A Way on the Water

This article appears in the spring 2020 issue of STILLPOINT magazine: “Generation Gordon.”

Conditions were ideal on Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River. Clear skies, a tailwind and favorable current sat in stark contrast to the previous day’s blustery weather. As Grant Veurink ’21 and his teammate pulled the Gordon A boat up to the starting line, the University of Pittsburgh’s crew was in their periphery—where they would remain during the men’s collegiate double grand finals at the 2019 Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the United States.

Within 500 meters, the A boat was positioned to medal. After a neck-and-neck sprint with Pittsburgh, Veurink and Manny Mouganis ’22 glided into a silver-medal finish.

The duo’s success was surreal. Yesterday’s qualifying heat had been a bust, and just seven months prior, Veurink didn’t even know what “Dad Vails” was (A person? A place?). The Men’s Rowing walk-on spent his first month on the team accidentally flipping his boat into the water, but now he had defeated more established crews from larger schools including the University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland and University of Michigan.

Despite winning two medals that day—the other a bronze in adaptive rowing with a partner who has mental disabilities— Veurink ascribes the success to Coach Maddie Hopkins ’18. At the start of the season she rallied the team around a single goal: making the finals at Dad Vails (which, it turns out, is a race named for former collegiate rowing coach Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail—Veurink’s guess wasn’t totally wrong). “None of that would have happened without the leadership of Coach Hopkins,” he says. “She’s able to draw out the best in us and really push us.”

Veurink didn’t come to Gordon planning to play a sport, let alone a sport he’d never played and for a team still in its infancy. By his second year, the finance major was laser-focused on career aspirations, taking 20 credits, volunteering as a student ambassador and co-leading the Business Club. But something was missing; his appetite for competition and new challenges needed to be fed. “I had everything figured out and then Rowing came along,” he says.

At his roommate’s urging, Veurink hesitantly agreed to attend the first day of practice, making clear that he was not committing to anything. But amid the novelty of the sport and team’s infectious enthusiasm, Veurink instantly fell in love. The next day, he was on the team, and a couple months later, he was named men’s captain. “It couldn’t have happened any better way,” he says. “I don’t think I would’ve come to that decision if I had time to sit down and think through it.”

Once Veurink mastered the art of keeping his boat right-side up, he also started learning lessons he could apply to the working world and his faith—lessons like vulnerability (“When you’re in a boat it’s so clear when you are lacking and when you are not performing.”) and teamwork (“You don’t choose your teams. You’re put into a team and you have to adapt.”).

A finance internship last summer gave Veurink the opportunity to bring those lessons from the water to Wall Street, with a refreshing reminder of his motivation to enter a career field that’s historically been riddled with corruption. “One of the draws to finance was that you have the opportunity to be a light,” he says, “to stand out and make a difference—just by having some basic integrity.”