Hall of Fame

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Jennifer Peyton McDavitt
Field Hockey

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Third team All-American (2004) … 2-time All-Region first team (2004, 2005) … All-Region second team (2003) … 2-time All-Ivy League first team (2004, 2005) … All-Ivy second team (2003) … All-Ivy honorable mention (2002) … Ivy League Rookie of the Year (2002) … 4-year letterwinner (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) … ranks 1st in single-season assists, 6th in career assists, and 10th in game-winning goals … Ivy League Champion (2004) … Received the Radcliffe Prize at the 2006 Senior Letterwinners’ Dinner as the most outstanding athlete from a women’s team … USA Field Hockey A-camp selection (2004) … Team captain (2005) …  Joins sister Kate ’04 in the HVC Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

Both of my older sisters, Tina and Kate, are in athletic halls of fame for field hockey achievements. (No pressure!) So, naturally, as the youngest sibling, I set out to copy them. When you are the youngest, you are, inevitably, the most annoying. But it’s not our fault! All of my athletic skills were honed with a single goal: to be included.

As all of my fellow youngest siblings can attest, there is no team harder to make than the ones your siblings are picking. Every afternoon in the McDavitt backyard was like Olympic tryouts…but I was five. I quickly learned that I didn’t have to be better than my incredibly competitive sisters. I had to help them be better than their friends. I remember the crisp October day when I finally “made the team.” My role was clear: to make those around me be better.

I continued this pursuit, following my sisters and seeking to elevate all the teams I made, for the next 13 years and ultimately continued this role at Harvard, sharing the field with Kate for the last time. Freshman year, I helped our team to an NCAA berth and became the 3rd player in program history to earn Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.

Suddenly, my path changed very quickly, and field hockey came to a halt. In the Winter of freshman year, I found myself drowning. I mean that literally. I had pleurisy in both my lungs. They were filling with fluid that was infected with a strep intermedius -- a new or mutated strain that didn’t fit into any of the known strep categories. By the time I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, my right lung had stopped working, my left lung was filling up quickly, and they discovered an infected abscess behind my heart.

After surgery, I spent the spring of freshman year with 2 chest tubes coming out of my side and a picc line in my arm. I took a medical leave of absence from school. For the first time since I had been good enough to make “Team McDavitt,” my life was suddenly filled with great uncertainty. In this moment, not the darkest -- but the grayest, the foggiest -- I was forced to reckon with my own fragility, and, even moreso, my self-perception. I didn’t know if I would ever play again.

This was a confrontation of identity that I wasn’t ready for…a moment that, at some point, all athletes must face: who am I without this uniform? This ability? What is my worth? If the journey of becoming an elite athlete is physical and mental -- the journey of redefining oneself after is spiritual, searching, and deeply, deeply emotional.

There I was, 5 years old again, dying to be on the team…and not just because we got meal money to spend at the Kong (that was great though!)…but because my team was filled with incredible friends and my coach Sue Caples, who called often to check in on me -- showing up for me when I couldn’t for them. This added a new color to my understanding of what it meant to be a great teammate. They reversed the roles on me -- they were making me better. Harvard field hockey wasn’t just a sport for me, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, it saved my life.

During my recovery, I realized that being an elite athlete is not a destination, it's a way of existing. Every skill I learned and honed in becoming an elite athlete was everything I needed for when I thought I would no longer be one. I needed resilience, I needed to be okay with failure, I needed determination, and discipline. There is something transcendent about an athlete’s mentality -- the mentality of possibility.

Miraculously, I had a full recovery and it was that exact mentality that I brought back to my team. I was so elated and grateful to be back on the field, and I was determined to mirror the love my team had shown me off the field, through small actions, like joining a teammate in the cold tubby (which is nothing short of torture) if they were rehabbing an injury for too long and feeling demoralized. Alas, these small gestures paid dividends on the field. Junior year, we won the Ivy League Championship for the first time since -- well, let's just say the last championship team photo featured A LOT of gigantic bangs -- we competed in the NCAAs, and lastly, that season produced the stat I am most proud of: I still hold the single season assist record. Which means I was the best at setting up my teammates.

My ultimate destination wasn’t about being a great athlete, it was about learning how to be a great teammate both on and off the field, and discovering that the latter is a necessity in yielding the former.

In life, you can do everything “right,” everything you're “supposed to,” and still end up in a place of uncertainty. So no matter what, build a great team…full of people who are so happy that you picked them and they picked you.

Finally, I'm so sincerely honored to be inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of fame. Participating in Harvard athletics – being a Harvard teammate – has proven to be one of the most formative and special times in my life. I carry with me the memories, the lessons, and the sisters, blood-related and otherwise. I'm filled with gratitude for that time and for the privilege of now being part of the HoF. Up up Harvard!