Deborah Flandermeyer Donlon '93
Basketball - Hall of Fame Class of 2012
Harvard Athletic Achievements
In a decade where Harvard women’s basketball was its greatest, there was one player who was there to start it all. Deborah Flandermeyer Donlon, a four year letterwinner and senior co-captain, has certainly left her footprint in Harvard Basketball history. Deborah was named to the First Team All-Ivy League three times (1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93). She is Harvard’s all time leader in blocks with 199 and holds the record for most blocks in a season (85). She is currently sixth in program history in points (1,316) and fourth in rebounds (802) and boasts the highest career field goal percentage at 53.5%. She is tied for 10th in single-season point average with 17.3 ppg.
Deborah helped her team to an Ivy Championship in the 1990-91 season with a 12-2 Ivy record. She owns the school record for rebounds in a game with 23 vs. Dartmouth in her junior year. Deborah is also the winner of the 1993 Mary G. Paget Prize awarded each year to the senior student who has contributed the most to women’s athletics.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
It is my great honor to be inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame, something I never dreamed would happen. To my fellow inductees and those who have been inducted before us, I am humbled and delighted to be one of such an amazing group. I have many fond memories of my four years at Harvard.
I left home (Northern California) at the age of 17 to venture to Cambridge, and had little idea what to expect. I knew that people talked differently out there (my coach, Kathy Delaney Smith, called us ‘gahds’ and ‘fowahds’ in practice) and was vaguely aware of the possibility of snow and freezing temperatures on the walk across the river to Briggs Cage. I met my freshman roommates and realized the selection process was not random; we were four varsity athletes (tennis, track, volleyball and basketball) from all parts of the country.
My time at Harvard provided me with the greatest friends a girl could have. My freshman roommate, Mary Kroupa, is here tonight. We were ‘best women’ in each other’s weddings, celebrated turning 40 together, and have continued to maintain our close bond over the almost 20 years since we graduated from college. As if to prove the cosmic connection between Harvard friends, we delivered our first babies on the same day in 2002.
Since Harvard was far from my home, my basketball teammates and their families became my adoptive, East Coast family. Kristin O’Neil’s parents made sure I ate well at every holiday. Tammy Butler’s and Jody Fink’s parents cheered at every game and provided lots of encouragement. After playing Cornell in my freshman season, my teammate Beth Wambach’s little sister Abby, who was a skinny blonde 10-year-old at the time, decided to demonstrate her strength by lifting me (at 6’3”) off the ground. She went on to international soccer stardom. My classmate Erin Maher’s parents, who lived in Iowa, took Amtrak to watch us play every weekend, and became my second family. This Harvard athletic community was the most loving, generous group of people, and they carried me through my four years.
We won the Ivy League in 1991, my sophomore season. It was awesome. This was the first outright Ivy Championship for our coach, Kathy Delaney Smith, and she would go on to lead her team to many more. The women’s championship tournament had not yet expanded to 64 teams, so we did not get to play in the postseason. However, in 1998 (after I had graduated), what a thrill to learn that Harvard, a 16th seed, beat Stanford, a 1st seed, in the first round of the tournament. I just returned from the women’s basketball Final Four, and people are still talking about it!
I would not have made it to Harvard without the support of my incredible parents, Bob and Eleanor Flandermeyer. I so appreciate that they encouraged me to go where I wanted to, even though my decision led to sacrifices on their part. They and my younger brothers, Greg and Gary, were diehard fans of Harvard women’s basketball. One of my fondest memories of college was taking the whole team to my house in California for Thanksgiving dinner, before playing in a tournament near home. I miss the “Bill and Bob pregame show,” which consisted of my dad and Bill Maher discussing strategy over coffee before games.
Since Harvard, I have continued to be blessed with a happy life. My husband Brian and our three kids, Julia, Stephen and Matthew, keep me laughing and on my toes. My parents and parents-in-law, Kathy and Jack Donlon, are healthy and wonderful grandparents, and each couple just celebrated a 44th wedding anniversary this spring. I have a career which is fulfilling and enjoyable. My classmates and teammates from Harvard, especially Erin Maher, Cara Frey, Colette Moorehead and Kristin O’Neil, have remained my dear friends along the way. Harvard has given me many gifts. The honor of induction into the Hall of Fame is the icing on the cake.