Hall of Fame

John S. Hammond III
Swimming & Diving

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

John, the 1958-59 team captain and John Harvard Scholar, broke the Harvard record for the 100-yard butterfly an astounding six times during his three-year stint on the varsity. He was also a mainstay on the 400-yard medley team, which broke the Harvard record eight times. John won a spot on the NCAA swim team for three-straight years and was recognized for his leadership by winning the 1959 Hal Ulen Award.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

My swimming career at Harvard was the stuff of dreams, since I was neither a natural athlete nor a high school star. Far from it. In spite of years of plugging away in my school’s tiny 20-yard pool, I didn’t even letter until my senior year. When I arrived at Harvard in 1955, freshman couldn’t swim varsity, so I swam backstroke and individual medley as a middling member of the freshman team. Because butterfly was my weakest stroke, the 150-yard individual medley races, which started with 50 yards of butterfly, were always try-to-come-from-behind affairs. (Ususally I didn’t!) To compensate, I worked hard on my butterfly but just couldn’t get the rhythm right. Then, the day before the Yale meet at season’s end, freshman coach Bill Brooks was having us do 25-yard sprints. Full of irrational exuberance, I challenged teammate Jim Stanley (who had been an All-American Scholastic swimmer at Deerfield) in the butterfly. Much to my surprise, in the heat of the moment, the rhythm just fell into place and I beat Stanley. It was like an athletic epiphany. From that moment on I had the magic. The following December, in my first varsity meet, I broke the Harvard record in the 100-yard butterfly held by Australian Olympian David Hawkins ’56. That was beyond my comprehension. One season later I ranked fifth in the world. Swimming was different then. We practiced and competed in the Indoor Athletic Building (now the MAC), and there weren’t Christmas training trips to warm climates. Workouts were a third of contemporary ones, and we ate meat – lots of it – instead of carbohydrates at noon training table in the Varsity Club. We didn’t run or train with weights. As a result, times are much faster today. (Sounds like another reason to wish you were sixteen and know what you know now!) Yet we had a great team. We lost only four dual meets in three years (three to then-powerhouse Yale, who went undefeated from 1945 to 1961!). Harvard placed 5th, 6th, and 15th in the NCAAs. Our coach, Hal Ulen, was a low-key master at inspiring our confidence. But more important than great teams were great teammates who became my best friends at Harvard and lifelong friends. We all bonded through banter and horseplay at practice, noontime training table, long train and bus rides, rowdy hotel stays and cheering each other on in meets. We partied together and took trips together. Swimming was the center of my Harvard life, a perfect counterpoint to academics. None of this could I have predicted when I arrived at Harvard 43 years ago. It wasn’t even clear that I’d make the team. Now could I have predicted when I left Harvard the value of life’s lessons learned in the pool. Swimming gave me the confidence that I could do virtually anything I set my mind to. It taught the importance of perseverance and self-reliance. As captain, I learned to lead by example. Finally, from hours and hours of strenuous workouts for the chance to win each 55-second race, I learned the value of unrewarding effort to get to a worthwhile goal. This has served me well in many pursuits, most recently in endless days writing, rewriting, and editing to create a successful book. It’s called Smart Choices; to swim at Harvard was one of the smartest choices I ever made.