Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Support. Community. Growth. Mentorship. Fun. FAMILY. These words – and more - describe my experience with Harvard Athletics. My teammates, coaches, and other athletes were my friends, confidants, and family; my home away from home. They made me feel comfortable and included, even when my family was 3,000 miles away in California. I can remember arriving on campus as a lonely freshman, not knowing anyone. Suggesting that we practice during our first week at school, Coach Allard suggested freshman catcher, Mairead (McKendry) Sauter ’01, a loud, unreserved, big-haired girl from Buffalo. At the time I recall thinking “what am I going to possibly have in common with this girl,” (not to mention Mairead and I did not exactly hit it off during our official recruiting trip) but clearly Coach Allard knows her recruits well. In addition to my battery-mate, Mairead would soon become my best friend, a sister, and now Godmother to my son. During that fateful day, Mairead and I met in Harvard Yard and some awkward conversation ensued on our walk to the field. Somewhere around what I recall as MIT (although it was more likely only Mather House), I asked Raida, “do you know where you’re going?” She replied, “No, I was following YOU!” From that moment on, we became inseparable and the best of friends (and we were able to finally figure out how to navigate to the softball field). We soon met our other roommate (Jennifer (Vogt-Lowell) Dibble ’01) and other freshman teammates, and quickly formed strong bonds of friendship during our time at Harvard and beyond. My memories of my teammates and our time together cannot easily be described in words – they brought me laughter, love, tears, and support through the years, and engrained countless lasting memories that I will forever cherish.
While Harvard Athletics introduced me to my best friends via softball, it also brought me my block mates from other sports and a sense of community and belonging in a school and city that, at times, felt big and foreign. And, last but definitely not least, Harvard Athletics brought me my husband (Alan Rich ’03, a fellow athlete – we were actually introduced by one of my teammates!) and now my children. My life, friends, and family clearly wouldn’t be the same without Harvard Athletics and Harvard Softball.
However, it’s more than just these visible, tactile benefits that Harvard Athletics has imparted upon me – the lessons I learned, on the field, in the dugout, and on long bus rides still impact my life today, and have, without a doubt, contributed to my success outside of sports. I learned early on the art of multi-tasking, picking myself up after failure – and, allowing my teammates and coaches to pick me up (something that those who know me well know was hard for me), overcoming adversity, the value of a team, the art of being humble, and the importance of mentorship. As a team, we learned to persevere in the face of long odds, winning the school’s first Ivy League softball title in 1998. I also had the honor and privilege of playing with two Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame inductees (Tasha Cupp ’98 and Deborah Abeles ’00) who taught me how elevate my level of competitiveness and how to handle success with grace. While my entire experience as a student-athlete was instrumental in making me the adult, friend, spouse, and mother I am today, I feel like the values, experiences, and interactions I had as an athlete were the most valuable in transforming me from a young adult with limited responsibility to a woman who was ready to take on the world.
There are many people who have been instrumental in helping me achieve this award – before, during and after my time at Harvard that I need to thank. It definitely took a village to get me to where I am today!
To my parents, David and Claire Thoke, for as long as I can remember you both pushed me to be the best I can be. More than anyone, you are responsible for providing me with the support and opportunities that enabled me to reach my potential and achieve my goals. There were so many sacrifices you made for me, from the many rides to and from games/practices to count, to practicing with me at home, carving out time on family vacations to make sure I could practice, pushing me when I wanted to quit, and providing unlimited love and encouragement. None of this would have been possible without you. To my sister, Shannon Thoke, you were my constant companion while growing up, and you enabled me to remain steady on my feet when I first moved to the East Coast. To my husband Alan, you are my rock and biggest cheerleader. You are always there to pull me up when I fall, and celebrate my achievements in a way that no one else does. You are my heart, and I am so thankful for everything you have given me, especially my three greatest joys (Greyson, Dylan, and Brynlee).
To all the coaches, teammates, and mentors who helped me along the way – you provided me with direction and guidance that allowed me to be the best player, teammate, and person I could be. To Coach Allard, thank you for believing in me, for bringing me to Harvard when I was 17, and for continuing to support me and my family, both during and after my playing career at Harvard. Your leadership, encouragement, and drive helped shape the culture and success of Harvard Softball, and your legacy will live on. And to my Harvard teammates, this award truly is more of a reflection on you than it is on me. I wouldn’t have been half the player, nor would I have achieved the accolades, without you pushing me and competing so hard alongside me during my career. There were just too many great defensive plays made behind me, timely hits that made the difference between a win and a loss, and teammates who knew just the right thing to say to me to keep me going for me to count. This is just as much your award as it is mine, and I will forever be grateful to all of you.
Finally, I want to say that you to the Harvard Varsity Club for honoring me with this award. Along with the amazing athletes that will be inducted with me today (congratulations to you all), there were and are many amazing student-athletes upon whom you could bestow this award. It is awe-inspiring to join such an elite and accomplished group of student-athletes. I am truly touched and honored that you chose me.