Rowers earn Stratton Cup; race commemorates Coast Guard legend

This post is courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Rob Hemp, Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven.

Photo of rowing teams

Three teams in eight-oared rowing shells race the 2,000-meter course at the Lubbers Cup Regatta April 2, 2011 in Spring Lake, Mich. Photo courtesy of Courtney Olson, Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg.

The Coast Guard’s core values are Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.  They are essential to achieving our missions.  I want to tell you about some current college athletes who are striving for something similar, and about a Coast Guard legend whom their efforts honored. 

I had the privilege of presenting a trophy in Spring Lake, Mich., Saturday April 2 at a collegiate crew rowing regatta, the “Don” Lubbers Cup Regatta.  This year’s event featured teams from 13 Division I and III colleges from the U.S. and Canada, including the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

One reason I jumped at the chance to present the trophy is because I rowed on the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s varsity crew team when I was a cadet, so I know what it means to row, and I appreciate the adage “Athletes row; others play games.”  You never see anyone having a pickup game of crew, and rowers don’t dream of big money; these are serious athletes, who give up their spring break to be out in the cold on the water giving it their all.  To go fast, each member of a crew has to have every part of every movement balanced and in perfect timing, because if not, the boat will heel to one side and half the rowers’ fingers will be mashed between their oars and the gunwale.  Of course, each rower must have tremendous whole-body muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance to go along with the discipline to keep perfect form even if soaked by a cold wave.  Rowing is worthwhile because it is a challenge.

Photo of Coast Guardsman talking to spectators

Cadet 1st Class Brian Bonomi, a senior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, gives interested spectators a close-up look at an eight-oared rowing shell at the Lubbers Cup Regatta April 2, 2011 in Spring Lake, Mich. Bonomi will report to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, based in Cape May, N.J., upon graduation from the Academy in May. Photo courtesy of Courtney Olson, Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg.

The trophy for the Women’s Lightweight Four at the Lubbers Cup is named the Captain Dorothy Stratton Cup, after a Coast Guard legend. 

In 1942, Dorothy Stratton, Ph.D., took a leave of absence from her professorship and position as dean of women at Purdue University to serve her country.  After serving with the Navy, she became the first member of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, which she renamed SPARs for the Coast Guard motto of Semper Paratus and its english translation, Always Ready.  She was the first woman accepted for service as a commissioned officer in the history of the United States Coast Guard.  During her four years as director of the SPARs, she recruited and led 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 female commissioned officers.  She led the group through World War II and until the SPARs’ demobilization was completed in 1946.  Large numbers of SPARs were trained and qualified as radio operators and served with distinction in the communications service as well as other specialties such as divers, parachute riggers and pharmacist’s mates.  After serving in the Coast Guard, she became the first director of personnel at the International Monetary Fund.  She then served as national executive director of the Girl Scouts of America for 10 years.  Capt. Stratton passed away in 2006, when she was 107 years old.

The Coast Guard named its third National Security Cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL-752), in her honor. First Lady Michelle Obama christened the cutter. 

Photo of trophy presentation

Ohio State University Women's Lightweight Four rowers and their coxswain (holding the trophy) pose with the Captain Dorothy Stratton Cup, which was presented to them by Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Robert Hemp (right) at the Lubbers Cup Regatta April 2, 2011 in Spring Lake, Mich. Photo courtesy of Courtney Olson, Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg.

The area hosted a group of SPARs as part of the 2009 Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, during which a point on the Walk of Coast Guard History was dedicated to commemorate the SPARs.  Regatta organizers wanted to honor the Coast Guard and decided to name the trophy for the event after Stratton.  The event was one of eight that did not yet have a trophy, and the Captain Dorothy Stratton Cup was the only new trophy added this year.

The team from the Ohio State University won the 2011 Stratton Cup, beating teams from Grand Valley State University, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Michigan State University and North Park University (not all 13 teams entered a boat in the Lightweight Four event).

I appreciate the gesture and am glad to know that every year rowers will compete in honor of Capt. Stratton.

I hope more spectators will be able to attend next year’s regatta on April 14, 2012.  Grand Valley State coach John M. Bancheri and his partners should have an exciting 17th annual event.

Congratulations to the women from Ohio State on their victory, and may the lives of each of the competitors be as full, productive and inspiring as the namesake of their trophy.  Semper Paratus!

If you would like more information about Capt. Dorothy Stratton, please visit the links below.
Capt. Stratton official biography
Congressional Resolution in honor of Capt. Stratton’s 105th Birthday
Coast Guard Reservist Magazine article in honor of Capt. Stratton’s 100th Birthday
Ottawa Award