Hall of Fame

Wallace J Flynn

Graduation Year


Induction Year


Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Flynn was a versatile player who letter in football in 1942 and in 1946-47. A strong end and dependable back, Flynn was best known for his punting ability. In 1946, he scored a 32-yard touchdown against Brown and a TD in a loss to Yale, and often averaged more than 40 yards per punt in games. A two-way end, he was one of very few to play football at Harvard before and after World War II.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

I am truly honored to be inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame at this special time in my life.

My thoughts on Harvard Athletics does cover many decades – from the fall of 1942 to the present new millennium, 2000. As my 1946 class approaches its fifty-fifth reunion, it really is a time to look back.

Imagine, if you can, an 18-year-old from Arlington (4 miles away!) arriving via trolley at Harvard Square in September 1942. I can still recall the feeling of being overwhelmed and awed… especially during registration. My commitment to the Naval ROTC program had already been made, and that direct a significant part of my freshman academics and schedule.

Football and baseball were my sports at Arlington High School. My Harvard housing was at the Varsity Club on Dunster Street. I lived there with nine other athletes during the varsity season. Across the river early scrimmages were against the University of North Carolina. My good fortune was to be the first to play in the Stadium in a varsity game. The season was off to a good start despite the 13-0 loss.

Many friendships were being made during the period as so many of us were being tested both athletically as well as academically. The Dillon Field House and all who worked there, especially. My memories of that fall are still strong.

The last practice before the Harvard-Yale game is really etched in my mind. Jim Farrell was our equipment manager. He was a very special man who always looked out for his players. At the very first varsity practice in August, he would stand in front of the door of the field house and ask: “Do you have any cigarettes?” If the answer was “yes” – he demanded that the player empty his pockets and give them to him. Even in 1942, the rule was “No smoking during the season!”

The last practice before the Harvard-Yale game showed another side of Jim. While the team was running plays – Jim was setting up a pathway of lit candles along the path the players would walk on their way back to the field house. The coaches, managers, and trainers would also follow this pathway as part of the ritual initiated by Jim.

The next semester found me living at Winthrop House… until I went on active duty status on July 6, 1943. My training as a Naval aviator sent me to many locations during the next two years: Williams College (3 months), Fitchburg College and airfield (3 months), Chapel Hill at Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (3 months), and Bunker Hill Naval Air Station in Peru, Indiana (3 months). Then I was sent to Pensacola Naval Air Station where I earned my wings and became Ensign Flynn.

Our air group flew torpedo planes. Thus we concentrated exercise of four days in a row of multiple aircraft carrier landings. Earlier we had been informed that we had been singled out for special training as night pilots had. This meant a transfer from Opalaca, Florida to the King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas.

This extended training period was brought to a close as the wars had ended. My air group was sent up to Quonset Point, Rhode Island to be discharged as fast as feasible. For me, after 28 months of service, discharge was on November 11, 1945.

I returned to Harvard on January 15, 1946, and was again housed at Winthrop House. After months spent trying to resume my studies where I left off… I found myself on academic probation! Dean Bill Bender and I decided that I would leave… to return to Harvard at a later time.

Five years later… after working for a textile company (that allowed me to take a leave of absence), I registered for summer school at Harvard in May 1951. Two full semesters of work followed that. I was awarded my degree in June 1952 (at me 1946 Class’s reunion).

The supportive environment of Harvard athletics was never very far away. I had been a football scout from 1948-1953 for Harvard on weekends. My task was to follow and observe the Princeton varsity team and diagram their plays for the Harvard coaches. When I returned to Harvard in 1951 I was hired by the Athletic Department to be the end coach of the freshman team.

The decade of 1942-1952 was such a period of change. I was fortunate to meet many individuals within the Harvard athletic and academic worlds who were so helpful and supportive for the young freshman, and later the returning vets.

A wonderful man was Henry Lamar. This gentleman served as the Varsity interim coach while Coach Dick Harlow was in the service. Henry served as a coach for Harvard athletics for many, many years. Around 1950 he became very concerned. In his eyes there was an oversight that he felt should be corrected. The Varsity Club’s football letter followed the criteria that a player had to play in the Harvard-Yale game to qualify for his “H.” Henry felt that the football players from 1943-1946 should be acknowledged. Because of the war, they had only played on “informal teams,” and no Harvard-Yale games were played during this period.

Henry and I spoke of this frequently over the years. We both felt strongly that these athletes had been overlooked. In the mid-90’s I reactivated Henry’s crusade.

Athletic Director Bill Cleary responded to my arguments that these athletes deserved recognition. In 1997, after two years of research and hard work through his department… thirty-one men received their “H” varsity letters.

A thought that Doruis Kearns-Goodwin expressed so eloquently, and that has stayed with me… those who returned to Harvard after the war’s end were the greatest group of men that Harvard has ever had.

I am humbled to be in their company… and to celebrate our friendships.