Buffalo Honors Nan Harvey

By Staff

Coaching Management, 11.7, October 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1107/bbnanharvey.htm

The passage of Title IX marked the start of many athletic careers for females. One of those careers was honored when the University at Buffalo named its softball field for its former Associate Athletic Director, Nan Harvey, who passed away in September.

Harvey was 16 when the landmark legislation was passed, the same year she was asked to join the Buffalo Breskis (later called the Buffalo Sunbirds), an ASA Major Softball Fastpitch team, which consisted of mainly college-age and older players. To help players earn money during the season, they were taught to become umpires and given assignments that didn’t conflict with their game schedule. From there, an important career was born.

In 1974, Harvey enrolled in the University at Buffalo. Matriculating five years before UB began fielding a softball team, she played with the volleyball team for two seasons and the basketball team for three seasons, captaining the squad during its 1976-77 campaign.

After graduating cum laude, Harvey remained in the Buffalo area, working in elementary, youth league, and high school sports before being hired as Buffalo’s head softball coach in 1983. She also coached the women’s basketball team and worked as UB’s strength and conditioning coach before becoming an administrator in 1996. As Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator, Harvey was responsible for day-to-day management of the university’s intercollegiate athletic teams and representing the university on issues regarding women’s athletics.

In addition to her work at UB, Harvey was active in the Western New York softball scene as both a player and an umpire. She umpired the NCAA Division III National Championships, and was inducted into the National Indicator Fraternity of the Amateur Softball Hall of Fame in 1996.

After battling ovarian cancer, Harvey passed away in September. This past spring, she made a $200,000 bequest to UB’s athletic department, and the school renamed its softball field in her honor during a special ceremony on May 3.

Last April, Harvey spoke with UB’s Geoff Nason about her career. Below are excerpts from the interview.

What were some of the reasons you chose to pledge money towards the University at Buffalo athletic program?

I have had the tremendous good fortune to have the University at Buffalo be a part of my life on a daily basis for the past 29 years. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from UB and got my first opportunity to coach at the collegiate level here. The university has enriched my life on a daily basis.

My gift represents my eternal gratitude to the coaches and professors who taught me, the administrators who guided me, and the peers and the students who supported me. My contribution is also to ensure that others who come after me may have the same wonderful experience that I have enjoyed at this outstanding institution. I hope that when people drive by Nan Harvey Field, they won’t think of Nan Harvey—rather they will think of the renaming of the field as a thank you to all of the individuals at UB who changed my life.

How do your experiences as an umpire help you in your current administrative position?

I believe that umpiring has played a significant role in helping me develop self-confidence. When taken seriously, officiating any sport requires a great deal of studying the rules of the game. When you have truly prepared to be sharp and ready to handle any situation, you know that you are ready to face any challenge you encounter. The same holds true in every aspect of life. If you really want to be an authority or an expert, you must do your homework. It’s very easy to tell when someone is bluffing their way through something. In a game setting, an unprepared official will get eaten alive.

What influenced your decision to step into your current administrative position at UB?

It is the best job in the world. I have been put in a position to contribute to policy- and decision-making. I really view my job as one that enables the coaches to go out to the court, field, or pool and do their job.

My duties include serving as the sport supervisor of 15 of the university’s 20 intercollegiate varsity sports as well as the supervisor for the strength and conditioning staff. In my role as the Senior Woman Administrator, I represent the highest-ranking female employed by the university working in athletics. My responsibility is to represent the interests of our female student-athletes and coaches at the campus, conference, and NCAA levels.

I see my head coaches frequently, but not every day. My door is always open to them, and I make it a routine to visit practices and observe them from time to time, both because I enjoy watching our student-athletes and also to determine if my coaches have the resources they need to be successful.

How essential is it, in your opinion, for Title IX to remain in existence?

Sadly, in my opinion, Title IX needs to remain in existence forever. The absence of a law ensuring equality for women in athletics would result in reactionary results and opportunities for women would slowly decrease and disappear. The absence of the law would require university and athletic administrators to do the morally right thing. I’m not willing to trust the moral judgment of big-time athletic administrators when it comes to finances and resources.

I believe it is equally important that the current female student-athletes are well educated on the history of Title IX, as well as the history of women’s sports. They will never fully appreciate or value the opportunities now available for women without this knowledge. They will also never fully appreciate the need to protect these opportunities.