Hall of Fame

Thomas C. Keller

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

A two-time All-Ivy selection in foil, Keller helped steer his team to a runner-up spot in an extremely deep field at the 1969 national championships. Individually, he also captured the runner-up trophy in foil in 1969 and established himself as a three-time All-American and one of Harvard’s historic greats.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

As a student-athlete in high school, I possibly would not have excelled at fencing had it not been for two older guys on the team who Ben-Gayed my jock one afternoon, causing me to seek vengeance, vowing that I’d whip their asses before I was done with them. So I threw myself headlong into mastering the awkward stance, the complex handwork, and the mental discipline for the task. When asked what I majored in at Harvard, I’ve always replied, “Fencing, Vietnam War protests, the fine arts, Chopin, Beethoven, Hendrix and CCR, travel, Zen Buddhism, mind-altering drugs, and the pursuit of women.” Are those typical for the class of ’71? I know only this for sure: that as wonderful as the dissipated self-exploration was, the horrible anxieties and uncertainties foisted upon me by the Vietnam War were far worse, causing me to organize and structure my life so as to prevent meltdown. For me, that structure and discipline was fencing. It pervaded every aspect of my life, even to the extent that it determined such basics as what, when, and how much I would eat. Those of you who saw me fence know that I never really cared whether I won or lost; I only cared that I fenced well. My best bout ever was a 5-3 loss to the world and two-time Olympic gold medalist from Poland at the Martini & Rossi invitational in NYC. I discovered that “Practice makes perfect” is a load of hooey and that instead, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” For me, fencing became an art form, chess on the fly, total integration of mind and body, with life or death the supposed outcome. Even today, as a designer and builder of custom furniture and small boats, I warm up, stretch, and prepare mentally each morning, just as I did before each fencing match and practice. Constant vigilance and excellent hand/eye coordination could mean the difference between counting to ten or (gasp) less on my fingers at the end of each day; and I’ve learned to trust my sense of touch more than sight while fairing the hull of a boat or the curve of a music stand. These tools, the knowledge, reactions, and the mind-body training, are the tools that allow me and every other artist, and performer to “play our instruments”; but it’s the acquired aesthetic sensibilities, the intuition and wisdom, which allow us to “play the music.” Let’s actively support athletics and the arts to make sure that children of all ages have every opportunity to playfully seek new possibilities in their lives.