More than 300 runners and walkers gathered on the banks of the Charles River this Saturday to take part in an event held in the memory of a recent graduate of the College who died last summer.
The first annual Paul Gilligan Memorial Road Race drew running enthusiasts and commemorators alike to the 4.2-mile route.
Paul F. Gilligan III ’05 died this summer when he fell from the window of a sixth-floor Manhattan apartment.
“Paul was a smart kid, but really was an athlete as well”, said his father, Paul F. Gilligan Jr. “[Sports] were really a big part of Harvard for him,” he added. “This is the most appropriate way to honor Paul.”
His son was known around campus for his involvement in intramural sports, including his role as Eliot House IM co-secretary during the House’s 2004 Straus Cup win. He was also named IM Athlete of the Year that same spring.
“Of all the things done this year, this one means a lot,” said Bryan A. Smith ’05, Gilligan’s blockmate and one of several friends returning to Harvard for the event. “I think he would really like this,” Smith said.
Those turning out were invited to provide a voluntary contribution to the Paul F. Gilligan III Foundation, an organization that funds both a fellowship in Eliot House and a scholarship program in his Haddon Township, N.J. high school. More than $2,000 in donations were collected on Saturday.
Vikram Viswanathan ’06, the first winner of the fellowship, spoke of Gilligan’s importance to both the House and his friends.
“I think it’s just amazing to see how many people came out,” said Viswanathan. “He had such an impact on me and on Eliot House,” Viswanathan said. “He inspired so many of us.”
Eliot House Master Lino Pertile also turned out in remembrance of Gilligan.
Pertile said the day’s events represented a meeting of all the elements of Gilligan’s life.
“There is a lot of affection for Paul in Eliot,” Pertile said. “He brought Eliot House together through IM sports, and the House came together again today.”
Eliot hosted a special breakfast before the 9 a.m. event, donated food for the competitors to consume after their treks, and provided a large number of the participants.
The road race was sponsored by the Harvard Recreation Department, which approached the Gilligan family with the idea.
Jake Olkkola, Harvard’s director of recreational sports, called it “the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people.”
In addition to the recreational department and Eliot House’s involvement, the Varsity soccer team also showed support for Gilligan, who was a member of the junior varsity team—providing volunteers for the morning’s arrangements.
“We knew that we wanted to have a road race this year,” said Olkkola. After Gilligan’s death this summer, Olkkola said the athletic department also wanted to commemorate him in some way.
The run in his honor allowed the department to “incorporate that into an event that he very much would have wanted to be a part of.”
—Staff writer Nicholas A. Ciani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.