Harry Parker, the legendary Harvard heavyweight crew coach who built an ongoing dynasty on the Charles River that covered half a century, died at 77 Tuesday afternoon after a two-year battle with cancer, barely a fortnight after his varsity completed an unbeaten regular season by swamping archrival Yale.
The following appears to be an excerpt from remarks he delivered at a recent dinner in his honor.
They cast light on our conversations here.
“One of the themes that came out of it – and it was really interesting, and it’s a thing that Bob [Scalise] touched on earlier and that a few of the speakers have touched on – one of themes is: how the experience of rowing at Harvard has stood them in good stead since they left. How it’s helped them through tough spots in their lives – traits that they’d either learned or had fostered or developed [at Harvard rowing]to help them in many ways in…your lives since you left Harvard. And it sort of caught me by surprise. Because I’ve always sort of felt, “Yeah, sure, sports is about character and teamwork and everything” – those kinds of good things. And I’ve sort of given lip service to it. I’ve never said that to anybody. To me, sports has been about rowing fast.”
“Sports is about – rowing is about – working hard to develop good rowing technique, to become really effective, and to be fit enough and strong enough so that you can really make the boats go fast. And that’s really what I have focused on, quite frankly. I’ve always just sort of assumed that if there’s something else out there, it’s because of the sport, it’s not because I’ve been preaching it. And I think what I want to tell you tonight is that is the truth. What you think you have gotten from me – in terms of learning perseverance, diligence, good discipline, teamwork, learning to have faith in the people in the boat with you, being trustworthy teammates for the people you’re rowing with – those are things that you’ve learned from rowing. And I am just very happy to have been part of the process. Thank you.”