Crew Driver Peter Feitner '81

Artist and former crew member Peter Feitner ’81 shares his passion for the sport.  by Kate Larrabee

“Probably the single most influential aspect of my experience at IC was my participation with Ithaca crew,” says Peter Feitner. For many years the Ithaca native has been returning the favor.

A business administration major, Feitner is now a successful artist and potter living in Massachusetts.  “I took just the requirements to satisfy the degree in business,” he says. “I was interested in so many things and very happily took courses in different disciplines, especially philosophy.” Still, Feitner says his business degree did prove to be an asset. “As a self-employed artist I have to manage my own financial books, develop marketing plans, carry on public relations, negotiate legal arrangements, and much more.”

The ability to juggle many tasks successfully is a skill shared by many dedicated student-athletes, and Feitner is quick to credit his crew experience with being as educational as his classroom experience. “Goal-setting, discipline, trust, teamwork, integrity, responsibility, good fellowship, civics, engineering, physics, health, and much more were what I was practicing daily in a very intense format and with nature as the final arbiter,” he points out. “That, for me, is a phenomenon. The learning happens subtly and constantly; it was not available to me in the same way in any of my academic courses.”

Crew was also fun. “For most normal people,” Feitner says, “the prospect of getting up before dawn every day, doing a week’s worth of exercise before breakfast, doing many months of training for minutes of actual competitive racing, and dealing with heat, wind, rain, snow, ice, filth, and blisters—all sounds like hell. For me it was heaven. As with all well-operated sports teams, there is a bonding among team members that is profound and lasting. Of all the College experiences I had, it’s the time spent with team members that I hold most dear.”

Naturally, many of Feitner’s closest College friendships grew from his experiences on crew. “One superb way I’m able to keep in contact with friends and former teammates,” he says, “is through my volunteer work in support of the Ithaca College Crew Capital Endowment.” Each year Feitner sends a personal letter soliciting funds for the endowment. “I spend a week or so every year in contact with dozens and dozens of fellow alumni, parents, and friends via e-mail,” he says. “It’s a blast.” Feitner echoes the many other crew athletes who rave about their experience. “I suppose it’s a team thing,” he muses. “In crew there are no ‘stars.’ It’s not a solo venture, and a high level of trust and responsibility is required and shared. You’re part of a group that is willingly committing to a certain goal—often not a particularly easy goal, but one that’s positive and compelling and full of life. Success is achieved through working together. That idea has always gotten me fired up.”

His devotion to keeping the crew program financially secure is rooted in pragmatism. “I know I can’t single-handedly fund a collegiate athletic program,” he says, “any more than I could successfully row an eight-person shell down the inlet alone. But I do know first-hand the power and the possibility that come forward when good goals and genuine collective efforts align. Every time I write a check to the endowment, or encourage someone else to write one,” he says, “I know with certainty that even though I may not personally know the future team members who will benefit, I do know the depth and quality of the experience they’ll have.”

That experience, he believes, “enhances the lives of those who participate, and they in turn pass the positive benefit of that hard work on to others directly through their quality of character—no matter what career they decide upon. My decision to support the endowment is kind of my gift to the world.”