BU Today


Men’s crew awarded $50,000 challenge grant

Gift from foundation honors the memory of former coach Jim Nesworthy

In 1998, a boat was named for Jim Nesworthy (center) in honor of his 80th birthday. At the dedication are former men's crew captain Phil Twombly (SMG'47) (left) and current head coach Rodney Pratt. Photo by Linda Haas

Jim Nesworthy’s contributions to BU men’s crew are legendary. The head coach from 1948 to 1964 took a struggling collegiate program and put it on the national map, bringing the Terriers into the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges in 1953, where they remain a forced to be reckoned with. “He helped elevate the team from Division II to Division I,” says current coach Rodney Pratt. “His efforts laid the groundwork for the rowers’ recent success.”

Even after Nesworthy’s death in 2002, his presence is still felt on the Charles River — not only in two BU boats named for him, but also in a recent $50,000 grant from the James E. and Allyce Darling Nesworthy Foundation. The gift is a challenge grant, aimed to encourage the team to raise additional funds, according to William Tyler (LAW’51), executor of the foundation.

His legacy is also honored with the Coach James E. Nesworthy Spring Training and Special Regatta Travel Fund, which was established at BU four years ago. The endowed fund supports travel, accommodation, and dining for spring training camp, which took place last year in Clemson, S.C. In addition, it enables men’s crew to participate in prestigious regattas outside the scheduled collegiate racing season, including the Henley Royal Regatta in England. 

Nesworthy, the former president of the Association of Rowing Coaches of America, was inducted into the National Rowing Foundation’s Book of Honor in 1995. He began his crew career as captain of the Springfield, Mass. Technical High School team and went on to coach all four high schools in that city from 1930 to 1935. He initiated and coached the sport at American International College in Springfield, and then served as the freshman coach at BU in the 1940-41 season. After starting and coaching crew programs at the University of Tampa in 1941, and coaching the Navy Indoctrination Schools crew at Harvard the following year, he was a Navy lieutenant commander in World War II, earning a Purple Heart and a Navy Commendation Medal for Valor.

After serving as a training officer for the U.S. Naval and Air Force Academies and at West Point, Nesworthy then returned to BU in 1948 to become head coach for men’s crew, which in 1950, 1951, and 1952 won the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia, the largest collegiate regatta in the U.S. Nesworthy helped make the Terriers newsworthy: under his tutelage the program produced Olympians Sonny Fox (COM’55) and Ted Nash (CGS’54) — the latter was a member of the U.S. crew that won the Gold Medal in 1960.

“Jim was the most unforgettable character I’ve ever known,” said Phil Twombly (SMG’47), a former BU rower, at Nesworthy’s memorial service in 2002. “I’m proud to have been his friend. He was an athlete, a teacher, and a gentleman.”

Nesworthy was known to champion the importance of teamwork in the sport. “In crew we have no Saturday heroes,” he once wrote. “No sparkling last-minute goal line stands or spectacular thrills that come with a diving catch, circus-pass catching, or breathtaking puck shot…ours is the long, arduous grind in the cold, snow, or rain” that requires rowers “to exhibit a self-discipline rarely found in other sports.”

Indeed, Tyler, a neighbor and friend of Nesworthy, pointed out at the memorial service that crew “is the perfect example of group endeavor and cooperation. Jim Nesworthy understood all of this and he used his authority as coach surprisingly well to build his oarsmen into sound and responsible young men.”