Alumni reconnect at Head of the Charles Regatta


By Jenna Ciccotelli, news staff

Despite a weekend full of wind and rain, generations of Northeastern Huskies packed the banks of the Charles River for the 52nd annual Head of the Charles Regatta last weekend. While there was no shortage of current students supporting this year’s crews, alumni gathered at Northeastern’s Henderson Boathouse and in the regatta-sponsored Reunion Village to connect with each other and celebrate their Husky pride.

Huskies are represented at the Head of the Charles not only as fans and athletes, but in race operations as well. Roger Borggaard, who graduated from Northeastern in 1968, is on the Head of the Charles’ Board of Directors.

“We went from a bunch of guys in a boat to a fair amount of wins and good publicity the following year [1966],” he recalled about his time rowing as a part of Northeastern’s first rowing crew.

According to Borggaard, 10,000 athletes participated in this year’s regatta, compared to 200 or 300 participants in 1965. Beyond the sheer size differences between his races as an athlete and the races of today, he also noted the impact of new technology on the modern regatta.

“You don’t have to wait two or three hours to find out how you did [in the race],” Borggaard said. “You get back to the boathouse and you know.”

On Saturday, crews made up of former Northeastern rowers raced in four events: men’s and women’s Master Eights (for those over age 50 and age 40, respectively) and men’s and women’s Alumni Eights.

“It feels really nice to get back together with some of your buddies and go do a three mile trip up the river in the rain,” said Alumni Eights coxswain Connor Wortley, who rowed for four years at Northeastern before graduating in 2016.

The men’s Alumni Eight boat, which included members of NU’s teams from 2011 through 2016, finished second out of 50 boats.

Wortley was proud of the alumni boat’s performance. While he was unsure of official results at the time, he said with certainty that they had accomplished their goal.

“We wanted to beat [the University of] Washington, which we did,” he said. “They had a couple of Olympians in their boat so it feels good to beat them.”

Rick Schroeder is in his 14th year as Northeastern’s boatsman, in which he is responsible for repairing the boats and launches and keeping everything in shape at the Henderson Boathouse.

Schroeder rowed for Northeastern beginning in 1985 and was captain of the team during his senior year.

Upon graduation in 1990, he rowed with a club team and worked as a carpenter with Stillwater Design, the company that builds the launches at the Boathouse. When Northeastern was in need of a new rigger, Schroeder had the perfect résumé.

Schroeder looked back at his own experiences at the regatta fondly and noted the immense changes to the race’s atmosphere.

“I remember the first time approaching the race course,” he said. “They were rolling kegs around. It was a very different environment.”

Beyond the vendor scene at the Head of the Charles, the race itself has changed, Schroeder said.

“The whole rowing world was much smaller [in the 1980s],” he said. “You’d be able to tell what every program was. There’s so many [boats] out there now, I have no idea where all these people are from.”

Beyond the Boathouse, former Huskies gathered at the Reunion Village to enjoy food and drinks and to connect with old friends and make new ones.

Twenty-three Northeastern alumni registered to attend, said Eliza Scott, who works in Northeastern’s Office of Alumni Relations. Scott was certain that more alumni would find their way to the village over the weekend.

Binja Basimike, a “Double Husky” who earned her bachelor’s degree from Northeastern in 2012 and her master’s degree in 2014, was joined by Maggie Kokkalis from the class of 1989.

This year’s regatta was Basimike’s eighth. She came to the event every year while in college to support her friend Greta Haselmann, who rowed for Northeastern before graduating in 2012.

Haselmann, who is originally from Germany, recently moved back to Europe, but Basimike made sure she did not miss out on the Head of the Charles and Skyped her before the races began.

“My favorite part is seeing the alumni come back and seeing the Northeastern crew compete,” Basimike said. “They were always on the road somewhere, so to get the chance to see them on the Charles [River] in Boston is as good as it gets.”

Basimike noted with a laugh that she has changed more than the race has.

“My appreciation for the race has changed,” she said. “Initially I went as a supporter and now I go as a proud alumni.”

Kokkalis kept busy during her time at Northeastern and never made it down to see the Head of the Charles live – this year’s regatta was her first.

“They were looking for some volunteers, so I said, ‘Let’s check it out’ [and] It’s really interesting. I’m just taking it all in,” she said.

Regardless of the generational differences, many alumni shared a desire for the continued success of Northeastern’s rowing program.

“We have a long tradition of being a non-Ivy League school in an Ivy League sport,” Wortley said. “[The alumni team is] going to continue to support the guys that are in the current program and wish them well.”