Hall of Fame

Thomas P. Winn

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Tom, a 1976 first team All-Ivy member, was an integral part of Harvard’s 1974 and 1975 Ivy championships. The two-dimensional halfback finished his career fourth among Harvard’s all-time rushers and fifth in receiving yards and was the 1977 recipient of the school’s William J. Bingham Trophy, given annually to the top senior male athlete.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

My recollection of the first few days at Harvard is quite clear. I remember the experience being dominated by nervous anticipation about many things – living away from home, meeting net people, measuring up academically, and fitting in to this new collegiate experience. My life during this time was devoid of any known pattern or regularity. After learning where to eat, sleep, and go to class, I wandered down to the Field House to try out for freshman football. I didn’t know exactly where the Field House was located, but since it was immediately evident who the football players were at Harvard, we simply followed the large bodies walking down Mass. Ave. Fortunately, my new roommate and future timeless friend, Gary Gillis, was also trying out for the team, so I had company. The thought of being measured against, and competing with, 100 very large, unknown teammates caused an even more heightened anxiety. You see, I though Gary was big at 5’9”. Thought raced through my mind: All of these guys were so much bigger. Would they be faster? Stronger? Certainly they would be smarter; after all, they had been admitted to Harvard! What I failed to realize at the time was the insignificance of those worries. While I did achieve some success on the football field, there is a larger point here. My personal insecurities had more to do with finding my place within the Harvard experience. But those worries were eventually overcome by the strength and confidence one gains from being part of a team and, more important, through the friendships that were molded from this shared experience. That’s what made it great! Long after the games had become historical footnotes and forgotten statistics, what remains is something of far greater importance then scoring a touchdown. Of the more than 100 freshman footballers, about twenty persevered through four full years. Many of those who left the gridiron to pursue saner interests still remained quite connected to the experience – especially the tailgate crowd! I often wondered which was more enjoyable – talking to the pretty girls and sipping on a well-concealed beverage while hanging out with a wonderfully colorful group of classmates or attempting to block that 240-pound defensive end. Nobody ever accused me of having good judgment. Those who chose to remain worked through many unpleasantries toward a common goal – to become a smoothly functioning team. Drudgery was a constant – beginning with the sweltering August preseason practices all the way through the final session on the frozen fields in November. There were plenty of celebrations ranging from two Ivy League championships to regular postgame parties, the best of which were at the hallowed Pi Eta Speakers Club. But all of this was dwarfed by the celebration of being part of the special group. The whole student-athlete experience was a tapestry of balance and appreciation of people’s talents. So many people did so many things well that humility and humor were the most highly regarded qualities. Everyone looked up to the All-Americans, but if you really wanted to be admired, you did something funny. In fact, a prerequisite to becoming a defensive back was the ability to master the Coach Restic imitation. Among this collection of people, the message was clear: Don’t take yourself too seriously, for life is short and meant to be enjoyed. And for three of our group of twenty who shared the full football experience, the life experience was cut short. Andy Poupolo, Bob McDermott, and Pat Melendez all passed away not long after we left each other as a team. In many ways their ending provided a beginning for those who remained. Each of these three remarkable individuals were blessed with wonderfully balanced attitudes as well as the direction and energy to rise above their God-given talents. They got the absolute most out of themselves while remaining warm and fun-loving spirits. These individuals were a reflection of what was best about Harvard and provided a very good example of how to live. My student-athlete experience at Harvard will be forever tempered by the overall experience – from teammates here and gone, to coaches, to that great Field House staff, to classmates and family. What’s left from that time is not a particularly clear reflection of statistical accomplishments, but rather an inspired memory of a group of people whose style, effort, and humor made that time very special.