Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
It is a great honor to be named to join the Harvard Varsity Club’s Hall of Fame, to be among friends and to join the ranks of individuals far more worthy than I. Thank you.
I have to inform you, though, that there is something mistaken, or something ironic, in my being named, as much as this is an outcome of some personal accomplishment or triumph.
Not that you are wrong about my appointment. On the contrary! It is just that my athletic objective when I arrived at Harvard, to the extent that I had one, had nothing at all to do with rowing. I was going to pay hockey. I was from Boston, which was hockey mad. Yes, the Celtics had won the championship for those many years, but no one watched or supported them! Hockey was the game. This was a hockey town. At my school we thought that we were the best around. And rowing?
Oh I recognized Harry Parker when he spoke to me at Freshman Registration. And I was flattered that he did so. But I told him he had spoken to the wrong guy. I was far too small for crew. How prescient, how right I was!
Harry told me to forget hockey. For I had that critical and fatal flaw that would irretrievably damage my hockey prospects and limit them utterly: I was an American, and not a Canadian. And there were at least fifty Canadians in our year, and they were going to compose the hockey team. He was right. They did.
I went to the boathouse to have a look. Steve Gladstone, the varsity lightweight coach, joined the sales effort. He knew that I had actually rowed a bit before, in a single scull, recovering, in fact, from some injuries, and sent me onto the water with most of the lightweight varsity of the year before. Now, that had been a crew! They had been named the “Superboat,” after committing the unpardonable sin of rowing the occasional piece faster than the heavyweights. I was stunned by that experience, excited and challenged. And I kept rowing.
At the end of my freshman year, during the summer, the same Steve Gladstone asked me to “help out” as he put it, with some fellows preparing for the national camp, by filling in during a practice, in the solo eight. But no. He “seat” raced me – a tortured way of selecting a crew person by person, in individually matched contests. He raced me against a legend. Perhaps I had the element of surprise on my side. Perhaps I just had a good day. But I did well. And some six weeks later, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I was on the US team, competing in the world championships.
I had a bit of luck there, too. I had that outrageous level of self-confidence that would make a successful switch into the heavyweight programme simple and straightforward. I was easily persuaded that my career would not be really complete or truly successful if I did not switch and row for Harry. Now, I did not do all that I wanted to do with, and for, Harry. But rowing in the programme gave me the chance to participate in a magnificent team effort, and compete with and make great, lifelong friends. It was richly rewarding and fulfilling experience, a wonderful “completion” of the Harvard life.
I pay tribute to those friends. I was unable to be here last year for the induction into the Hall of Fame for some of my teammates, from the 1974 and 1975 heavyweight crews. They were great guys, and made great crews. They had extraordinary abilities and an extraordinary record. I salute them. I salute Harry Parker, who set the highest possible standards, who demanded nothing but expected so much. He explained once that we would have the moment of opportunity to win. Recognizing those moments, however brief, and deciding positively to seize them, would set apart true champions. On occasion we did that, and thus enjoyed some victories, received their tangible rewards, and produced some good results for institutions that we loved.
We received priceless, non-tangible lessons, as well. Of the need for discipline. Of the dividend of hard work. Of the value of controlled aggression. Of the power of absolute focus and commitment. Of the undeniable strength of total belief. Of the unstoppable momentum of team. Of the acute awareness that your every effort would – not could – produce actual result and reward. Of the swelling, unquenchable pride of excelling – even for a brief moment. You are not named to the Hall of Fame for these things, but they are the most important things one can receive. Last year, I was in a bit of an accident and came quite close to ending my time here. Let me assure you all, with the perspective gained at that time, that these are the lessons of true value as well.
I thank you – the Varsity Club, my teammates, Harvard, and that Harvard community – for giving me the chance to do that.