Donald A.E. Beer | Charles L. Grimes

Class of '53
Donald Beer and Charlie Grimes both learned to row at Groton, then went to Yale and became the “engine room” (fourth and fifth seat, respectively) of Yale’s 1956 varsity eight, which won gold for the United States at the Melbourne Olympic Games.

The Yale 1956 crew was notable for several reasons. No other U.S. eight had ever lost an Olympic race before: they came in behind Australia and Canada in a preliminary heat, shocking rowing enthusiasts. But Yale took revenge in the second-chance race known as the repechage and earned a spot in the four-boat finals. In the race that would determine medals, Yale rowed at an unusually fast thirty-six beats per minute and won the gold medal—the only boat ever to win gold by going through the repechage. Yale’s 1956 crew also was the last college crew to win an Olympic gold medal.

With picture-perfect form, Don was the consummate oarsman—a quiet, reliable, and steadying influence in three Yale varsity crews. Charlie was a force of nature both physically and intellectually, and his athletic ambitions extended beyond crew. Much to the consternation of Yale crew coach Jim Rathschmidt, Charlie played football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Coach Rathschmidt was reluctant to put Grimes in the varsity boat, but every boat he was in seemed to win, so the coach had no choice.

Both athletes passed away after battles with cancer, Don in 1997 from brain cancer and Charlie in 2007 from pancreatic cancer. Charlie’s gold medal now hangs in Groton’s boathouse and his oar in the Athletic Center lobby, inspiring generations of Groton’s rowers.