Hall of Fame

Michal Gattnar

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

It takes a special type of athlete to come into a program his junior year and have a profound effect on the program. This is precisely what Michal Gattnar did. A transfer from Lawrence University, Michal earned two First Team All-Ivy nominations his junior and senior years at Harvard in epee (1997, 1998). He was also tabbed an All-American in 1997 and 1998 with seventh and eleventh place national finishes, respectively. Michal was also the 1998 IFA Champion in epee. Michal helped his team reach eighth place nationally in 1997 after finishing 15th the previous two years. That year, the Harvard fencing team finished fifth at the IFA Championships. Prior to coming to Harvard, Michal won the NCAA National Championship in epee as a student at Lawrence University (1995).

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

It is my great honor to be inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame, something I never dreamed would happen. To my fellow inductees and those who have been inducted before us, I am humbled and delighted to be one of such an amazing group.

As I accept this honor tonight, I know that there are people without whom I wouldn’t be here. First and foremost, I would like to recognize my host father, Dave Thiede. I remember as it were yesterday when you picked me up at the airport on my first day in the US as a 17-year old foreign exchange student randomly placed with you. I remember you trying to talk to me for 4 hours and then sitting dejected in the living room after you realized I spoke no English. You turned on TV and we ate Pringles. What you have done for me in the next months and years has been truly unbelievable. Your help and support are in large part responsible for me staying to study in the US, continuing to fence, and graduating from Harvard. I cannot thank you enough and I hope you know that I will never forget and will always be grateful.

I would also like to thank my friends and teammates for inspiration. There is no way I would have been able to accomplish what I did without them. Their inspiration didn’t necessarily impact how I trained and competed. It was more important than that – they inspired me to be a better man, father, leader. In particular, my Harvard roommate, and a great friend Abraham Valdes has been a tremendous inspiration with his personal integrity and honor. Abe, thank you for always being a great example for how doing the difficult thing is not all that difficult most of the time [… and how to do it even when it is], how things often really are pretty black and white, and how sticking to your word is never optional, no matter how small or trivial the commitment.

Kevin Scott, Lee Scheffler thank you for being good friends and great examples of quiet leadership. Andrew Prihodko, thanks for making all the practices, trips to competitions, random dinners on the road, and everything in between entertaining and fun.

Reminiscing about all the great experiences, lessons and friendships that the sport provided have been a great counterbalance to my recent fatherly paranoia about where sports are heading and what that means for my kids. It seems that in many sports athletes are forced to make decisions I do not want my children to have to make. In some sports doping seems to be table-stakes to exceling at the highest levels; in others, the escalating level of performance dramatically increased the likelihood and severity of injuries. Despite these trends, I continue to believe that sports are unique in their ability to enrich us, to make our lives balanced, and to simply make us happy. I hope all my kids will enjoy sports as much as I did and will have the opportunity to be student-athletes in college – it truly is some of the best times in life.

I have been permanently shaped by my time at Harvard and the possibilities that it led to. I am extremely grateful to those who helped me get here. Thank you!