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In 2013, the University honored former Penn rowing coach Ted Nash with the dedication of its indoor rowing center in the Hutchinson Gymnasium.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

A filmmaker who said she was sexually assaulted by a former Penn rowing coach is calling on the University to remove his name from a center dedicated in his honor.

Jennifer Fox, an award-winning filmmaker, alleged that she was sexually abused by former Penn rowing coach Ted Nash when she was 13 years old. Fox had previously given Nash, who died in 2021, a pseudonym in her Emmy-nominated film detailing her relationship with him, "The Tale." On March 20, she publicly named Nash as her abuser for the first time in The New York Times.

A legend in the rowing community, Nash coached both women’s and men’s rowing at Penn from 1965 to 1983 after winning two Olympic medals. In 2013, Penn honored him with the dedication of its indoor rowing center, the Coach Ted A. Nash Land Rowing Center. Fox, along with Penn community members, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she wants Penn to change the name of the center to address his legacy.

“My goal is to have Nash’s name taken off of everything, not just at Penn, but everywhere,” Fox said. “I think hurting his legacy is a big blow to Ted Nash and all the abusers out there."

Fox added that she hopes Penn community members stand up against having Nash’s name continue to be memorialized on campus, saying that Penn's reaction could signify a larger message.

Penn Athletics wrote in a statement to the DP that it was upset by the news of the allegations against Nash.

“We are deeply distressed by this highly disturbing news," Penn Athletics wrote. "Our thoughts are with Jennifer Fox, and others who were similarly subject to sexual abuse."

Penn Athletics did not respond to further request for comment on whether Penn has any plans to remove Nash’s name from the center at this time. A University spokesperson also did not respond for a request for comment.

“If you want to make a building that represents the ideals of the athletic community — that means supporting all athletes, protecting all athletes — you should not be naming the building after an abuser,” College junior Harley Haas, president of Penn’s Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention club, said. 

Political science professor Marci Hamilton, the chief executive of the children protection think tank CHILD USA, told the DP that she views it as a minimum that Nash’s name be taken off the building. 

“One in five girls and one in 13 boys will be sexually abused before they’re 18. So about 15 to 20% of students on campus were likely abused as a child," Hamilton said. "Out of respect for their trauma and for what the University stands for, it’s necessary to remove Nash’s name."

Hamilton agreed with Fox that the situation represents a larger dilemma of how Penn will address the legacy of those accused of sexual assault.

“Institutions faced with these issues are [at a] fork in the road. They have the choice to try to leave it alone, and they have a choice to truly improve their practices and to stand up for victims," Hamilton said. "I hope Penn chooses the latter."

Penn previously changed the name of Wynn Commons — now called Penn Commons — after dozens accused 1963 College graduate and former trustee Steve Wynn of sexual misconduct.

Fox has filed a complaint against Nash with U.S. Rowing, the national governing body for rowing, and the organization has brought in the law firm Shearman & Sterling to lead the investigation, according to the Times.

“We understand according to the New York Times article that U.S. Rowing has undertaken an investigation using an outside law firm and we are watching closely for the results of that investigation,” Penn Athletics wrote in the statement.

Fox said she wants Penn community members to demand the investigation's findings be made public, adding that if the investigation corroborates her allegations, she believes Penn will take steps to address Nash's legacy.

“The only way we can ensure justice happens is by that report becoming public,” she said.

Fox, who told the DP that she did not meet Nash in any way related to Penn, said that she hopes other sexual predators will realize they are not protected, even in death. 

“Even if we don’t get you now, we’ll get you eventually,” she said. “If Ted ever thought that what he did to me was going to destroy his legacy, I think it would have stopped him.”

In November 2022, 1977 College graduate Sean Colgan published "The Book of Ted," a compilation of anecdotes from men and women coached by Nash. Fox said that while the book was set to have its launch on campus, she was told the event was canceled following the allegations against Nash.

“I'm sad that I have to break that myth, but it's important that this other truth gets out there,” Fox said. “I’m fighting for this other story of Ted Nash to also exist in history. Up until now, he’s just been worshiped."

Colgan told the Times that he did not see “any dent in [Nash's] moral credibility, whether it’s cursing, lying, cheating, anything like that."

Fox said she hopes other people who were abused by Nash speak up.

“I'm really the only one out here so far. It would be better if there were more of us," Fox said. "But just like it took me so long, it could take others decades, too.”