Hall of Fame

Brenda Taylor
Track & Field

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

2001 Academic All-American 2001 Honda Award as Nation’s Most Outstanding Female Track Athlete 2004 Olympian (USA) in 400m hurdles 2001 NCAA Champion in 400m hurdles Three-time outdoor All-American (1999, 2000, 2001) 2001 Heptagonal Championships Performer of the Meet 17-time Heptagonal Champion (10 outdoor, 7 indoor) 21-time All-Ivy League selection (14 outdoor, 7 indoor) 2001 Radcliffe Prize Award winner

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

I am being asked in this distinct moment to remember what Harvard athletics meant to me, which is a tough endeavor since the answer is an evolving one. Harvard athletics has meant many things to me over the past 15 years, including my most valued college memories, my closest friendships, some of my deepest life lessons, and a path to an Olympic final. But in the past year Harvard Track has surprisingly come to mean absolutely everything to my present -- more on that later.

In spite of multiple scholarship offers, Harvard was the only school I wanted to attend. I applied early action and never looked back. I was excited to engage the world’s best and brightest group of overachievers. Like so many 18 year olds, I remember thinking I had everything figured out when I arrived on campus. I was optimistic that at Harvard anything was possible, and I was anxious to prove it on the track.

I had been an All-American hurdler in high school and knew I wanted to win for Harvard, in the Ivy League and beyond. I always approached the things I was most passionate about with extraordinary intensity, so I was nervous about joining a team that did not have a recent record of strong performance. During my first year, I was consumed by a need to renovate the training and to elevate performance. I had been a student of my event since starting to run track in high school, and the assistant sprints coach at Harvard quickly gave me the nickname “Profesor,” because I was constantly testing him on how to optimize training cycles and weight lifting programs. Harvard was not historically known for its track program, but doubt about our potential became a source of collective inspiration. Hearing people in the stands trying to guess which school the “H” on the uniform could possibly represent (Haverford? Howard?) became a favorite energizer for me at the starting line of major meets.

I was joined by a stellar class of individuals and athletes, as evidenced by the number of us on this program tonight. Over our four years we grew as athletes while we navigated life as students and coalesced as team that wanted to achieve collectively. Together we decided that we wished to excel at the highest levels of collegiate and post-collegiate track and field, and by my senior year, the women’s team had not only won Harvard’s first Heps title in a decade, but the two of us who attended NCAAs both won our individual events and later competed in the World Championships representing our countries.

No story of great competition is complete without an archrival. Between 1997 and 2001, the Harvard women’s track team faced one dominating force year after year. During my tenure, the Brown Bear’s won every single HEPS title except for one - when Harvard beat them. The competition went much deeper than performance for me as Brown’s team captain (my counterpart on their team) and secret weapon, Lindsay Taylor, happened to be my twin sister. She was my greatest supporter and my greatest rival. I am forever grateful for her competition and for her unwavering support, without which I would not be writing this essay. That being said - I still owe her one for stealing our team flag during a meet!

The competition and teamwork were exceptional, but my best memories from Harvard Track have nothing to do with the grueling practices or the hard fought victories but rather with the people I shared them. Except for my coach, Walter Johnson, I was so busy being serious about achieving, I might have forgotten that I also needed to enjoy it. I cannot remember a day since arriving he did not show up to practice without a smile and bounce in his step. In a world of serial overachievers, he could always see the levity around all the edges of life. He taught me to go with the flow and to roll with the punches – as well as to appreciate exceptional barbeque! These are lessons I have carried with me since, appreciating them more and more with every year that passes. It was the workouts he designed that made me capable of performing but the mindset and wellbeing he shaped that made me ready to accel. It was not until years later that I appreciated just how much Walter Johnson contributed to my development. I want to thank him for his commitment, support, and energy through my four years at Harvard.

My entire experience at Harvard was underlined by Harvard athletics, as I found on the track an extraordinary group of likeminded women who came to feel like family. Though towards the end of my essay, two of my best friends to this day, Kate Ousley and Jana White, are at the front of my mind in remembering Harvard athletics. I met these two stellar women upon arriving on campus and found out shortly thereafter that they were both on the track team. Throughout college we celebrated big and little victories, supported one another, laughed and cried, and made a lifetime of memories. Since graduation we have stood side by side at each other’s weddings, helped each other navigate careers, and started families together. I admire the character, self-awareness, and heart of these women more than I could ever convey. Though literally a world away (South Africa) I will also always appreciate my senior co-captain and close friend, Marna Schutte, whose humility and determination inspires me to this day.

I could not have made it to practice half of my tenure without the daily attention of Gary and the training room staff who kept the wheels on the bus! Their tirelessness kept me in one piece thorugh numerous bumps and brusies and injuries. I will be forever grateful.

Most importantly, thank you to my extraordinary parents for nurturing a daughter who believed she could go to Harvard and who gave up countless mornings, evenings, and weekends shuttling me to this practice or that competition without complaint. Your unwaivering support and encouragement made me believe that anything was possible. You taught me that the bar by which I measured myself should always be my own. You carried the financial burden of my college choice without letting me know its weight. Thank you for your love and support. I appreciate and love you both more than I can say.

And finally, as promised, I come to the present. I am grateful to Harvard athletics for my 8-month old daughter, Isabelle, who would not have come into the world without it. My path never would have crossed her father’s except that he decided to join the track team as an upperclassman and was voted as my co-captain senior year. She is truly the light of my life.

I am humbled to be included in the Class of 2016 Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame. Thanks to the Committee for this honor!