In November of 1976, the Class of 1977 experienced one of the most horrifying tragedies in school history.
One of the Harvard football team’s star defensive backs was stabbed to death and another student wounded after a night of team celebration that began with dinner at the Harvard Club and ended with an outing to the Naked-I lounge, located in the heart of what was then called the “Combat Zone.”
The football players were heading to their cars after the strip club’s 2 a.m. closing when prostitutes approached them and stole the wallet of Charles Kaye `78.
A few pursued the prostitutes only to run into their pimps—Leon Easterling, 41; Edward J. Soares, 33; and Richard S. Allen, 36—one of whom stabbed Thomas Lincoln `77 in the abdomen. Andrew Puopolo `77 was stabbed in the heart and lungs after he went to Lincoln’s aid.
“He collapsed in my arms and his eyes rolled back,” said teammate, Raymond “Scott” Coolidge `78.
Puopolo’s heart was perforated in two places and one lung was punctured; by the time he arrived at the hospital just minutes later, his heart had stopped and doctors feared that his brain had already become irreparably damaged.
Puopolo died on Dec. 17 after a 31-day coma.
Joe Restic, Harvard football head coach from 1971 to 1993, says he remembers Puopolo as being extremely coachable and a hard worker. He calls the incident “one of the saddest things that ever happened to me at Harvard.”
Lincoln, who was also stabbed, says the incident is “forever etched in my psyche.”
“I’ve remembered Andrew in my prayers every day since then,” Restic says.
Puopolo’s murder was closely followed by the Boston Globe, and even gained national attention. But its impact was felt most directly on Harvard’s campus.
“It was an event that pierced the protective bubble that everyone thought existed around all of us whether on campus or in Cambridge or Boston,” says Richard Weisman ’78, who reported the story for The Crimson. “It wasn’t something that was meant to happen to Harvard undergraduates.”
Former Dean of Students Archie C. Epps says Puopolo’s death led the College to scrutinize the activities of its sports teams.