Every morning at 5 a.m. as the sun peaks up over the horizon and Central Florida is still asleep, Jim Lyden '60, former Rollins College student, coach, and parent, can be found on the peaceful waters of Lake Maitland doing what he loves most in life: rowing to his heart's content.
Lyden is a crew icon at Rollins. He rowed at the College all four years on a crew scholarship after being recruited by legendary crew coach U.T. Bradley. Lyden had been a star high school athlete and, after two years in the service, had tried out for the two-man shell event in the 1956 Olympics. This made him a hot commodity for Rollins, whose rowing program dated back to 1903 and came into national prominence in the late '30's after being declared an official College sport.
After a successful rowing career at the College, Lyden signed on as Bradley's assistant coach. Five years later, in 1965, he began a tenure as head coach that would span 15 years and see the Rollins crew three times to the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta in England.
For Jim Lyden, coaching was a commitment. For 20 years, every afternoon at 3:30, he left his office at a Winter Park insurance agency to coach the Rollins team. In 1965, the same year he was named head coach, he was named a partner at the agency, henceforth known as Hadley and Lyden.
Lyden and Kris Allen '60 were married the summer after their freshman year, and the couple went on to raise three children, the oldest of whom, Scott '80, inherited his father's passion for rowing. After rowing for Winter Park High School and a brief stint at Trinity College, Scott came to Rollins and rowed for his dad—"which made my rowing experience at Rollins all the more rewarding," he said. Scott was on the Rollins team that won the Varsity Lightweight Four at the Dad Vail Regatta in 1979, and in true Lyden form, he went on to win eight national club championships following college.
Scott took his father's lead in the insurance business as well, beginning his career as a part-time clear with Hadley and Lyden while in high school and working his way up to his current position as the company's president.
Together, Jim and Scott Lyden have brought Rollins crew to a new level. "The Lydens have been synonymous with the rowing program at Rollins for many years," said Director of Athletics Phil Roach. "They have tremendous devotion to the sport." They are the only father/son team to be inducted into the Rollins College Sports Hall of Fame—Jim in 1981 and Scott in 1994.
Although their Rollins rowing and coaching days are over, the Lydens are equally devoted to their alma mater as volunteers. Their efforts in the planning and organizing of the 2002 Crew Reunion resulted in one of the best and largest reunions in Rollins history.
It appears that wasn't enough for Jim Lyden, however, who announced at the Crew Reunion his gift for a $1-million endowed crew chair. "Lives have been profoundly influenced by Jim Lyden," said President Rita Bornstein following the surprise announcement. "That's what coaches do." The Lyden Family Crew Chair will be used to augment salaries, for recruitment, and to help purchase equipment. Five years ago, Lyden established the Lyden Foundation, which has already helped 10 student rowers attend Rollins.