CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Ten members of the Harvard class of 2012 were honored at the annual Senior Letterwinners' Dinner, held Wednesday night at the Murr Center. Keith Wright of the men's basketball team was presented with the William J. Bingham Award as Harvard's outstanding male athlete and softball pitcher Rachel Brown took home the Radcliffe Prize as Harvard's outstanding female athlete.
Throughout his four years, Wright was a starter and key player on a Harvard team that upended the traditional powers within the Ivy League and repositioned the Crimson at the top of the Ancient Eight—and often in the national spotlight. With his All-America caliber play as a two-time All-Ivy selection and captain, he leaves Lavietes Pavilion as just the second Ivy League Player of the Year in Harvard men's basketball history. Most notably, he captained the Crimson to the first and second Ivy League championships in program history. He helped Harvard win 84 games—including 40 in Ivy League play—both four-year records for a class and achieve the first national ranking school history.
During his career, his Crimson teams dispatched of big-conference names like Florida State, Colorado and, in what became an annual tradition in his four years, Boston College. Buoyed by a defeat of 20th-ranked Seminoles, basketball won the 2011 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament over a field that included defending national champion Connecticut, and Wright was voted the event's most valuable player. Wright and his classmates led the Crimson to a second straight 12-2 Ivy record as seniors and ended their careers where no Harvard players had been in more than half a century—March Madness. Along the way, they took campus by storm, making a Harvard basketball ticket one of the toughest in town and taking all of us along for an unforgettable ride.
Brown took the softball program to new heights, including back-to-back Ivy League championships as well as the program's first appearance in the NCAA Championships Regional Final this season. She has been the unanimous choice as Ivy League Pitcher of the Year each of the last two seasons and is one of only two Harvard softball players to be recognized as a four-time first team All-Ivy League pick.
Brown graduates as the program's career leader in wins, saves, starts, appearances, strikeouts, shutouts and opponent batting average.
The Francis H. Burr Scholarship, which is the oldest of all the athletic awards at Harvard and recognizes one male and one female athlete for all-around excellence, went to Robert Newell of the swimming & diving team and Melanie Baskind from women's lacrosse and soccer. Newell was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist and a Phi Beta Kappa selection and received recognition as a John Harvard Scholar, which goes to the top five percent of each class. The only near "blemish" on his academic record was a single A-minus in his freshman year as he graduates with a 3.99 grade point average in human evolutionary biology with a secondary field in Earth and planetary sciences.
Baskind was a two-sport star at Harvard, captaining both lacrosse and soccer teams while earning an astounding seven All-Ivy League selections. She'll spend next year in Africa, where, fittingly, she'll give her time both in athletic and public health endeavors as part of the Coaches Across Continents program and in AIDS testing at an orphanage in Kenya.
Baskind was a multiple winner during the evening as she also took home the Mary Paget Prize, which recognizes contribution to women's athletics. Baskind's impact went far beyond a list of individual honors which says a lot for an Ivy League Player of the Year honoree. In this era of specialization, it is relatively rare for a student-athlete to make collegiate teams in two different sports. To perform at such a high level is an even more unique accomplishment, and to be elected captain by two sets of teammates is perhaps the ultimate sign of respect from one's peers.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women's Athletics (HRFWA) Prize, presented to Harvard's top female scholar-athlete, was awarded to Kirsten Jorgensen from cross country and track & field. Jorgensen will work withPartners in Health in Peru next year before attending medical school. She is interested in public health and policy, particularly in relation to the practice of medicine along the physical frontiers of the United States. She explored that topic in her undergraduate thesis and has hands-on experience, as a former glacier guide and first responder in her home state of Alaska.
Magdalena Robak of the track & field team received the Arthur L. Boland award, established in 2010 for a graduating senior who will attend medical school. A neurobiology concententrater recognized as a Harvard College Scholar, she was accepted to six medical schools and is already an EMT.
Alisa Baumgartner of the women's ice hockey team was given the John P. Fadden Award as the senior student who has overcome physical adversity to make a contribution to his or her team. She appeared in 89 games before being voted captain by her teammates for this season. Unfortunately, she suffered a serious shoulder injury requiring several surgical procedures which left her unable to practice or compete for much of the year.
Awarded to the senior athlete who has made the most outstanding contribution to Harvard and its neighboring communities, the Francis J. Toland Community Service Award went to Eric Kroshus of the men's ice hockey team. Kroshus has already made his professional ice hockey debut with the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League. He was a leader in community service throughout his time at Harvard and has transformed the service culture on his team, setting a standard for future classes to follow. He was a driving force behind the men's hockey team's "adoption" through the Friends of Jaclyn Program of Nathan Potvin, a 13-year-old hockey player from New Hampshire who often travels to Boston to receive treatment for brain cancer.
He began the Special Teams program to bring mentally handicapped community members to Harvard hockey games and organized team participation in volunteering with the Harvard Square Homeless shelter, a rink visit for a leukemia patient and an on-ice game with the East Coast Jumbos, a team of autistic children. In addition, he takes part in the Keylatch mentoring program for Boston adolescents and has volunteered for Boston Healthcare for the Homeless.
A neurobiology concentrator, Kroshus has won grants and awards for his extensive research, which sure to make an impact on those around him by addressing topics such as stem cells, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Allison Lee of the track & field team earned the Getchell Award, which is presented to the top graduating team manager. When injury cut short Lee's collegiate athletic career, it did not mean the end of her tenure as a member of the program as she continued to put in long hours in support of her teammates.
Bryan Panzano of the wrestling program took home this year's Reardon Award, which is presented annually to the senior varsity male athlete who exemplifies the qualities of excellent scholarship, character, leadership, and athletic ability. The award is named in honor of Jack Reardon of the Class of 1960, who served as Harvard's director of athletics from 1977 to 1990.
Panzano has been described by his coach as a selfless individual in a selfish sport, and by his own admission he began competing not out of a desire to win, but out of a desire to spend time with his older brother whom he admired so much. Those same qualities have allowed him to flourish at Harvard as a leader on his team and in the classroom, as he will graduate this weekend with a 3.828 GPA in romance languages and literature. Panzano was often asked to take on challenges much bigger than himself, as he has competed at four different weight classes throughout his career, including three this season alone.