Hall of Fame

Alison Townley

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Alison won the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association Award in 1987. A four-year All-Ivy selection, she was also a member of the U.S. National Women's Rowing Team. She led the Crimson varsity eight to the EAWRC Sprint Championships and finishes in the top three in the National Championship Regatta in both 1986 and 1987. That 1987 championship season was an unprecedented, undefeated regular season for the Crimson, where the team also earned the Ivy title. That marked the first time in 12 years that Radcliffe was both the EAWRC title and the Ivy Championship. Alison's varsity eight dominated the 18 school league, winning races by substantial margins. She was highly instrumental in litterally launching Radcliffe Crew into a decade of being the front-runner in the sport.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

Does your mother know you do this?

After the 1988 Olympics in Seoul Korea a group of us from the rowing team had a week of vacation in Maui. On about the third day of R&R the power of habit overcame us and Anna Seaton Huntington ’86 and I found ourselves one morning taking turns doing 10 minute pieces on the an old erg (rowing machine) in the tiny gym in our Maui condo. Half way through our workout, a woman in her mid forties approached us and asked in a slow Texas drawl, “may I ask why you two are working out so hard?”

It wasn’t a bad question considering the Olympics were over, but it still caught us off guard. Our response, “we always workout this hard”.
When it was clear that that really didn’t kill her curiosity I added, “we just returned from the Olympics and we always train this hard.”
To that she replied, “what sport?”
“Rowing,” we said in unison.
“Rowing” she said with wide eyed surprise, “ I didn’t know they let girls do that!”
I wanted to say you’d be amazed at what they let girls do these days. But instead I smiled and shook my head “yes”. Then, with a slight tilt of her head she asked, “ does your mother know you do this?”

Does my mother know I do this? It was asked in the same way that someone would ask "does your mother know you do heroine?"

This was 15 years ago, about 10 years after Title IX was passed into law. But Harvard was one of the few schools that took the meaning of the law seriously and provided equal opportunity to women in sports. Typical of Harvard, the question was not can we play, but will we win!

I accept this award with deep humility knowing that there are so many great rowers from Harvard and Radcliffe who could have easily taken my place here today.

With a heavy heart, I accept this award in honor of my father, Preston “Pete” Townley ’60, who died way too young. He was my greatest fan and one of Harvard’s greatest fans. His presidency of the HAA was an example of his devotion and respect for Harvard and I believe that he would have been more proud of this award than the Olympics or any of my other accomplishments. Sadly, this award will join my children, his grandchildren, Phoebe Helen and Patrick Henry Fechtmeyer as leading the list of things he would have been deeply proud of and yet missed.