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Ted Nash, Penn and Olympics rowing legend, dies at 88

“Ted was an absolute legend in our sport,” said a fellow Penn rowing coach. “His enthusiasm, positivity, and sportsmanship was totally infectious."

Ted Allison Nash
Ted Allison NashRead more/ / / Staff Photographer

Ted Allison Nash, 88, a storied figure in the sport of rowing at Penn and on the Olympic stage, died Saturday, July 3, from Lewy body dementia at his home in Medford.

“Ted was an absolute legend in our sport,” said Bryan Volpenhein, head coach of men’s heavyweight rowing at Penn. “His enthusiasm, positivity, and sportsmanship were totally infectious. He cared about and encouraged every athlete he came across. It was an honor to know him and also now to coach at Penn, where his spirit is everywhere.”

Mr. Nash was born in Melrose, Mass., to Allison Glasgow Solt and Theodore W. Nash. He grew up in the Boston area and Carmel, Calif.

He later served as a first lieutenant in the Army Aviation division, teaching aviation and aerobatics. He attended Boston University and then the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree while competing out of the Lake Washington Rowing Club.

Mr. Nash won the gold medal in rowing in the four without coxswain in the 1960 Olympics. He took the bronze in the same event at the 1964 Olympics.

In 1965, Mr. Nash became the freshman rowing coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and later became head coach of men’s heavyweight rowing. With Mr. Nash as coach, Penn won Intercollegiate rowing titles, and its athletes placed on Pan American and Olympic teams.

In 2014, the university honored him with the dedication of the Ted A. Nash Land Rowing Center.

John Chatzky, another major figure in the sport, told that his former Penn coach’s wisdom didn’t end with rowing.

“He taught me so many important things about rowing, but, much more importantly, he taught me lessons about life. He taught me that you need to be passionate about your pursuits,” Chatzky said, “and that one couldn’t be truly happy or truly fulfilled in one’s life unless you were passionate about something.”

“He changed and affected the course of my entire life and the life of hundreds of others, men and women,” Chatzky added, “and I will be forever grateful for his support and his teachings.”

In addition to competing in two Olympics, Mr. Nash was a coach in nine others. During his career as an athlete or a coach, he helped win 48 medals with 76 crews in Olympics, World, and Pan American events. He received many awards, including the Medal of Honor from the United States Rowing Association, the organization’s highest honor. He also was the recipient of accolades from the National Rowing Foundation, the University of Washington, and the Boston University Hall of Fame.

A cofounder of the National Women’s Rowing Association, he mentored and encouraged countless rowers over the course of his coaching career and as a volunteer on the Schuylkill to the rowing community. Mr. Nash was still rowing well into his 80s.

“Ted loved people and enhanced the lives of so many who were privileged to have known him,” said his wife, Jan Nash. “Known for his kind, generous nature, his positive perspective, and his love of life, Ted was loved and respected by all. His smile and the joy he brought to everyone’s life will be greatly missed. I was so blessed to be his wife.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Nash is survived by his sons, Aaron Nash and Ted Nash; stepson David Coogan; three granddaughters; a sister; a brother; and other relatives.

A private Funeral Mass will be Thursday, July 22, at St. Mary of the Lake Church in Medford. A celebration of Mr. Nash’s life will be at a future date.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Penn Athletic Club Rowing Association at 12 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, Pa. 19130 or the University of Pennsylvania Boathouse Restoration online at or 11 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, Pa. 19130.