Phil Gravink

Phil Gravink

Phil Gravink

Philip T. Gravink made a name for himself in various sports. Gravink competed in football, rowing and bicycling along with being involved with the ski industry for over 40 years.

Gravink was bom in Clymer in 1936 and was raised on a 125-head, 460-acre dairy farm. He went to Clymer Central School and graduated in 1953. During his time in school, he was a member of Clymer's six-man football championship club.

After high school, Gravink attended Cornell University from 1953-1957 where he earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture. When arriving at Cornell, Gravink was among the nine freshmen oarsmen who competed on the rowing team for veteran coach R. Harrison (Stork) Sanford. Ironically, none of the participants had ever rowed before going to Ithaca and only one had ever seen a race.

In Gravink's freshman season, 1954, the Big Red set several course records and captured the Eastern championships. In 1955, Gravink was on the squad that set a course record at Princeton, New Jersey, and prevailed over Penn by more than two lengths at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta. At that time, Cornell had recorded more IRA titles than all of the Ivy Schools combined, but this was its first title in a quarter of a century.

In 1956, Gravink helped lead Cornell to a second straight IRA title, but the main story was the outstanding rivalry between Cornell and non-IRA competitor Yale. Cornell dropped the opener by a length-and-a-quarter on Connecticut's Housatonic River in May but rebounded for a win by 6 feet at the Eastern Sprints. The next time they met was the final round of the U.S. Olympic Trials and Cornell was defeated by less than the length of a boat. That meant Yale would represent the United States in Melbourne, Australia, where it would capture the gold medal.

Phil Gravink

Phil Gravink

The season of 1957 proved to be magical for Gravink and the rest of the Cornell crew as they went unbeaten. On May 11, Gravink and his crew defeated their old nemesis Yale by a length along with Princeton and Syracuse in the fastest 2-mile time ever recorded (10:01.2) by six seconds in 75 years of regatttas on Cayuga Lake. That performance led to Sports Illustrated running a story with the headline being "All Hail Cornell". Later on Cornell beat Yale again by a foot at the Eastern Sprints and followed that with a win over Penn and then won a third straight IRA title to become the first school since the Big Red accomplished that back in 1912.

But the big news was that Cornell was invited for the first time in 62 years to the Royal Henley Regatta in London, England. The last time that Cornell was at this event was in 1895 when it was third. Also going at the last minute was Yale. "It was the ultimate revenge to be able to go into international competition against the Olympic gold medal team" said Gravink about the 1956 gold medal champions in an article in the Cornell Magazine by Brad Herzog.

Cornell's first opponent on the river Thames was Russia and the Big Red won by a record-breaking eight seconds to shatter a 118-year-old record in winning by a length. Next, Cornell and Yale battled for the first All-American Challenge Cup. Gravink led Cornell to a 6:53 time in capturing the title and on the same day that at nearby Wimbledon Althea Gibson became the first African-American women's singles tennis champion. After that, Gravink completed his career by sparking the Big Red to the European championships in Switzerland to conclude a perfect season for the first time in 45 years.

Phil Gravink

Dunkirk Observer, August 5, 1957

Gravink was inducted into the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979 but then in 1985 the 1957 Cornell varsity crew team was inducted as a group, becoming the first Big Red squad to all be inducted together. He was also inducted in the Rowing Hall of Fame.

Besides operating the family farm in Clymer from 1956-1982, Gravink decided in 1963 that he wanted to enter the ski management business and became the founder and chairman of Peek'n Peak Recreation Inc. in Findley Lake. Gravink was the Chief Executive Officer at Peek'n Peak, a ski and golf resort, from 1963-1976 and during the period of 1970-1977 he was the president for three years, a treasurer for two years and a director for the Ski Areas of New York.

He then went to Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek, as the general manager in 1976-1977 followed by being general manager, president and CEO at Loon Mountain Recreation Corporation in Lincoln, New Hampshire, from 1977-1991. Then he moved onto Cannon and Mount Sunapee in Concord, New Hampshire, as the state of New Hampshire Director of Skiing from 1991-1992. This was followed by seven years (1992-1999) as president and managing director at Attitash Bear Peak Resort in Bartlett, New Hampshire.

From left, Carl Schwartz, Bob Staley and Phil Gravink, three members
of the Cornell crew that won the 1957 Henley Royal Regatta, sing
"The Rowing Song" during the Savage Club's annual variety show.

courtesy Cornell University

Gravink also was a director and past president of Ski New Hampshire, Ski the White Mountains, Ski Areas of New York and the Eastern Ski Area Operators Association. He has been a member of the National Ski Area Association from 1964-1999 and served as president from 1979-1981 and a director from 1970-1987 among holding other positions. Gravink was also a American Ski Federation Director and served as president from 1981-1983 and treasurer from 1979-1981. Since 1993. he has been a director for the New England Ski Museum and since 1997 a director for the Mount Washington Observatory.

After retiring with 36 years of managing ski resorts, Gravink and his wife Shirley became involved in Odyssey 2000 a bicycle tour of 48 countries to raise funds for worthy causes after starting off riding in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day 2000. Gravink has also been named to the Helms Foundation National Hall of Fame for amateur athletes, the National Ski Area Association Lifetime Achievement Award and the NSAA's Sherman Adams Award. In November 2006, Gravink was honored as the BEWI Award winner before around 200 guests as Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the home of the NFL New England Patriots. Gravink was the 22nd ski industry leader to be honored at this luncheon with his wife, Shirley, and daughters, Jill and Brenda, along with sister Lynn Fieri in attendance. Brad, his son, couldn't make the event as he was back at Peek'n Peak where he is the general manager.

Phil Gravink was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

1957 Cornell crew team on land, Phil Gravink is on far left.

1957 Cornell crew in their boat, Phil Gravink is the first oarsman, nearest the camera,
facing the coxswain.

video courtesy Greg Peterson

video courtesy Greg Peterson

Boathouse Dedication - Bob Staley '57 & Phil Gravink '57 unveil the cornerstone

Phil Gravink - U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame


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