When Scott Gratson visited a friend at Durham University in England in 1989, he did not plan to fall in love with crew. But after watching his friend, who was on the school’s team, roll on the river, he quickly became a fan. Despite not being athletic himself, Gratson enjoyed the competition his friend introduced him to.
“I was fascinated by crew,” said Gratson, Temple’s director of communication studies at the Klein College of Media and Communication. “Just thought it was the most intriguing sport.”
Fast forward several years later, his friend tragically died of suicide, pushing Gratson to carry on his memory through their shared passion for the sport.
Sports bring people of different backgrounds together and that’s exactly what crew did for Gratson, who has mentored many students who are on the Temple Men’s Crew team.
Gratson frequently attends Temple Men’s Crew regattas and tournaments and speaks one-on-one with many members of the team about their lives. He then took his appreciation for the sport to the next level by donating money for a boat after flooding from Hurricane Ida affected the program in 2021.
Temple Athletics will hold a dedication event for Gratson and the boat on April 29 at the East Park Canoe House. He named the boat, “Gratson (The Professor),” and had it designed as a unicorn, Scotland’s national animal which is also associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
Almost a year and a half ago, the hurricane struck Philadelphia, flooding the city’s major roadways and leaving the team’s boathouse and many of their boats destroyed.
Nothing could have prepared the team for this adversity. Not the 5 a.m. wake-up calls, the rush to get to class after practice or even even the regattas that they race during the spring.
While hardships may have hurt the team’s morale, the members went to the boathouse to clean up the damage instead, making them more grateful for their teammates and coaches while reigniting their determination to rebuild.
“We have to just take the opportunity we have right now,” said junior crew member Brandon Van Vuuren. “Having to see the boathouse in the shape it was in after the hurricane and building it back up and coming back from it, I think it like speaks to the team’s resiliency, you know.”
Gratson attending team races and donating has helped form a bond that extends beyond the sport as many crewmates now stop by his office to talk.
“I think I had a very engaging conversation with him,” said senior crew member Kenneth Raynor. “We actually met up about three weeks after that to continue chatting, so I’ve had very pleasant experiences with him.”
Gratson is known for taking time to speak with members of the student body, but through his history and connection with crew, he felt a certain compassion for these student-athletes.
The relationship is the first time a faculty member has formed a close connection or sponsorship with the crew team, a testament to the role that the sport has played in Gratson’s life, Van Vuuren said.
“That connection that Gratson made years ago planted the seeds for the tree that blossomed into an incredible relationship with the crew team that we hope goes on for as long as it can,” Van Vuuren said.