The Family Stone

Courtesy of Robbie Stone

In a family synonymous with rowing, sophomore Robbie Stone, pictured here in the stroke seat during his high school days, is looking to carrying on the family tradition at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

To many, the Head of the Charles means international competition and tricky turns around Weld and Eliot Bridges. To the Stones, it means family.

Ever since Gregg Stone ’75 graduated from college, he and his classmates have had reunions at every Head of the Charles, a major holiday for those in the rowing world.

“The hosts [of the reunion] would give all the kids little toys,” Gevvie Stone says. “I remember the Head of the Charles being kind of like Christmas—a yearly event you could mark your calendar for.”

The Head of the Charles has also been a source of athletic pride for the Stone family, as Gregg and Lisa both won the singles event in 1977 and their daughter Gevvie took the title last fall. Gevvie will be looking to defend her title in the single, while her brother Robbie—a sophomore on the Harvard heavyweight crew—will be rowing in the sophomore eight.

Gregg Stone has long been a staple on the Charles River, having won both the national championship and the Head of the Charles single scull race. But Gregg’s greatest legacy may have emerged from his and his friends’ efforts to keep themselves rowing during law school by starting the C.R.A.S.H.-B. Club—which originally stood for Charles River Association of Sculling Has-Beens (though it was later changed to the Charles River All-Star Has-Beens). Among the founders was Tiff Wood ’75, rowing legend and the subject of Harvard Class of 1955 graduate David Halberstam’s “The Amateurs.”

“In ’77, [when] I was at law school, we were trying to figure out ways to keep ourselves interested in rowing,” Gregg says. “We put a team in an eight, and we raced against any team that would race us. It was only later that the ergometer was invented [and] C.R.A.S.H.-B. started sponsoring the indoor rowing. That started out as a joke.”

Today, the C.R.A.S.H.-B. indoor rowing championship is considered to be the “Super Bowl of Erging,” and features rising juniors, college stars, veterans, and non-rowers alike. And the erg—an invention of Gregg’s friends, Dick and Pete Dreissigacker—has become a fixture in health clubs. The erg has revolutionized the way people think about rowing, with “erg scores” becoming essential information for recruits and aspiring national team members. But the idea originated with Stone’s extended family of Charles River rowers.

One standout from Gregg’s not-so-extended family is his wife Lisa, who has achieved success in both international rowing and high school coaching. Like Gregg, she won the singles event of the Head of the Charles in 1977. But her success is more likely to be discussed on the other side of the river at Radcliffe’s Weld Boathouse. Lisa served as head coach from 1983 to 1986 and—with current head coach Liz O’Leary as her partner—took bronze in the double in the 1977 and 1978 World Championships.

“In those days, it was a very big deal,” Gregg says. “The world was dominated by Eastern Europeans.”

Currently the head coach at the Winsor School, Lisa coached current Radcliffe rowers senior Anna Kendrick and sophomore Gillian Chase.

She also coached her daughter Gevvie, a former Princeton Tiger who has chosen to create her own path, initially looking to make her mark on the lacrosse field before realizing her potential on the river.

“My parents’ strategy has been, ‘Let her make her own decisions, and she’ll come to the right one,’” Gevvie says. “In sophomore year, I told myself that if I made varsity I would play lacrosse, and if not, I would row. And I didn’t make varsity, so my junior year I switched to rowing.”

Far away in New Jersey, Gevvie made her mark on Princeton’s program, as the team went undefeated and won the national championship in 2006. But Gevvie could not stay away from Weld Boathouse and the Charles River forever. She is currently attending medical school at Tufts and training out of Weld in hopes of rowing in the 2012 Olympics. But Gevvie achieved glory of her own in the single last fall when she won the Head of the Charles.

“It was very exciting, I have to tell you,” Gregg says. “She tried out for the Olympics, did not make it, and came back to med school.”

“Quite parallel to my past,” he adds, having tried out for the Olympic team himself before ending up in law school and winning the Head of the Charles in the single. “She did the same thing, sort of leaving the other boats behind.”

Gevvie’s two younger siblings also felt the allure of the Charles during their college years. Her sister Phoebe, a senior VES major, rowed in high school and was planning to row for the Radcliffe lightweights, but her career was cut short by back injuries.

“She has always been very supportive of me and my brother,” Gevvie says.

Although only a sophomore, Robbie has already had considerable success of his own on the Charles, both in high school and in his freshman year. At Belmont Hill, he won a national championship in the coxed four his junior year. Last spring, he rowed in the freshman eight that went undefeated in dual races and took silver at both Eastern Sprints and Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships. Robbie rowed in the stroke seat for much of the season before moving to the five-seat for IRAs. This weekend, he will be rowing with the members of last year’s freshman eight in the Head of the Charles.

Like his father, mother, and sister, Robbie will create his own experiences rowing on the Charles. It is not the similarities, but the differences of each Stones’ rowing experience that make the family’s connection to the Charles River so lasting.