At the Thyne Reid Boathouse, last Saturday 10th March a new rowing scholarship was named after long-term Sydney Uni Women's Rowing Club's former President, Jane Spring.
The speech recognizing Jane's achievements below was delivered by Boat Club Blue, Anne Titterton.
"On behalf of SUBC it is my pleasure to speak about Jane as we recognize her remarkable contribution to rowing and to the University by naming a perpetual scholarship in her honour. We warmly welcome a number of Jane’s family who are here today to share this special occasion, as well as her many friends.
"Jane Spring is a woman of significance and substance in the history of rowing at Sydney University and, more broadly, through her contribution to sports administration both at University and State levels. Remarkably, she follows a great family tradition of contribution to the University. Her grandfather, Sir Frederick Deer was a Fellow of Senate for 24 years and received an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his service.
Fortunately for SUBC, and the former Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club, we have been the beneficiary of her remarkable vision, her capacity for big picture thinking, her energy and commitment. Her determination and resourcefulness when faced with a challenge are the stuff of legends.
Jane found rowing relatively late in her time at University. By 1986 Jane was hooked and went to Intervarsity as a single sculler – coached by the legendary Olympic and national coach Maurie Grace. In the same year, she was elected President of the Women’s Rowing Club – the journey we celebrate today had begun!
In 1986 the Women’s Rowing Club owned four boats: a pair, two fours and a speedboat. The Club existed on several racks in the former A frame men’s shed here at Linley Point and annual club funding from the Women’s Sports Association was $1,250. Coaches were volunteers, fundraising was basic and we were still waiting for someone like Jane to work out how to gain tax deductibility for donations! It was from this very low base that she set to work!
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Jane finished Law, worked full time, was admitted as a Solicitor, poured energy into building the club and set her sights on gaining national selection as a lightweight rower. Along the way she found the time to contribute to the Women’s Sports Association as Vice President, as well as sitting on many University sport committees – including the Blues Committee, Building & Grounds and Finance Committees of the Sports Association.
Returning from a regatta in Taree in 1990, Jane was catastrophically injured in a car accident. The accident took place a week after Jane won the Australian lightweight double scull and had been on track to represent Australia in the World Championships later in the year.
Jane would say that rowing saved her life. She drew strength and purpose from the people around her, particularly her former coach and now husband, Murray Clarke, family and close friends.
At this time, her involvement in rowing brought other friendships and new directions. In 1994 an opportunity arose to buy the former Glebe Rowing Shed. With her father, Ian Spring’s, help, then Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer was convinced to lend the Women’s Sports Association the funds to buy the Glebe shed and to provide room for the Women’s Rowing Club to expand. Jane came to know Dame Leonie well over the years and treasured this friendship.
John Coates had supported Jane, too, as mentor and referee following the car accident. Six years working at SOCOG taught Jane a great deal about what was required to create the optimal environment for elite athlete performance and gave her the opportunity to learn leadership and management skills essential for the rowing club and for her career.
With the boathouse at Glebe the Women’s Rowing Club was able to rapidly expand and in the first season won the NSW Premiership point-score for the University – the first time since 1910. Masters were invited to join the Club and there was at last room for a large novice program. Jane also mentored many students, creating a healthy and inclusive culture and always with good governance. She coached many rowers and was adept at recognizing and catering for emerging talent such as Brooke Pratley, who retired with a Silver Medal after the London Olympic Games.
As a Rowing Delegate for Australian University sport she worked with husband Murray Clarke to get the Trans Tasman races with New Zealand established – giving students much needed international racing experience.
Jane also contributed to NSW rowing – participating actively to protect rowing safety on Sydney Harbour. She worked on the master plans for Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays and became an effective advocate for rowing, working closely with the Glebe Society and other community and business groups. Never shy to put out a press release, Jane actively campaigned against the Dry Boat Store in Rozelle Bay including holding a “Mass Row Protest’.
She was appointed a member of the Community Reference Group for the Bays Precinct set up by Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, in 2009 and joined activists from Balmain, Rozelle and Glebe, successfully making the protection of rowing and other forms of passive recreation a central platform of the group’s response to government.
In 2009 Jane was asked whether she might consider running for Senate of the University. During her time on Senate, she championed the value of the student experience. Notably, she was also a member of the Nominations and Appointments Committee and was honoured to be part of the process that resulted in the election of our wonderful Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson. Jane was also involved with the work the University did to fund and develop this boathouse, as part of the Building & Estates Committee.
Jane has a Service Award, a Blue for Rowing, was Sportswoman of the Year in 1990, a Gold Award and is an Honorary Life member of the Boat Club and both Sydney University Sport and the University of Sydney Union and was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000. Jane has also been awarded the Rusty Robertson Award by NSW Rowing and was presented with a NSW Government Community Service Award.
In 2008, Jane’s contributions were further recognized when she was conferred with an Honorary Fellowship of the University. The citation says in part:
“For nearly two decades Jane Spring has been an inspiration and an example to the University community of how to meet and triumph over adversity and face disability with courage, determination and intelligence. Her story and her accomplishments personify Sydney University’s central ideals and vision.”
And now, nearly three decades later, Jane’s life has been inextricably woven through the fabric of women’s rowing at this university, and most fittingly now into a vibrant, dynamic amalgamated Sydney University Boat Club.
Thankyou, Jane, for all that you have done."