CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard graduate Alex Williams '91 is among seven players, coaches, and major influencers on rugby in the United States that the U.S. Rugby Foundation announced as its Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Williams will become the fifth individual woman to be inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame. The honorees will be officially instated at a ceremony to be held in Houston on Friday, June 15.
"Alex is a visionary who helped spearhead the Women's Premier League, the top division of women's senior club rugby in the United States, with the idea that a higher level of domestic competition would benefit the development of athletes for the women's national team," Harvard women's rugby head coach Mel Denham commented.
Williams competed for the Harvard-Radcliffe Rugby Football Club (HRRFC) and Beantown Rugby Football Club while a student in Cambridge. Williams was one of many to carry the torch of the HRRFC (Est. 1982) program that eventually built itself into a collegiate national championship team in 1998 – the first title won by an all-female coaching staff. Radcliffe Rugby won a second national crown in 2011 and became a varsity-level program under the Harvard brand in 2013.
The two-time forwards captain was named to the 1989 New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) Collegiate Select Side and 1991 NERFU Senior All-Star Team. Williams won her first National Club Championship with Beantown RFC in 1991 and was twice named Club Championship Most Valuable Player. The Harvard grad continued playing for the Berkeley All-Blues after moving to the west coast.
Williams was a mainstay on the U.S. National Team. The forward made her first appearance for the USA Eagles in 1993 at the Canada Cup. She appeared in three Rugby World Cups (1994, 1998, and 2002), as well as a trio of Canada Cups (1993, 1996, 2000). Williams also represented the Red, White, and Blue in the Australia Tour of 1997 and the annual Saranac Can-Am in 2000. When Williams retired from international play, her 25 caps were the second most all-time.
Williams was named the USA Rugby Forwards Coach for the 2006 and 2010 Rugby World Cups. Denham was Williams' pupil during her time with the U.S. National Team.
"As a coach, Alex was always disciplined, highly motivated and enthusiastic," Denham recalled. "She fostered within our World Cup forwards a belief that we could be the most dominant in the world, which I believe we were in 2010."
Williams has continued to serve the game as a coach and administrator, recently leading the forwards with the San Diego Surfers Rugby Club from 2012-15.
"Working with Alex, I grew as a person and player," Denham affirmed. "I became more confident in myself and learned invaluable lessons on accountability, discipline and the power of team work, which have influenced my coaching philosophy to this day. It's an honor to be at Harvard, coaching the club and carrying on her legacy by sharing these lessons with the current athletes."
Williams will be joined by Dr. John Chase, Reldon Dawson, Don Haider, Gary Lambert, Mike Saunders, and Denis Shanagher, Sr. as part of the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The Harvard grad will become the fifth individual woman enshrined. Anne Barry, Patty Jervey, Kathey Flores, Candi Orsini, and the 1991 USA Women's National Team are the other women inducted to the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame.
The U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame Class of 2018:
Dr. John Chase
Reldon "Bing Dawson
Denis Shanagher, Sr.
U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame Women Inductees:
2014 – Anne Barry
2015 – Patty Jervey
2016 – Kathey Florees
2017 – Candi Orsini, 1991 USA Women's Team
2018 – Alex Williams