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Alumni Profile: Melissa Calkins

For many competitive athletes, the trophy is the focus and the ultimate indicator of success. For athletes like Melissa Calkins, cultivating relationships with her teammates proved as rewarding as collecting wins.

With an impressive and varied career spanning the 1996-’99 seasons, she started out as a freshman on the UW men’s team. It was only a matter of weeks before she was brought over to the varsity team to fill the team’s lack of experienced coxswains.

In that first year, she coxed the Men’s Varsity 4 to a Pac-10 championship. She casually shares, “The following year, I coxed the men’s JV boat, and we were undefeated and helped sweep the 1997 IRAs.  We went on to race at Henley that year, and raced in the Temple Cup.” Her talent was noticed and coveted by the women’s team and in the fall of ’97, she started coxing for the women’s team and coach Jan Harville. She lead that varsity boat to its second NCAA Championship win.

Even with all these (and more) notable victories under her belt, Melissa maintains a more lasting love for the program itself and the teammates she befriended. “I loved the sense of community rowing brought me, and the life-long friendships it fosters. Even after leaving the UW, you always feel welcome back at the boathouse by your old teammates and coaches.” Recently, she has been a part of a team of former Husky and rower women for the Pacific Northwest Ragnar relay. Teams of twelve women race 200 miles from the U.S. Canadian border to Langley, Washington. “Even after 20 years from leaving the UW boathouse, it seems as is very little time has passed,” Melissa says.

It’s a deep fondness for a sport or school that inspires alumni to donate their time and money; a passion that Melissa has in droves.

“I am incredibly grateful for my time on the crew and the experience it gave me when I was at the UW. I feel that being a part of both the men’s and women’s teams has shaped me as a person; it cultivated self-confidence, determination, and taught me what it means to be part of a team,” she says. “One of the things I love about rowing is that it truly is a team sport, and every seat is important. Even if you feel like you are not a contender for a spot in the Varsity 8, work every day as if you are, as you can only help push the team higher.”

With that knowledge of the value of teamwork, Melissa graciously decided to contribute to the Husky Reels Project. A program implemented by UW Libraries Special Collections, the Husky Reels Project aims to raise money for the salvaging and publishing of vintage UW sports film reels dating back to the 1920’s. With a goal of $1.5 million, Husky Reels received donations that will be directed toward the damage assessment, preservation, cataloguing and online publication of over 80 years of Husky athletics footage, which will otherwise be lost.

In addition, Melissa has generously donated to the rowing program she remembers so fondly. “I feel that it is important for me to help future generations of Huskies go through this amazing program, and donating to this program is a way for me to give back.”

As a star alumna and now donor of the UW rowing program, Melissa says, “I would remind athletes that to be part of the Husky Crew is to be part of an amazing legacy, so work hard, enjoy it, and make us proud! Go Huskies!”