two additional rowing shells, Bridget B and Blue ’22, in the last five years. The Butler Boathouse, which the team calls home, was also made possible by donor support—renovated in 2015 thanks to a generous gift from Alice Butler ’53 and her husband, John, who believe deeply that physical fitness is a key ingredient to a successful life.

“This program’s success is built on significant donor support at all levels,” says Spillane. “This has allowed us to create a fleet of equipment that is second to none in Division III rowing.”