Hall of Fame

Robert W. Hackett
Swimming & Diving

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Before Hackett even enrolled at Harvard, he won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics in the 1,500 meters. By the time he left, he had set eight different school records and won the 1981 William J. Bingham Award. In between, Hackett won medals and titles at nearly every competition he entered, from the Pan American Games to the Eastern Championships. He held the world record in the 800-meter freestyle from 1976-1979.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

When I reflect back upon my years at Harvard I have only fond, wonderful memories – although those first few months were very challenging and set the stage for a profound change in my approach to my education, sport and friendships. In retrospect, I cam to Harvard for two reasons: to expand my horizons beyond the pool; and to make a lasting contribution to swimming at Harvard, the Ivy League and the Northeastern United States. Prior to entering Harvard’s intensive swimming and the rigors of Fordham Prep, a Jesuit high school, had narrowly defined my life. I therefore sought a college where I could explore broad intellectual and cultural interests in balance with an excellent swim program. I received many accolades in swimming at a relatively young age and a region of the country not well known for swimming. I sought to achieve the same success at Harvard and in the Northeast and give credence to the fact a person can achieve anywhere, with perceived adverse surroundings, and in fact thrive. Well, so what were those first few months like? Unfortunately, I was pretty well known prior to matriculating to Harvard in September 1977 due to an article in The Crimson. I say unfortunately because I was known as Bobby Hackett “the swimmer” those first few months. Many people had pre-conceived ideas of who I was and why I “got into” Harvard. Luckily, I met a unique group of friends, housemates and teammates who embraced me for who I was. We remained friends throughout the 4 years at Harvard and I learned a tremendous amount both academically and personally from each and every individual. Dan Kiley and Carlos Dobal in particular. The Harvard swim team had everything to offer. Excellent swimmers, a wonderful history, and a program that experienced tremendous success without sacrificing academics and other school interests. An intellectual, witty bunch of men who hated to lose. Right before I arrived, the main school rivalry was Yale. The year I arrived, our focus was now on Princeton and the Eastern Championship. What a year that first year was! A time of change. Out of the IAB (now the Malkin Athletic Center) and into Blodgett Pool. A new coach, Joe Bernal, and a new approach to training both in the pool and on the land. And a lot of excitement on campus for the sport. February 1998 was a great month. Fresh off reading period and finals we enjoyed a few days off in 26 inches of snow. Then there was the grand opening of Blodgett with a dual meet against Princeton. This meet, the buzz, the great clutch performances of my teammates that put us in a position to win, and the final relay, of which I anchored, are forever etched in my mind and body. I can still hear the noise, fell the building shake, the total sense of focus and purpose of a team that was left or dead with four events remaining, and the total and complete joy of winning is my most fond memory. I now had a team to swim for. It was no longer for myself. The bonds that we shared that day, the closeness, the camaraderie, the hard work and the fun are what I remember so fondly and am so proud to have been a part of. I soon realized that it was not me who made a difference anymore. It was a group of young men, and a coach who manipulated, cajoled, and pushed each person to be the best they could or wanted to be, who now were changing the face of swimming at an Ivy League school and in the Northeast. I realized our legacy was already born years before we arrived by others who had the same drive and love of the sport, but it was solely based on their terms. They wanted to be there. They did not have to be there due to scholarship commitments. It was what I realized we all shared on the Harvard team during my years in Cambridge and it was galvanized in that one moment in February. Oh yes, there were other wonderful memories. The long bus rides playing hearts and eating at McDonald’s, the great swim meets against Princeton my sophomore (we won) and junior (we lost – our only loss in 4 years) years, our first of many Eastern Championships my sophomore year at Blodgett, and the upset of an Indiana team that had only lost 12 meets in 10 years before it lost its 13th against us – all vividly pictured in my mind. These events and moments were simply a continuation of what as started in 1978. Friendship, sport and academics were the gifts of Harvard. The legacy of a wonderful program, a wonderful school and wonderful people. I thank my teammates, coach Joe Bernal, and mentors Jack Reardon, Laura Fisher and Fred Jewett from the bottom of my heart for four wonderful years and a lifetime of fond memories. It has made me who I am today and I am forever grateful.