By Margie Peterson
When Anne Lacroce Linden ’88, the beloved coxswain of the women’s lightweight 4 of 1988, lost her battle with breast cancer last fall, her former teammates did what they had done so well 26 years ago: They pulled together.
Allison Cromey Davis ’88, Carren Panico ’88, Susan Foight Kovar ’88, and Leigh Ann Alexander Evans ’89 spearheaded fundraising for a new Lafayette crew boat, garnering more than $30,000 in donations in six weeks.
“She was our leader,” Panico said at the April 26 dedication ceremony in front of Marquis Hall prior to Crew Club’s annual banquet. “We always called her ‘mom’ because she was the one who organized us.”
“Anne could get more out of us than we knew we had,” Evans said.
More than 100 people contributed to the fund, including members of 16 classes ranging from 1983-2011.
“That says a lot about how powerful Lafayette is in the hearts of alumni,” Linden’s sister, Lisa Lacroce Patterson ’86, said at the gathering. Linden ’88, of Gillette, N.J., died in October after a six-year battle with cancer, leaving behind her husband, Tom, and 4-year-old son, Patrick.
The idea for the boat came to her teammates one night before her funeral when they were trying to help each other through their grief. They set up a Facebook page for the project. Among alums aiding in the effort were Paige Macfarlan ’90, Eric Voit ’87, and John Wilkins ’89. The teammates also reached out to Linden’s sorority sisters from Alpha Gamma Delta.
Family and friends described Linden as smart, dedicated, competitive, and compassionate. Though her position as coxswain involved more strategy than physical prowess, Linden regularly exercised with her crew, running stadium steps and sweating through workouts.
She had to be part coach and part psychologist and she was terrific at keeping her crew in sync and motivated. The team was highly successful, winning a bronze medal at Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia—the largest intercollegiate crew competition in America.
“You come to depend on each other because you can’t do your job without everybody else doing their job,” Panico said.
After graduating, Linden and her crewmates remained great friends, even converging on Boston so they could row together on the Charles River.
Two other new boats— purchased through fundraising and a grant from the Lafayette president’s fund—were also dedicated. One was named for Julie Kelliher, wife of crew coach Rick Kelliher, who died of cancer just as he was named coach.
The third boat was dubbed Vision Quest after the 1985 movie that the team watches each year as a bonding experience, explained Jake Steinmetz ’14, men’s crew captain last year.
“As we compete against some of the top teams on the east coast we are so grateful to have equipment that keeps us competitive,” said Allie Nagurney ’16, coxswain and organizer of the ceremony.
The new boat is the second with the Lacroce name. Anne’s father, Saverio Lacroce, donated a boat when she was a student. The bow of that boat, which broke off just before the 1988 Dad Vail, still hangs in the college boathouse.
Kelliher said the new Lacroce boat had lost only one race and had beaten about 15 crews. Evans, Panico, Kovar, and Davis hope its current occupants are making the kind of memories they have of their days in crew and the coxswain who led them.
“Sometimes you know when you strike gold and we knew we had something really unique and special,” Davis said.
Davis spoke of the boat as almost a living thing. “People are going to be in it every day, rowing, winning, having great experiences, forming that same community bond that Anne helped form.”
On the weekend of May 10, Leigh Ann Evans attended the Dad Vail regatta in Philadelphia. “The women’s lightweight 4 took a silver medal. We are more proud of them than we can say.”