Hall of Fame

Devin-Adair Mahony

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Mahony was a three-year letter winner for heavyweight varsity crew and helped the 1985 men’s heavyweight crew team to its induction in the Hall of Fame. This crew achieved a remarkable record, including victories in the Eastern Sprint Championships, the Harvard-Yale Race, the National intercollegiate Championships in Cincinnati and the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. No other crew from Harvard or any other university has duplicated this accomplishment. The crew recorded victories over every other major university crew in the United States and England over the course of the season and stamped themselves as one of the outstanding university crews of all time. The crew recorded a decisive victory over Princeton, Brown, Navy and the rest of the eastern universities in the Eastern Sprints Championships. They then switched gears very effectively and rowed to a convincing four length victory over Yale at New London, ending Yale’s four year win streak in the race. Just one week later the crew made the difficult adjustment back to the 2000-meter distance and rowed perhaps their best race of the season. In the finals of the National Intercollegiate Rowing Championships the crew rowed through a greatly improved and determined Princeton crew in the last few strokes of the race. It was both the closest and the fastest race for the Championship. Shortly after winning the National Championships, the crew traveled to Henley, England to compete for the coveted and prestigious Grand Challenge Cup. Olympic and World Championship crews often win the cup and only one US crew had won it in the previous 26 years. Undeterred, the crew entered the event full of confidence and went on to row three outstanding races over the 1984 Danish World Champion Lightweight eight, Cambridge University and, once again, Princeton. No other university crew from the United States or elsewhere has won the event until Harvard did it again in 2003.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

I didn’t want to go to Harvard, mainly because so many of my family members had already passed through the gates of Harvard Yard. But when it came time for me to decide on college, I listened to each of the coaches that recruited me for crew promise me opportunities, “glory” and lots of other things—except Harry Parker. He told me simply that I would be welcome on his team. Harry didn’t have to make promises and he didn’t have to exaggerate what he had to offer. Because Harry was the most winning coach in the history of collegiate athletics and Harvard’s Men’s Crew was one of the top teams in the country, year after year, after year. And I knew, and he knew, that if I wanted to test my mettle I would have to do to it with him, at Harvard. So, despite my dreams of getting far away from my native Boston, and carving out new territory, I chose Harvard, and I have never regretted that decision. In fact, my experience on Harry’s team has never been matched in terms of what’s been required of me professionally and even personally…I’ve never found a situation since crew that I didn’t have more time to make decisions, more time to judge someone’s character, more time to decide how to play the situation at hand. I learned patience, emotional discipline and also honed my gut instincts competing every day on the crew team. But even more importantly, I came to know intimately the harsh disappointment and blazing glory that is embodied by the concept of “personal best,” an internal standard tougher and more demanding than any external standard of success.

I learned through miserable practices in the hard driving rain, and brilliant racing on Friday Race Day that achievement is forged in the long preparation leading up to the big races, and that moments in the spotlight are not half as satisfying as the breakthroughs I’ve had, and my teammates had, in the quiet, gray of an early morning.

I know that our crew of 1985 is being inducted into the Hall of Fame for the big races we won, and for the special convergence of opportunity, timing and damn good racing that lead to us winning the Eastern Sprints, the Harvard/Yale race, the NCAA Championships and the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley, but the work and faith it took to get there is what I am most proud of. I know that being an undisputed champion in your sport of choice marks you for the rest of your life, it gives you a core belief in your own power, the satisfying rush of confidence when it comes to competing in any endeavor, that no one can ever borrow, beg, steal or buy. It is earned, and it can never be taken away. And that is something all of us can be thankful for, and be proud of. I also treasure the vivid memory of the unmitigated joy and hubris of being young and being a Champion.

But as life became more complex as we graduated, chose careers, chose spouses, I would say that personally, I am grateful for my experience on the crew team for the resolve it forged in me to have faith in myself, to handle the moments of achievement I’ve had with grace and happiness, but also face down the complicated times of frustration and disappointment I’ve encountered. I learned at Harvard to listen to criticism and be grateful that someone was taking the time to help me get better. I learned to own my own mistakes and not get rattled by them, but keep going and getting better. I learned that today’s hard work is tomorrow’s smooth sailing. And I have always searched for challenges as compelling and difficult as those I came up against in crew because nothing feels as good and right to me as toughing it out and testing my personal limits. I don’t know if there was anywhere I would have had the opportunity to do that to the extent that I did on the Harvard Heavyweight Crew, and whether in any other situation I would have been required to dig as deep—and for my efforts to have been as successful. I wrote a book a long time ago about being a coxswain at Harvard, and still to this day, I feel that the following words capture the unique experience that crew gave me, and the essence of what I have searched for in every endeavor I’ve taken on since then:

“There is a calm that overtakes you. The task ahead requires everything you have, all the savvy, every ounce of competitiveness, and every drop of confidence you’ve earned. Calm washes over you and replaces the last threads of realistic doubt with confidence. Your heart is beating strong. Your mind is no longer crowded with any thoughts except maybe one—the physical task ahead. Winning is an affirmation of your ability and has hardly anything to do with your opponent. You are certain. Any exhaustion, exasperation, frustration, resentment or fear that may have gripped you some other time has been shed in a fine sheen of sweat. What is exciting, what makes your heart pound is anticipation of your performance, the anticipation of demonstrating all you know, all your strength—you are going to live a little beyond yourself, beyond the person you were moments before.”