In early 2019, our team gathered to mourn the loss of Henry Zietlow ’22, an incredibly special member of our Bowdoin Rowing family. On January 14, 2019 Henry passed away after his car was struck by an oncoming truck. It is painfully clear that his life and his passing have had huge impacts on not only our rowing family, but also our broader Bowdoin community.
Henry was a truly special young man, a steadfast friend, and one of the hardest working rowers that anyone on the team has had the pleasure of knowing. Although we only shared one semester with Henry, that time was nothing short of a blessing. Henry was never without his genuine smile and was rarely without one of his iconic headbands. He always saw the beauty in the world and the best in his teammates. It was impossible not to feel like even the earliest of mornings were at least a little brighter when Henry was around.
Henry was so kind and cheerful to everyone that he met. From knighting teammates with “free speed” to listening to the hottest Minnesotan rappers on van rides back from practice, every interaction with Henry felt so personal and genuinely warm. Mix that unique spirit with genius in the classroom, talent in the orchestra hall, and a dedication to put up more meters than just about anyone else in the erg room and you can start to picture what a special guy Henry was.
Even so, it seems impossible to say everything necessary to even begin to give a sufficient description of the caliber of person that Henry was in one post. Follow the link here to see a video on Henry’s incredible experience at an erg marathon that he undertook just before his passing. We think that it exemplifies his soft spoken humility, incredible work ethic, strength of character, and, of course, his dazzling smile.
Thank you so much to all the programs at Bowdoin and beyond that have reached out and offered their condolences. The reaction from the greater rowing community is simply amazing and it has touched us in ways you can’t imagine.
Thank you to the Zietlow family for blessing our team with such a remarkable young man.
If anyone is looking for a way to honor Henry’s legacy, please consider making a donation to one of the following organizations:
- YMCA Camp Widjiwagan
Henry Zietlow Endowment Fund
P.O. Box 1450
Minneapolis, MN 55485-5901
- Bowdoin College
Henry Zietlow Crew Memorial
4100 College Station
Brunswick, ME 04011
We love you, Henry. You will always be in each and every one of our hearts. Thank you for being such an amazing part of our Bowdoin Rowing family.
Adapted from Michael Donnelly ’20, Spring 2019
The College Honors Henry
Bowdoin held a memorial service for Henry on February 2, 2019. Clayton Rose, President of Bowdoin College, delivered the following remarks:
I’d like to welcome Henry’s family—his parents, Sarah and Nathan, and his uncle, Erik.
We are here today to remember, to mourn, and to celebrate.
I do not think we will ever understand why someone as bright and wonderful as Henry was taken so young. I do not believe it is within our powers for us to comprehend such a terrible a thing.
But as we struggle with this and we grieve, we also remember and we smile.
We remember that Henry’s talents ran the table. One of his high school teachers said that he is, “brilliant, engaging, humble, and wise beyond his years.” Another said of him, he is “joyously ambitious.” Henry was very (very) smart, with broad intellectual interests—from math and science to creative writing, and with an arm full of academic accomplishments. He was a talented musician, holding first chair violin in the Minneapolis youth symphony orchestra.
As another of his teachers said, “Henry can be as comfortable rowing a single scull at the Head of the Hooch regatta in Chattanooga as he is in a canoe in the Ontario wilderness as he is performing Wieniawski’s violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor as he is presenting research at an international science competition. Henry is capable of doing anything he wants…”
We remember that he loved the water and rowing. In his application essay for Bowdoin, he said that he rowed because the water provided a “sense of joy and catalyst for reflection.” And that, “Rowing is both technical and meditative, and it allows me to connect to the river on a daily basis as a large, preppy water bug skating alongside the shoreline. I row from early spring to late autumn, noticing all of the gradual yet dramatic changes in scenery.”
A review of his application and essays make it perfectly clear why he chose Bowdoin and why Bowdoin was the perfect place for him. Beyond his smarts, many talents, his drive and “joyous ambition,” was Henry’s deep, abiding love for the natural world. This combination speaks to what Bowdoin and our students are all about. Henry wrote, “I spend at least a month each summer canoeing alongside rocky shorelines and dense clusters of Jack pines. I love the exhilarating feeling of steering a fully loaded canoe around rocks and wakes, as well as the contrasting serenity of a still lake on a clear day.”
We remember, most of all, that Henry was special not because he was smart or musical or loved the water (he was all of that). He was special because he had the gift of touching others. He made a difference in the lives of these who knew him—in Minneapolis, at camp, on campus, in class, wherever he went. He made life for others more fun, more interesting…better.
And this has to be most true for his family. He was so clearly a wonderful son, and brother, and grandson, and nephew, and cousin.
Henry lived abroad in Asia until he was about seven. As you might expect, this experience shaped him. In our application essay where we ask students to identify their favorite line from “The Offer of the College,” he chose to write about being “at home in all lands.” And he wrote about coming to understand what home meant, having lived in many places at a relatively young age. He said that after a period of reflection on this question, once he had settled in Minnesota, he concluded that home could mean many places, but it was always a place, “where I forged an emotional bond.”
Sarah and Nathan, we are so grateful that we had Henry here, if even for such a short time. But, it is clear that Henry was here long enough to forge that bond and consider Bowdoin a home—in Maine Hall, on the Quad, here in this recital hall, at Gelato Fiasco, Big Top, Smith Boathouse and the New Meadows River, among many other places.
And it is with complete certainty—all you have to do I is look around today—that I can say that those at the College who knew Henry forged that emotional bond with him.
Henry is forever part of Bowdoin College and forever a member of the Class of 2022.
- ‘Multitalented and so humble’: Friends remember Zietlow ’22 from The Bowdoin Orient
- Running With Henry from rundadio.com
- The First Annual Henry Zietlow Memorial Ergathon, February 2019