In case you haven’t heard me mention it, I went to Rutgers University.  I graduated in 1958 with a Bachelors Degree in Biological Sciences, and I’ve always been thankful for the solid educational foundation I received there.

Did you know . . . .

  • That Rutgers was founded as Queens College in 1766, one of only nine colleges established in the Colonies before the Revolutionary War that still exist today?
  • That it was started by the Dutch Reformed Church, and that a theological seminary is still located on its campus?
  • That the first intercollegiate football game ever was played at Rutgers in1869, and Rutgers beat Princeton 6 to 4?
  • That among Rutgers alumni are Paul Robeson, Ozzie Nelson, James Gandolfini, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Governor Chris Christie, David Stern and Milton Friedman?

Rutgers is now part of the Big Ten, struggling to catch up to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State on the football field and the basketball court.  But they’re pretty competitive in a number of minor sports, including rowing.  Rutgers is blessed by the fact that the Raritan River flows right alongside of its main  campus, giving rise to the university’s alma mater:

“On the banks of the old Raritan, my boys,
Where old Rutgers ever more shall stand,
For has she not stood since the time of the flood,*
On the banks of the old Raritan.”

Sometimes I would watch those eight-man crews practice.  Big, well-toned guys all pulling on their oars at one time in a coordinated effort to move against the current, which was pretty strong right in that area.  Practicing against a major force of nature was important in preparing them for the big races ahead competing with first-class crews from other schools.  This inspired the unique Rutgers cheer that was chanted by the fans at all the college’s sports events:

R.U., Rah, Rah!
R.U., Rah, Rah!**
Rah! Rah! Rutgers Rah!
Upstream, Red Team;
Red Team, Upstream!
Rah! Rah! Rutgers Rah!

Being a Biological Sciences major at a very challenging university, I had to study long, hard hours.  A lot of students around me decided to go with the flow of college life.  They’d goof off, miss deadlines, waste their families’ money and sometimes drop out before the year was over. I couldn’t go with the flow, but had to struggle upstream in my studies as hard as I could.  This has remained in my mind as a life lesson helping to shape who I am.

The other important aspect of the crew’s upstream rowing was their almost-total togetherness.  Coordinated by the rhythmic calls of the little guy with the megaphone, they’d “Pull! Pull! Pull!”  If just one oarsman got the slightest bit out of phase, their progress could be dramatically slowed; they might even start drifting backward.  In our life’s upstream journeys, we need to pull together — in our marriage, in our work, in our church.  The Holy Spirit calls out “Pull! Pull! Pull!”  Are we stubbornly trying to set our own pace, often pulling against our teammates?  Boy, is that an upstream way to live!

Pastor George

* We had to learn to make “flood” rhyme with “stood.”

** We sometimes changed this to “Are You Rah-Rah? ” “Yes I’m Rah-Rah.”