With the seasons winding down for most of the spring sports, let’s take a look at some former athletes—some Harvard alumni—that have left their mark on the university recently.
Olympic Excellence: Angela Ruggiero ’02-04
A little over two months ago, Ruggiero—perhaps one of the most accomplished US women’s ice hockey stars in recent memory—came to speak at the Harvard Innovation Lab as a part of the tech company MC10’s sports advisory board.
The four-time US Olympian focused on key issues concerning the intersection of technology and sports, notably commenting, “At some point in time, your natural abilities aren’t going to be enough. I think at that point in time...you actually decide as an athlete that you want to get even better.”
But at least for Ruggiero, there may not have been much more room for improvement. Even before the hockey star matriculated to Harvard, she competed on her first US Olympic team, helping her country earn the gold medal that year.
Since her rise to hockey dominance in her first games, Ruggiero continued to be a stalwart in the sport, both at Harvard and abroad, competing in three more Olympic Games. In her time with the Crimson, the defenseman finished with 253 points, putting her sixth all-time for Harvard. She also won an NCAA title during her freshman campaign.
Adding to her accolades, Ruggiero was the first skater to compete in a North American professional hockey game, when she played in the Central Hockey League in 2005 with her brother Bill.
Off the ice since her retirement from hockey in 2011, Ruggiero is currently a member of the International Olympic Committee and currently attends the Harvard Business School.
Manning the Line: Isaiah Kacyvenski ’00
Former NFL player Isaiah Kacyvenski knows what it’s like to tackle a challenge; the day of the biggest game of his high school senior season, his mother was tragically killed in a pedestrian accident. Despite the loss of his mother, Kacyvenski decided to play and still managed to be the best player on the field.
Along with Ruggiero, the former Seahawks, Rams, and Raiders linebacker spoke at the Harvard i-Lab on technological advances in sports and the impact it can have on professional athletes. At the panel event, Kacyvenski voiced his support for the research being put into technology that can monitor the health of athletes, and potentially the greater public.
Flash back to almost two decades ago, when high school senior Kacyvenski was deciding where to go to college the next year. Though he had always desired to earn a football scholarship at Notre Dame, Kacyvenski received a phone call directly from Harvard coach Tim Murphy offering him a scholarship.
Four years later, the All-Ivy linebacker. also named the Harvard University Male Athlete of the Year, would graduate with a school record 395 tackles.
Dedication to football was essentially Kacyvenski’s middle name, as he missed senior commencement in order to go to NFL training camp. After a lengthy NFL career, he would retire after a knee injury kept him out of the 2007 season.
Since his retirement, Kacyvenski, who promised to donate his brain for science upon his passing has been at the forefront of concussion research and activism for NFL players. He also earned a graduate degree from HBS in 2011.
NFL Athletes at Sever
In another event headlined by professional athletes, the i-Lab and the Black Men’s Forum/Sports Analytics Collective hosted Pro Bowlers Arian Foster, Richard Sherman, and Larry Fitzgerald, along with former NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth at two separate forums a few weeks ago. They also presented on issues of social media and race at HBS earlier this week.
Although none of the panelists were Harvard alumni, the event was significant in its referral to recent Harvard initiatives concerning race relations and racial insensitivity, especially in reference to Stanford educated Richard Sherman’s interview after the NFC Championship game last season.
“I thought that it was important to give these [panelists], who I know have strong views in these areas, an opportunity to be on a big platform and hopefully help to shape the conversation,” Foxworth said before the event.
And in a chain of events perhaps more prophetic than even Foxworth and the rest of the panel predicted, the very issue of race in professional sports bared its head with the racially insensitive comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Each of the panelists had their own reactions to the unfortunate situation, with Foxworth leading the way with his support of the Clippers’ players, and Foster demonstrating solidarity with his fellow athletes across the professional leagues.