Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, Director of Athletics and Recreation for the University of Pennsylvania, is proud to announce the creation of the Fred W. Leonard Men’s Lightweight Rowing Head Coach Endowment Fund. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial support to the Men's Lightweight Rowing program and its head coach position. More than 50 former oarsmen came together to raise more than one million dollars to endow the head coaching position, which will now be named in honor of retired Men's Lightweight Rowing head coach Fred W. Leonard.
“Fred Leonard was an historic coach at Penn, and we are thrilled to see his legacy honored through the philanthropic support of our devoted alumni base,” said Dr. Calhoun. “Endowing the lightweight rowing head coaching position has been a priority of ours, and meeting that goal speaks to the passion of our alumni base in ensuring a nationally competitive program. I want to congratulate and thank Thomas Cassel, ME’68 and Michael Mann, C’69 for their tireless volunteer work in rallying their peers. I’m sure the positive momentum from this effort will carry over into a strong spring season on the water. I look forward to what the team and Coach Colin Farrell accomplish this year and for many more to come.”
Leonard spent more than 36 years as a rowing coach, including 27 seasons at the helm of the University of Pennsylvania. In his time with the Quakers, Leonard garnered a 109-81 overall record in cup races, including undefeated finishes in four straight seasons from 1975-78. In 1976, the Penn Lightweight Rowing Varsity Eight claimed the EARC Sprints Championship, and in 1982 the Varsity Four captured the IRA Regatta national championship.
“As the head coach of Penn Lightweight Rowing for almost thirty years, I was proud to have played a small part in the lives of so many exceptional young people,” said Fred W. Leonard. “I thoroughly enjoyed seeing not only how successful they were as rowers, but also how successful they all became in their careers after Penn.”
“Endowing the head coaching position for Lightweight Crew is a tremendous step toward ensuring the present and future success of our program,” said Penn’s current lightweight rowing coach, Colin Farrell. “I have been continually impressed with the efforts of our alumni and the friends of the program to make this happen. I cannot thank all of the contributors enough. Coach Leonard influenced so many Penn Lightweights in his time here and now has helped to leave a lasting legacy. It is truly an honor to be the first Fred W. Leonard Head Coach of Lightweight Crew at Penn.”
“Throughout the 100-year history of Lightweight Rowing at Penn, no head coach served longer than Fred Leonard,” remarked Tom Cassel ME’68, who rowed for Fred during his days as a Quaker. “For 27 years, from 1964 to 1991, Fred brought success to Penn’s Lightweight Rowing Program as he selflessly devoted himself to the development of competitive rowing skills and the character of more than 500 student athletes. Fred's impact on our lives is beyond measure. Moreover, knowing now that Fred knows that his name and his legacy will live forever is the greatest reward we all can share.”
“My fondest memory of Coach Leonard was ‘Character Building Day,’” recalled Michael Mann, C’69. “This usually meant that it was pitch dark outside, the wind was strong, and it was either raining, snowing, sleeting, or sometimes all three. After six miles, Fred would bring the fleet tantalizingly close to the dock and then head us up river for another six with the command, ‘Character Building Day!’ We all experience some rough times in our lives, but when I’ve had them, Fred’s ‘Character Building Day’ puts a little grit into me and frequently makes me reflect back on my treasured days as a Penn Lightweight rower and makes me smile.”
Leonard was first seen on the Schuylkill River as a nine-year old with his father in a double in 1938 and went on to serve as the coach at the Haverford School, where he led the program to 12 national championships. A member of the national lightweight quad championship boat in 1958, Fred was also the victor in 57 of 99 races entered with the Undine Barge Club from 1960-67. In all, he made four trips to the Henley Royal Regatta in England—1957 with Haverford, 1976 with the Penn 150’s, 1977 with Penn alumni, and 1992 with Penn lightweights.
“For me, I was lucky to grow up during this time and enjoyed many happy hours in the launch with my dad,” noted John Leonard, Fred’s son. “As a little kid, just getting to steer the launch was a thrill. I have tons of fond memories of those days. I am fortunate to know a lot of the Lightweight Rowing alumni, and they all seem to appreciate my dad. I don't know of a tighter group that spans close to 30 years of age difference. Thank you to all of the supporters of this endeavor, it is a tremendous way to honor my father.”
A plaque to commemorate Fred Leonard and the endowment donors will be unveiled at a celebration to be held at Mike Mann’s house on Saturday, April 22.