Nov. 12, 2008
Washington, DC - Brown's 2008 NCAA Division I Champion Women's Crew received the ultimate recognition at the nation's most historic house, The White House, being honored by United States President George W. Bush amidst all the pomp and circumstance of a presidential ceremony.
The Brown women's rowers earned a return trip to the White House by winning its second consecutive NCAA Division I Rowing Championship last June, and is the only collegiate team from Rhode Island to be honored by the President of the United States in a White House ceremony, now being honored twice.
The most successful women's crew in NCAA Division I Women's Rowing history, Brown successfully defended its NCAA Championship title last spring by rowing to an emotional victory at the NCAA Women's Rowing Championship on Lake Natoma, near Sacramento, California, earning its sixth NCAA team title.
President Bush greeted coach John Murphy and 35 Brown rowers in the East Room of the White House, chatting with the team for several minutes before posing for a photo with the entire group that included university and athletic department administrators.
"President Bush was on a roll today", commented Vanessa Rathbone `09. "He was genuinely excited to see us and he was feeling nostalgic towards the White House."
Following the team meeting with President Bush, the entire team strode outside down the spiral White House staircase onto the South Lawn, as the US Marine Corps Band played "Ever True To Brown."
The outdoor South Lawn ceremony began with President Bush being escorted onto a stage by representatives of all 12 national championship teams in attendance. Three of Brown's captains, Rathbone, Sara Wu '08, and Christine Flynn `08 strode onto the stage with the President.
President Bush remarked about the success of the Brown women's crew. "Coach John Murphy's women's crew is back at the White House after winning its second straight NCAA Championship and sixth NCAA title in the last decade", commented President Bush. "They are the most successful women's crew in NCAA rowing history. I hope coach Murphy and his team come back next year, but I won't be here."
"Being invited to the White House to be honored by the President of the United States with all of these other national champions elevates our program," said Corey Finnerty-Ludwig `09. "It was important for our team to go to the White House and be recognized for our success"
"It's a tremendous honor to be invited to the White House," said Christina Caligiuri-DeJesus `09 "It's the culmination of the 2008 season and the beginning of the 2009 season."
Rathbone, Wu and Flynn met with President Bush in the Diplomat Room prior to the South Lawn ceremony. "The President thanked us for being role models, and recognized our hard work and dedication in being national champions," said Rathbone. ."He was very personable and very at-ease. It was a special moment."
President Bush initiated the recognition of all NCAA Division I Champions two years ago because of his appreciation of the excellence of collegiate athletics, and his recognition of the great sacrifices involved in being an intercollegiate athlete. Prior to the last two years, there were no guarantees that a national championship team would be invited to the White House.
"I want to hold onto and savor this experience," said Mary Pitek `09. "Knowing that President Bush made a special effort to invite all NCAA Champions to the White House made me reflect on the moment, and appreciate the special recognition we received today."
Coach John and Phoebe Murphy's women's rowing team has now won six national championships (1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2008) and has placed in the top three in every NCAA Championship, a claim that no other team can make.
The White House recognized 12 NCAA Division I Championship teams today in addition to the Brown women's crew, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks men's and Women's Rifle teams, the University of Arizona Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving teams, Arizona State University Men's and Women's Indoor Track & Field teams, Arizona State University women's softball team, Northwestern University Women's Lacrosse team, Fresno State University baseball team, Florida State Men's Outdoor Track & Field team, and the Louisiana State University Women's Outdoor Track & Field team.