Jennifer Holleran ’90
Squash - Hall of Fame Class of 2007
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Jennifer Holleran '90, a two-time captain of the squash team at Harvard, was a four-time All-American and four-time First Team All-Ivy. She came from a family of squash players, including two other national squash champions, her father and her sister. She ended her storied career for the Crimson by earning a pair of national titles in 1990, winning both an individual national title and helping Harvard to the national team title. Jennifer was also the recipient of the 1990 Mary G. Paget Prize for contributions to women’s athletics.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Thanks for inviting me to be part of the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame – it is an honor to be recognized with such an impressive group of athletes. In preparing for this evening, I have thought most about my teammates and coaches and about how proud I am to have been part the Harvard Squash program. The most formative parts of my Harvard Squash experience are the life lessons, high expectations and the friendships that came from being on the team.
My time playing squash at Harvard seems like not quite distant history, but certainly like long enough ago that it takes a moment to recall win/loss records - the wins and losses and national championship matches that were critically important at the time have faded quite a bit, but what remains vivid to me are the people who made Harvard Squash such an incredible community to be part of and the lessons we learned through dedicating ourselves to excellence and expecting the best from ourselves and each other. Even at the time, as we appeared to be focusing on practicing squash, challenging ourselves physically and mentally to be our best, striving to beat other teams, reaching new heights individually and as a team, in fact we were being shaped by a clear message that all of the lessons we were learning were to be applied in our lives overall and that all this work was about something much broader than squash.
Harvard Squash was all about the team and helping individuals discover the best they had to give. Steve Piltch, our coach and a lifelong educator, believed that the development of each team member was what mattered the most – and he believed that squash was just one vehicle for our development, the convenient vehicle at hand. It was through squash that we had the opportunity to learn to believe in our own limitless potential, to push ourselves as hard as we could, and to have the courage to put it all on the line in the moment of competition. There was no one more competitive than Steve when it came to game day – and that accounted for a lot of our success – but the philosophy that drove his competitiveness was much broader than the desire for athletic achievement, and that permeated all of us and helped shape us as people.
The lessons we learned were clear cut and consistent:
1) Every person on the team mattered and was critical to our success and needed to feel valued. (The power of this value was especially evident as the outcome of our nine-player matches often came down to who could win on the bottom of the ladder in spots 6-9 which were less predictable wins or losses than the top of the ladder.)
2) We should use our strengths to help others grow.
3) Anything is possible - as a team we should push ourselves and our teammates beyond our perceived limits and could accomplish anything we set out to accomplish.
4) We should dedicate ourselves to the things we believed in – we should prepare relentlessly and then have the courage to put ourselves fully on the line to try to achieve our goals.
In many ways the lessons I learned playing squash at Harvard are the lessons I’ve continued to apply to much of what I have done in my career working to help people develop – first as a teacher, coach and dorm parent, then as a high school principal, then as a management consultant to executives of charitable foundations and school districts, and now as a leader of a non-profit organization that recruits and trains principals to turn around the toughest schools in low income areas of our cities. In all of these settings it has been powerful to remember and keep as central that everyone on the team is crucial member of the team to be valued, leadership should be distributed so that everyone is invested in the goals, only through sharing our strengths can we all grow, and the power of hard work and strong preparation to then have the courage to put yourself on the line striving to achieve bold goals. I took these lessons from my four years of pushing and achieving at Harvard, and am able to use them as I help other people, schools and organizations strive to achieve.
I want to express my appreciation for all of my Harvard Squash teammates, captains and coaches who made playing squash at Harvard such a meaningful experience, as well as for those who came before us.
Harvard squash is a community with a great tradition – I feel proud to be part of that community and to have others who mean so much to me have shaped parts of that tradition as well. I’d like to thank some of those people who had their love of squash nurtured at Harvard and instilled it (and the love of sports overall) in me early on – namely, my father, who was also coached three decades before me by one of my coaches, the legendary Jack Barnaby, and my mother, who helped start Harvard Women’s Squash by being a founding members of the Radcliffe Squash Club in the 60’s.
Especially formative for me during my time at Harvard were our captains ahead of me and then co-captains with me – women who were inspirational in their commitment to excellence and to bringing out the best is all of the members of the team – Ingrid Boyum, Diane Edge, Sheila Morrissey, Lucy Miller, Stephanie Clark and Hope Nichols, and our incredibly dedicated coaches – Steve Piltch and Jack Barnaby. Other teammates who made the Harvard Squash experience so special were Daphne Onderdonk, Kristin Walter, Kay Moffett, Mariana Chilton, Fern Ward, Mary Greenhill and Carrie Cunningham. Harvard Squash created a tight community where high expectations, competitive drive, discipline, determination, and loyalty and friendship shaped us all. Thanks.