Standing at the helm of his launch in the middle of Newport Harbor on a crisp, sunny morning, David Grant thought back to the hundreds of students who had rowed for him.
And one name stood out: Robert Thomas Jordan.
"Physically, he could do anything," said Grant, coach of the Orange Coast College men's varsity crew team for 38 years. "Mentally, he was prepared to do whatever it took. Rob was special."
Today, during an 11 a.m. ceremony at the school's waterfront crew center, a new eight-oar shell will be christened in Jordan's memory.
Jordan, 34, was killed Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, where he was a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald LP, which had several floors of offices high in the north tower.
Jordan was a crew captain for Grant's team, rowing for the Orange Coast Pirates in 1988 and '89. He and Grant remained close. Grant once joined him for dinner at the World Trade Center and the two had dinner in Newport Beach just a week before the terrorist attacks.
"I remember leaving that dinner thinking that here was a young man as close to Superman as anyone I'd ever known," Grant said. "He had it all."
The new 60-foot shell, made of Kevlar and carbon fiber, was donated to the college by a memorial fund founded by Jordan's family. "Rob Jordan," in black letters, decorates the bow. The vessel cost $25,000; the eight oars an additional $3,000.
"It's the best boat we've ever had," Grant said. "It's what they use in the Olympics."
Jordan's wife and mother are expected to attend today's ceremony at Orange Coast's Sailing Center, 1801 W. Coast Highway. The event also will start the annual Alumni Regatta, where crew teams from 10, 20, and 30 years ago return to row again.
Orange Coast is the only community college in the nation with a rowing team, which means the school competes against universities. The school has participated in regattas in Britain a dozen times since Grant has been coach.
For Grant, today's dedication and the regattas ahead mark a final voyage. Grant, who had served as the college's president until 1995, will step down as coach at the end of the year.
"I came to Orange Coast in 1964 as a history teacher; the president said the crew team was a mess and he needed someone to straighten it out."
Since then, Grant's teams have won numerous regattas, and in 1984 Grant was one of three coaches for the U.S. Olympic crew team.
"No other sport has such symmetry," Grant said. "When it's perfect, it is oh-so perfect. There's enormous satisfaction in working together, perfectly together."
Larry Moore, Grant's assistant and a Pirate crew member in the late '60s, credits Grant with making the program grow.
"When I was here as a student, we had a Quonset hut and a few boats. Now we have this great boathouse, all these boats, and it's all because of Dave," Moore said.
Moore said Grant's teaching goes well beyond crewing.
"What Dave teaches is that you can do more than you thought you could. And that carries over to your academics. But also, he makes it fun, and that carries over to the rest of your life."
Jordan's family asked Grant to speak at a memorial service in Weston, Conn., on Sept. 29.
During the memorial, Grant recalled meeting Jordan at the boathouse after Jordan returned from what was supposed to have been a short trip in the harbor in a solo scull.
Jordan was gone three hours and later sheepishly explained, "I knew I was lost when I got to the ocean."
But Grant recognized Jordan's talent and likability. He said he remembered thinking about him that season: "This is a guy on whose side I want to be."
Ann Stewart said her son saw Grant as a mentor. She said she wants today's ceremony to be upbeat.
"I'll say a little blessing, but we don't want this to be a sad memorial," she said. "My son would have loved seeing this boat."