Pictured are the award winners from the 2015 Senior Letterwinners' Dinner (David Silverman).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard Athletics and the Harvard Varsity Club celebrated the Class of 2015 Wednesday night at the annual Senior Letterwinners’ Dinner, held on the Murr Center Indoor Tennis Courts. A record crowd of more than 900 guests was in attendance to honor both the athletic and academic accomplishments of this year’s graduating student-athletes.
The Class of 2015 combined to win 43 Ivy League championships throughout its tenure in Cambridge, more than any other graduating class in Harvard Athletics history. This outstanding group of individuals also garnered 62 All-America selections, was a part of 11 team and individual national championships, and posted an overall record of 139-59-3 against Yale in addition to receiving countless all-conference and academic awards.
Wesley Saunders of the men’s basketball team and Amanda Sobhy of women’s squash received the evening’s highest honors, being named the winners of the William J. Bingham Award and the Radcliffe Prize as Harvard’s top male and female athletes.
The 2014 Ivy League Player of the Year and a three-time first team All-Ivy League selection, Saunders has received numerous All-America and All-Region honors, and was voted three times as his team’s MVP. He will graduate ranked fourth in school history with 1,511 points, fourth in steals with 175, and third in games played at 120. Saunders’ individual success has coincided with the program’s rise in national prominence, as he has helped Harvard to four consecutive Ivy League championships, four appearances in the NCAA tournament, and the first two NCAA tournament victories in program history. During this time the team has posted the third-highest four-year win total in Ivy League basketball history, and has been recognized in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls.
Sobhy has been the most dominant student-athlete in the history of women’s collegiate squash. A four-time individual national champion and four-time Ivy League Player of the Year, she amassed an astounding 62-0 record over her career, and has accumulated virtually every accolade the sport has to offer. In addition to her individual successes, she has also helped Harvard to three team national championships and a pair of Ivy League titles. Beyond the collegiate game, Sobhy has become the first American to be ranked in the world’s top-10, reaching as high as number eight on the professional tour while still in college. She won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Senior National Championship, was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. squad at the 2013 Pan-American Games, and represented the United States as part of the Women’s National Team at the 2014 World Team Championships, helping the U.S. to a fifth-place finish, its highest-ever placement at the event.
The Arthur L. Boland Award, presented to an outstanding senior varsity athlete who will be attending medical school, went to Kei Masudo of the men’s swimming and diving team. A neurobiology concentrator with a secondary field in computer science, Masudo began his foray into the world of medicine while still in high school and has since used his multi-disciplinary background to streamline data analysis. In the pool he helped the men’s swimming and diving team to an Ivy League championship in 2014, while also taking a leadership role with the team’s outreach program, the Harvard Swim School.
Haley Mendez from the women’s squash team was the recipient of the John P. Fadden Award as the senior who overcame physical adversity to make a significant contribution to her team. After earning All-America honors in each of her first three years and amassing an overall record of 49-3, Mendez suffered a season-ending injury early this season. Despite the setback she never lost sight of the team goals, and continued to lead as a co-captain from the sidelines. With her assistance, the team returned to the top, capturing its third national championship in four years.
The Carroll F. Getchell Manager of the Year Award went to a pair of seniors; Jessica Perillo and Zach Sogolow. Perillo began her career as a middle infielder on the softball team, but after battling injury and chronic illness she transitioned into a new role assisting with practices and administrative tasks as a student-manager. This past season she added the role of student-manager for the women’s ice hockey team to her resume, helping the Crimson all the way to the national championship game.
Sogolow, meanwhile, was a four-year student-manager for the men’s basketball program. His responsibilities ranged from practice execution to video operations to team travel, and with his assistance the team captured four straight Ivy League titles and reached four straight NCAA tournaments.
Viviana Hanley of the women’s cross country and track and field programs was presented with the Francis J. Toland Community Service Award. Hanley worked throughout her Harvard career at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and as a member of the steering committee for the Harvard Square Youth Housing Initiative, helping to raise more than $20,000 from Harvard’s undergraduate population to fund a homeless shelter for local youths. In addition, Hanley has also helped the women’s track team to three straight indoor HEPS titles and two straight outdoor crowns, while twice earning All-Region recognition and Academic All-Ivy League honors in cross country.
Another member of the women’s cross country and track and field programs, Jennifer Guidera, was presented with the Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women's Athletics Prize as the senior woman who best exemplifies the qualities of excellent scholarship, character, leadership, and athletic ability. Guidera excelled in both the sciences and humanities, conducting cutting-edge research in neurobiology and chemistry which culminated in her senior thesis to design a molecule which has the potential for use in the synthesis of drugs that could treat neurological diseases. Her work extended beyond the classroom as co-president of Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe, co-president of the Meditation Club, taking a leadership role in Alzheimer’s Buddies, and shadowing Adams House Co-Master Sean Palfrey in his clinical practice at Boston Medical Center.
Football’s Mike Mancinelli was named the John. P Reardon ’60 Men’s Award winner, as he exemplified the qualities of excellent scholarship, character, leadership and athletic ability. Mancinelli pursued a concentration in electrical engineering with a secondary field in astrophysics, requiring him to cross-register in courses at both Harvard and MIT. This pursuit helped lead to his work last summer as an intern in the Superconducting Materials and Devices group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, an experience he extended into his senior thesis to develop a fiber-to-detector mount for superconducting nanowire single photon detectors. A three-time Ivy League champion, All-Ivy selection and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, Mancinelli has been accepted into the Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program, and will spend the next two years gaining professional work experience before completing the two-year HBS MBA program.
The Francis H. Burr ’09 Scholarships, presented annually to two seniors who combine as nearly as possible Burr’s remarkable qualities of character, leadership, scholarship, and athletic ability, went to Mike Mosca of the men’s swimming and diving program and Lauren Urke from women’s soccer. A Rhodes Scholarship finalist in 2014, Mosca has produced research on the changing understanding of dyslexia in America. In 2012 he was the Keynote speaker at the USA Diving Olympic Trials where he shared how the sport of diving helped him to overcome his own childhood struggles with dyslexia, and he has championed improvements within the sport of NCAA diving to address access and fairness in the sport. On the diving boards he has set the standard for excellence, winning seven Ivy League championships, earning both NCAA All-America and Academic All-America status, and setting program records on both the one-and three-meter boards.
Urke has combined her passion for mathematics and computer science interning for both Medtronic and the IBM Watson Group, where she applied machine learning to data from healthcare outcomes to improve cancer treatment strategies. During this time she also co-authored a paper with engineering professor Barbara Grosz based off research on natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Widely respected by both her peers and the administration, she was one of two undergraduates appointed by President Drew Faust to serve on the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force, on which she faithfully represented student perspectives. Like her counterpart Urke also excelled in athletics, helping the women’s soccer team to three Ivy League championships including this season when the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
Softball’s Katie Lantz was the recipient of the Mary G. Paget Prize, presented to the senior student who has contributed the most to women’s athletics. In addition to being a three-time All-Ivy selection, an NFCA Scholar-Athlete and helping the softball program to the 2012 Ivy League title, Lantz has served three years as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was this year’s co-chair. She has worked annually with the Bench Press for Breast Cancer initiative and the shoe drive for the homeless, while attending functions with University President Drew Faust and at meetings of the Athletic Department’s Faculty Standing Committee. During her junior year she used her leadership role in SAAC to help implement beneficial changes to the dining halls on campus, and this past year she played a key role in the inaugural HESPY Awards.
The Director’s Award, which is not presented each year and is saved for an individual who makes a special contribution to Harvard and the Department of Athletics, was bestowed upon two deserving individuals; Mike Seward of the men’s ice hockey team and Steve Moundou-Missi from men’s basketball. A four-time ECAC Hockey All-Academic Selection and this year’s co-chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Seward was identified as having provided key leadership both for his team and for the student-athlete community at large. As a member of SAAC he helped to implement changes to the University dining services, played a key role in this year’s inaugural HESPY Awards, and was a member of the University’s Faculty Standing Committee on Athletics to whom he presented his senior thesis. In addition, he helped the men’s ice hockey team reach as high as number three in the national polls this year en route to winning the ECAC Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Moundou-Missi was a vital contributor to the men’s basketball team’s rise in national prominence, helping the Crimson to four consecutive Ivy League championships, four appearances in the NCAA tournament, and the program’s first two wins in the NCAA tournament. A three-time All-Ivy honoree and this year’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, he also excelled as an applied mathematics concentrator. During the summer of 2014 he spent two months in South Africa as a member of the NBA Africa Internship program where he helped introduce the game of basketball and the values it teaches to the community, and this past academic year he spoke to children at the Shady Hill School about his personal experiences as part of a unit on African studies.
The Harvard Varsity Club has been instrumental to the success of Harvard Athletics since it was founded in 1886. The Varsity Club preserves the traditions, fosters the ideals, and advances the interests of Harvard Athletics through a wide range of activities for our 20,000+ members. The annual Senior Letterwinners' Dinner, established in 1967 to honor the contributions of the outgoing senior class, is one example of the many functions provided by the Varsity Club.