|Title:||Class of 2017|
Coxswain: the steersman of a ship's boat, lifeboat, racing boat, or other boat. Dave Ploss might be considered as the ultimate WPI coxswain. After steering the top eight as an undergraduate, he was key in steering the evolution and elevation of the men’s and women’s programs to varsity status.
While pursuing his chemical engineering degree, Dave coxed the WPI varsity 8 to win the Rusty Callow Regatta in 1968, precursor to the New England Championships, and captured the Worcester City Championship to earn a rare Eastern Sprints invitation that same year.
The second head coach in program history, he took over duties from 1972 to1987 to go along with an encore in 1996. Among numerous medals at the New England and national level, WPI crews claimed the 1978 4+ United States National Championship, the 1979 8+ New England Championship, and several Worcester City Championships.
After a decade of the program being co-ed, he teamed up with Bernie Brown to make the men’s and women’s programs separate entities in 1982.
Throughout his tenure, Dave coordinated the logistics for dozens of student-athletes each year. He also directed fundraising by securing alumni and friends support for all the program needs prior to the formation of Friends of WPI Rowing in 1983.
He went on to help establish the WPI Crew Endowment in conjunction with the transition to varsity status in 1999, and served on the committee to hire current head coaches Larry Noble and Jason Steele.
“F. David Ploss did what great coaches do, he enabled the dreams of athletes through a partnership of uncompromising dedication, hard work, and absolute commitment to achieving those goals,” mused Jack Tracy ’79. “I was one of those athletes. He has had an enormous impact on my life and his former Rowers all say the same.”
In addition to coaching John Matthews ’74, a 1976 Olympian, and John “Jay” Feenan ’80, a US National Team member and world championship participant, Dave brought WPI to the Canadian Henley in 1978 and 1979 and the 4-, which won the Reading Town Regatta in the lead up to the 1981 Royal Henley Regatta. The Engineers also went across the pond in 1982 and 1985.
“Floyd’s vision and personal commitment to WPI and the crews created a competitive advantage for WPI during my years on the team," recalled Feenan. “More important, he cultivated an extremely competitive environment that drove our athletes together, yielding many medals and lifelong friendships. In my opinion, this environment contributed to a great many of us succeeding off the water—in life—and cultivated a better environment for WPI Rowing to grow into the tremendous program that it is today.”
This 1985 recipient of the John Boynton Award for service to WPI by a young alumnus continues to act in an advisory role as needed for both the Friends of WPI Rowing and the varsity rowing program.
A native of Wethersfield, Conn., Dave graduated from WPI in 1970 with a degree in chemical engineering. His career was spent in the environmental and safety field with Norton Company, with Ploss Associates, and as director of environmental health and safety for Wyman-Gordon Co. He retired in 2005 and lives in Hendersonville, N.C., with Liz, his wife of 31 years. Dave currently enjoys playing golf and playing his banjo—not at the same time—and traveling with Liz.