Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
It is a great honor to be introduced into the Harvard Hall of Fame. When I first read the letter from the Harvard Varsity Club, it brought back fond memories of my time at Harvard and my life as a student-athlete. But later I just felt a profound sense of gratefulness for having the opportunity to go to Harvard, learn and grow.
Before Harvard, I was a high school student from Hungary aspiring to study law and dreaming of the Olympics. When I decided to attend Harvard, I mostly gave up my aspirations as an athlete. Studying felt always more important than sports and I could not imagine being able to combine classes and high jump at a world class level. But I turned out to be wrong, and Harvard provided me with all the opportunities, which I needed to perform at a high level in both academics and athletics.
I remember my first NCAA Championships, when other high jumpers were surprised to see me there and asked: “aren’t you guys always studying in the library”? Actually, I spent a lot of time in the library and I still recall my freshman year walking through Harvard Yard at 2:30am seeing lights all around as people were doing their assignments. (I felt it a great progress when I could go to sleep by 10pm during my senior year.) But between classes and the library somehow there was always time to do the training – looking back I deeply appreciate the closeness of the facilities and the flexibility of my coach, Paul Turner with training schedules.
In the following few years Harvard athletes at NCAAs became less of a surprise. I am so glad to receive this award with Brenda and Chris. Track and field can be a very lonely sport, but at Harvard I felt like I was part of a team. I remember with a smile when I think about traveling together, sharing the pressure of the competition and cheering for one another. I also cannot help remembering the healthy rivalry we had with Brenda over the years – I admired her strength, resilience and boldness; she always inspired me to perform my best.
It is impossible to remember Harvard without the coaches there. From the first letter of invitation to phone calls long after graduation I always felt their support. I remember my first visit when Paul and Frank Haggerty accompanied me to the admissions office for my interviews. I felt very privileged and secure. These feelings persisted in the next four years. Looking back now I realize the shame I would feel if I did not use the opportunity I was given with all the support I received. Paul was always there for me, while at the same time giving me enormous freedom in training methods and a choice in events to compete. Frank was a source of calm and steadiness during meets for the entire team. Under such conditions I almost never had a bad meet performance at Harvard, and always jumped close to my potential – this was certainly not the case before and after. I was deeply saddened by learning about Paul’s death a few years later.
I came back to Hungary after Harvard, and combining athletics and academics became much more difficult. Today I am a professor of political economy and my life as an athlete feels like in another lifetime. But my time at Harvard does not. I teach classes inspired by what I learnt at Harvard; I assign my students papers and books by my former professors; and most importantly I try to convey the passion for learning and knowledge that I encountered at Harvard during my four years.
I would probably never have dreamed about going to Harvard without receiving a letter of invitation based on my athletic abilities. Attending Harvard offered me the opportunity to live up to my full potential both as a student and an athlete surrounded by passionate and talented individuals from all over the world. I cannot express how grateful I am. Becoming a member of the Hall of Fame feels like a recognition that I was able to use this opportunity well. Thank you for the Harvard Varsity Club for remembering and keeping the tradition of Harvard athletics alive.