Some of the alumni donations came from rowers on club teams Sauer never coached; some came from athletes he coached only a semester. That, according to associate head coach Kelsie Chaudoin, speaks to Sauer’s impact on the sport, the program and all of its athletes.
“He just cares about people,” said Chaudoin, who secretly helped organize the fund drive. “He has always put the person before the athlete. He shows his care and concern in his actions every day.”
Chaudoin said the donors came from the full span of Sauer’s career in Virginia, from its early and more recreational roots to supporters of its current powerhouse varsity squads.
Sauer, who began coaching at Virginia in the late 1980s, initially oversaw club programs – for men first, then for both men and women. When the women’s program upgraded to varsity status in 1995, that became Sauer’s full-time job. Along the way, he’s left an impression on scores of student-athletes, from those who participated just briefly to others who became Olympic champions.
The donation that totaled $1,009,984 will fund the Kevin Sauer Fund for Excellence in Women’s Rowing and will be used to further improve the already successful program.
Chaudoin rowed for Sauer from 2004 to ’08. When she rejoined the program as a coach many years later, she said nothing had changed – and she meant that in the best possible way.
“He still has the same energy now as then, and he still cares just as much about the athletes,” Chaudoin said. “It was the same culture.”
Lisa Brown, mother of UVA rower and team co-captain Larkin Brown, said that team culture helped shape her daughter’s four years at the University.
“I could see it in her maturity and watching her grow in her leadership,” Brown said of her daughter. “You know when you look back at something and say, ‘That couldn’t have gone any better?’ Well, that’s how we feel about her four years at UVA. It couldn’t have gone better.”