Kate Felsen Di Pietro '88
Lacrosse - Hall of Fame Class of 2011
Harvard Athletic Achievements
In an era of Harvard women’s lacrosse dominance, Kate Felsen helped lead the way. In the four years Kate earned a Major H (1985-1988), the women’s lacrosse team won the Ivy League Championship three times. Her senior year, the Crimson made it all the way to the semifinals in the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual National Champion Temple University—the farthest the team had ever gone in program history.
Kate made a bit of history herself, becoming the eighth Harvard women’s lacrosse player to be named Ivy League Player of the Year (1988). That year she also earned First Team All-Region and First Team All-Ivy honors, and was named both a Brine and a USWLA (US Women's Lacrosse Association) First Team All-American. Kate garnered All-Ivy honors each year she played. In 1987, when she led the team on the season with 31 goals and 17 assists, Kate also was a member of the U.S. National Lacrosse Squad, the sport’s equivalent to the U.S. Olympic team.
Kate finished her career with 122 goals, good for sixth in program history. She currently ranks fourth in career assists (53) and fifth in career points (175). Along with the numerous accolades Kate earned in lacrosse, she was also a four year letterwinner on the Harvard field hockey team which she captained as a senior.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I remember the first time I heard about the Hall of Fame. It was freshman year. A friend told me that John Simourian, father of my Harvard field hockey teammate, Nicole, had been inducted into the Varsity Club’s Hall of Fame for baseball. My first thoughts were, “Wow, that’s cool! And boy, he must be old if he’s in the Hall of Fame!” Last spring, when I received the letter from the Varsity Club Committee congratulating me on my selection for lacrosse, I had the exact same thoughts: “Wow, that’s cool! And boy, I must be old if they are inducting me into the Hall of Fame!”
Well, it has been 23 years since I donned a crimson and white striped jersey and black polyester lampshade kilt. Twenty-three years since my teammates and I won our third Ivy League title in four years. Twenty-three years since we lost to Temple University in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. And 23 years later, every day I wear my Harvard lacrosse ring commemorating those contests on my right pinky. When it catches my eye, as it does often, it reminds me that I was part of something special, part of a wonderful team with a great coach at an incredible university. I remember when I visited Harvard for the first time. It was the summer before my senior year at Germantown Friends School. The admissions officer described the kind of candidates they were seeking. He called them “all-around lopsided.” When I thought about it, all-around lopsided described me pretty well. I was interested in a lot of things academically and extra-curricularly, always had been, but I was also lopsided in my love for the game of lacrosse.
I took my stick, my wooden stick, everywhere with me, where those unfamiliar with the sport often confused it for a butterfly net. I was very lucky to have my ball crazy father and younger brother David, always up for a catch in the middle of our one-way, red brick street. When they weren’t available, there was the back wall of the house, never mind the dining room window, to throw against. In 9th grade, Della Micah became my coach and I found someone who loved lacrosse as much as me. After every practice, we would work relentlessly and happily on stick fakes and shots. When I was 15, Della got me a gig to work as the ball and water girl at the US lacrosse camp where I competed against the World Cup team. The tallest, most dangerous player on that team was Francesca DenHartog, and you bet I was impressed when I learned she had just graduated from Harvard.
Fifteen months later, Carole Kleinfelder was in my living room to speak with my father and me about where I might want to attend college. I knew Carole had had success with her Harvard teams. What I couldn’t appreciate then was how innovative a coach she was, how every drill she designed was game situation, how she would always put us in a position to win, and how much she would care about my life off the field. Carole invited me on a recruiting trip, where field hockey and lacrosse standouts Ellen O’Neill and Andi Mainelli took me to their favorite classes, to a debate about nuclear weapons between Hans Bethe and Edward Teller, and to Charley’s Kitchen for a cheeseburger special. I was hooked on the energy, enthusiasm and fun on campus. What excited me most about Harvard was the chance to study and play at the highest levels with all-around lopsided people from all over the planet.
It’s thanks to Carole and my great teammates that I had the chance to play college lacrosse at the highest level. Many teammates played two varsity sports really well. One, Char Joslin, played three in outstanding fashion. I got better because every day at practice, I had to go up against stellar defenders such as Genie Simmons and Maggie Vaughan, because I wanted to score the way Lisa Black, Jen Greeley or Kelly McBride could, or hustle the way Cindi Ersek, Julia French and Katie McAnaney did. My senior year, Lee Lee Groome co-captained and directed a film about our team at the same time. I’m still not sure how she did that except that a lot of the footage showed us cooking high caloric meals during our spring break pilgrimage to Ocean City, NJ; dancing to “I’ve had the Time of My Life;” laughing our rear ends off on the team bus; and hugging our parents after games. We had a ball together then. We rejoiced together when the 1990 team won the National Championship. And 23 years later, even though we are spread out all across the country, many of us still count on and enjoy each other’s company.
I want to thank the Varsity Club and the selection committee for putting me in the company of so many awesome Harvard women’s lacrosse players. I also want to congratulate my fellow inductees. Most of all, I want to thank my coaches, Della and Carole; my teammates; and my family – especially my father who is always for me, my grandmother who was such a loyal fan during my four years in Cambridge, my husband Luca who loves me no matter what, and my children, Isabella and Ian, who are curious and passionate about so many things and give me a great kick each time they ask me to play catch.