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Elizabeth Hills O’Leary '72

Elizabeth Hills O’Leary '72

Former women’s heavyweight rowing coach at Harvard

Graduated:

1972

College:

University of New Hampshire

Olympic year:

1976

A crew of her own

For Elizabeth O’Leary ’72, Dana Hall represented the best of all possible worlds. As a student-athlete, she learned the power of trust and sportsmanship, recalling how she and her teammates were encouraged to take risks, fail, and then get back up on their feet again. “At the same time, I met people with completely different passions from my own that inspire me to this day,” she says. “My ninth grade roommate was a brilliant musician who built her own harpsichord—the whole experience was extraordinary.” 

O’Leary took the competitive skills she honed at Dana Hall all the way to the 1976 Olympics, where she represented the United States in in the women's quadruple sculls event. She went on to coach women’s heavyweight rowing at Harvard for 37 years, leading her team to the NCAA Championships 18 times and capturing the national title in 2003. She retired in 2023.

"Coaching gave me the opportunity to work with a team of women who embraced hard work and were willing to take risks. It's exciting to see a team appreciate what it takes to win, as well as learn how to accept losing with grace,” she says. “My experience at Dana laid that foundation and helped me understand what it means to be a leader.”