Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I am truly honored to be admitted to the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame. I would like to accept this honor on behalf of all my teammates on the Harvard track teams of 1977 to 1980. On these wonderful teams, we always viewed our individual successes in terms of a team achievement, and this is no exception. My teammates during these four years were some of the finest people I have ever known.
While much of the credit for this goes to the wisdom of the Harvard admissions officers, we were also the beneficiaries of three outstanding coaches – the late, great Bill McCurdy, Ed Stowell (my field events coach – more about him later), and Frank Haggerty – who recognized, and could help young people recognize, those things that truly last.
Coach McCurdy constantly challenged young people to achieve. He also demanded, though, that individual success be viewed in terms of the team. Coach McCurdy knew that our individual successes were partly the result of finding our own strength but that these successes were also the result of many hundreds of hours of support from teammates.
I cannot think of a better model for teaching citizenship, virtue, and community.
As a legendary motivator and believer in team success, everyone remembers how badly Coach McCurdy wanted to win meets. For Coaches McCurdy, Stowell, and Haggery, though, winning was important, but only to the extent that winning served the ultimate goal of team fellowship. This is always a remarkable and courageous stance for any coach to take. Even in the Ivy League, there is pressure to pursue victory as an end in itself.
These three “teachers” (they were more than “coaches”) all had the unique ability to provide great motivation, while basing that motivation on true respect and concern for us. They brought out the best in us, not just as athletes, but as people.
Harvard track and field allowed for the fullest possible participation. Many important teammates competed for four years without much chance of scoring in varsity meets. No one could have combined this dual commitment, to both excellence and to full participation, more than my field events coach – Ed Stowell.
Coach Stowell coached a tremendous number of Ivy League and national championship-caliber athletes in all of the field events over the years. His astonishing record should be more widely known and heralded. I would like to focus, though, on my memories of the day-to-day commitment that Coach Stowell gave to me and to so many others.
I often remember and marvel at Coach Stowell’s willingness to work hour after hour, day after day, with every single athlete that wanted to try to jump or throw. With every individual, Coach Stowell brought the same excitement and positive attitude. Coach Stowell enjoyed helping young people discover that wonderful experience of a “breakthrough performance” whether it was in practice, at a Harvard-Yale freshman meet, or in a major championship event. What a wonderful gift Coach Stowell gave to countless young people! Thank you, Coach. I hope you know how many people are out there thanking you right now (and wishing we had thanked you in person more often).
Over the years, many people have asked me how I began to throw the hammer. That question is easy. The next question, though, is often, “But, why did you want to do that?” Well, that question has always taken longer to answer. “It’s a good life sport” doesn’t quite ring true, and my attempts to explain the wonderful experience and feeling of “being one with the hammer” often lead to strange looks (even from golfers!). In the end, though, I always remember my friends, the team, and those “breakthrough moments” – my own, those by others, and by the team itself. I always smile and think to myself, “I guess you just had to be there.”
Thank you for giving me this chance to remember the answer once more.
I want to thank a few other people by name: Joe Salvo (though a sanctioned international competition was never held, the strongest and fastest biochemist in the world from 1977-1980); Colin Ball (pound for pound, perhaps the greatest hammer thrower of all time and my personal on-field sports psychologist); Lanny Tron; Jean-Marc Chapus; Lance Miller ( the first to run the intermediate hurdles with an “aerodynamically sound” Mohawk haircut); Adam Dixon; John Murphy; Thad McNulty; Sola Mahoney; Jim Rigas; Shipen Li; Jamie Lewis; bob Olivieri; Lenny Martineau; Coach Al Morro of Classical High School in Providence, RI; my Dad, Professor John W. Lenz (Thanks for making time to come to all the meets); my Mom, Professor Carolyn R Swift; and my brother, Peter Lenz.