Harry Parker, Harvard Crew Coach With Eight Titles, Dies at 77

Harry Parker, who coached the Harvard University men’s heavyweight crew team to 22 undefeated seasons and eight official national titles since 1963, has died. He was 77.

He died yesterday, the school said on its website. The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder once known as “preleukemia” in which blood-forming cells in the bone marrow are damaged. Parker was diagnosed in 2011.

Since taking over the Crimson program in 1963, Parker’s teams won eight official national titles, 24 Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Sprints varsity titles and held a 44-7 record in the Harvard-Yale Regatta, according to the school’s athletics department. Parker coached 18 athletes to Academic All-Ivy recognition over the past 20 years.

“He has touched the lives and has influenced countless Harvard oarsmen over the years,” Harvard Athletic Director Bob Scalise said on the school’s athletics page. “His love of the sport, dedication to the success of his students and devotion to Harvard are evident in all Harry has done. His legacy and impact on our program over the last five decades will remain. We will miss him as a coach, role model, leader and a friend.”

Parker began rowing as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s. He won a gold medal in single sculling at the Pan American games in 1959, and placed fifth in the single at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, according to the release. He coached men’s and women’s U.S. Olympic teams from 1964 to 1984 in addition to his Harvard duties.

Parker is survived by his wife, Kathy Keeler; sons George and David, both Harvard graduates; a daughter Abigail; and five grandchildren.

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