It’s per­haps no sur­prise that Pieter and Yvette Eenkema van Dijk, par­ents to son Maarten, Class of 2014, decided in December to make North­eastern his­tory, with a standout gift to the Sailing Club. The couple, born in the Nether­lands, joke that all Dutch chil­dren swim, skate, and sail—after all, they’re sur­rounded by water. And sailing is their son’s grand passion.

Maarten, a civil engi­neering major and the club’s co-​​captain, has been sailing since he was eight. “He’d take his lunchbox and life­jacket, and off he’d go,” his mother recalled. “Sum­mers out on the water were fun, and sailing taught him respon­si­bility and organization.”

But even Maarten was star­tled when, in December, his par­ents told him they would pledge a gift to the club—enough to gen­erate a coach’s salary in perpetuity.

To his par­ents, who had often hosted trav­eling team mem­bers at their home in Darien, Conn., the gift made per­fect sense. “The thought came when we saw how great these kids were—so smart, polite, funny, and so ded­i­cated,” Pieter said.
“Watching them from the docks, we could see how very skilled they were. But they were up against pro­fes­sion­ally coached teams, and that was a real drawback.

We wanted to have a lasting effect—to help not only these out­standing sailors, but future gen­er­a­tions,” Pieter said.

Added Yvette: “Sailing requires dis­ci­pline and strategy—reading the course, the ele­ments, and, of course, your com­peti­tors.” It’s a sport, she feels, in which a uni­ver­sity of Northeastern’s cal­iber should excel, espe­cially given its prox­imity to the Charles River and its superb facil­i­ties, which are leased from MIT.

With his fellow sailors, Maarten began strate­gizing two years ago about ways to iden­tify poten­tial funding sources. Mean­while, their student-​​run club was starting to get noticed by big varsity-​​level teams backed by schools like MIT, Boston Uni­ver­sity, and Yale. To fill their need for high-​​level instruc­tion, then-​​coach-​​adviser Matthew Largess was pulling in pro­fes­sional coaches at prac­tices. Among them was vet­eran Olympics coach Jonathan Farrar, whom the stu­dents hired in Jan­uary 2013.

The $750,000 gift to the club is the largest from non-​​alumni par­ents since the university’s founding, and the first to endow a club sport.