Frances Walton Karlen '94

Lacrosse - Hall of Fame Class of 2009






Harvard Athletic Achievements

As Harvard’s dominating offensive defender, Frances Walton Karlen led her team to remarkable success in the early 1990s.  Thanks to her efforts on both sides of the field, Harvard women’s lacrosse won two Ivy League Championships and finished in the top eight of the NCAA every year she played—reaching the finals of the NCAA Tournament in 1992 and the semi-finals in 1993. 

Frances received countless individual awards throughout her career. After winning the award for Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1991, she went on to garner First Team All-Ivy accolades in 1992, 1993, and 1994.  Her efforts at Harvard were also recognized on the national level as she was named a First Team All America in 1993 and 1994 and Second Team All America in 1992. A District One Academic All-America and NCAA Post-Graduate Scholar, Frances received the Radcliff College Award in 1994 for her leadership, her outstanding ability on the field, and her remarkable achievements as an athlete.

Remembering Harvard Athletics

If there is one thing that I keep coming back to as I remember Harvard Lacrosse and my entire Harvard athletic experience, it is a wonderful and deep sense of connection. Connection to purpose and goals, to friends and teammates, to coaches and community.  Fifteen years later, I remain extremely grateful for the teams of which I was part.  I am honored to be inducted into the Harvard Hall of Fame with such outstanding company and to share the privilege of our Harvard athletic experience with friends and family.

Spring sun, the boom box held up high blaring “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, the steady breath, the dead-on focus, the swoosh of a perfectly connected pass or tap of a solid check, the knowing look from a teammate that we share the same passion and pursuit -- this was the “sunny day” vision I always had (and shared to some endearing laughs with teammates) that propelled me to the field and to which I fondly return when I reminisce about my days on the lacrosse field.  In truth whether it was field hockey, ice hockey, or lacrosse, the wonderful connection to teammates and teams with varying personalities but shared purpose and goals is a feeling I will never forget.

A group of focused, smart, talented, funny and fun women who could make me run faster, jump for joy, cry with disappointment, or collapse in hysterical laughter – I am so grateful for the connections to these women, and the friendships that resulted that continue to sustain me.  I remember the tears at our NCAA finals upset as much as the laughter arriving at the William & Mary tournament in a caravan of Cadillacs, or piling in the back of Coach Carole Kleinfelder’s yellow truck in the rain, or doing sprints until Margot McAnaney returned to the field with the balls she forgot at the hotel.  The team’s balance of focus, skill, seriousness, fun and mischief remains a model for my life, and it is the small relational moments that I continue to cherish most.

I am lucky to have been coached by Carole Kleinfelder in lacrosse who profoundly impacted me as a player and a person.  Carole’s commitment to women in sports and Title IX helped shape my identity as a woman athlete, indebted to women before me, and responsible for creating opportunities for those after me. Thank you Carole for all you gave to me and Harvard lacrosse.  While I excelled most in lacrosse, I drew lessons from all my coaches so I also want to thank ice hockey coach John Dooley and Field Hockey coach Sue Caples.  Coach Dooley’s deep sense of fun and family and pure love of the sport was contagious. Sue Caples’ focus, work ethic, and dedication to her players is admirable. It is because of them and their influence on me that I remain connected and loyal to all the programs.

Passionate and devoted parents, siblings and friends cheering us on, older brothers and boyfriends playing goalie during our post-season practices, and siblings missing school to watch my games -- what a lacrosse family we had!  In fact, it was so close and connected that it didn’t bother me (in fact I loved it) when Mr. Berkery yelled at all of us “to pass the ball to Liz!”  I am so grateful to this extended family for their support, and particularly to my own.  I had no appreciation then like I do now of the time and energy my family put in to open this door of experiences for me, and I am extremely thankful for this.  

I also cannot mention family without mentioning my two youngest sisters – twins-who followed in my footsteps to compete both in field hockey and lacrosse, one at Harvard and one at Yale.  Their talents were comparable if not superior to mine, and both their athletic careers short-changed by life-changing accident and injury.  I can’t accept this honor without thinking of them and wanting to share it.

As a mother of three now watching my children experience the glee of kicking a ball into a net, or catching a pass, I wish for them the incredible connection that competitive athletics gave to me; that wonderful feeling of being part of something bigger and more important than myself, and a place where you feel connected to others in clarity of focus and fun and seriousness and teamwork and obligation.  I am honored to be recognized for my lacrosse skills, and thankful for all the deep team connections I made while an athlete at Harvard.  I am truly blessed.