Sports Reporter and Former Harvard Crimson Editor Gwen Knapp ’83 Dies at 61 | News

M.Harvard Crimson, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times sports journalist Ali “Gwen” Knapp ’83 on Jan. 20 after a year-long battle with lymphoma. Died at the age of 61.

Longtime friend and former classmate Nancy W. Butillier ’83 first met Knapp at a 1981 Harvard softball game when it was raining under the scorers’ table. Boutilier was pitching and Knapp was covering his The Crimson games.

“Her enthusiasm, curiosity and passion for the sport captivated me from the start! It took me less than five minutes with Gwen to discover how amazing she is!” wrote.

Best known for his San Francisco Chronicle columns from 2000 to 2012, Knapp covered sports and its intersections, from racism to doping to homophobia.

Before pursuing a career as a professional sportswriter, Knapp started his career as a deputy sports editor at Crimson. In addition to covering track and field on her campus, Knapp swam for the women’s swim team and her diving team.

One of Knapp’s freshman roommates, Claudia S. Leonard ’83, remembers meeting her the day they moved into their dorm at 33 Matthews South in Harvard Yard.

“She may have seemed soft and sweet on that first encounter. Little did I know what kind of ferocity she had in store for me on that first encounter,” Leonard said. I got

“The desire to do what is right, the desire to do what is right”

According to Knapp’s friends and family, Knapp was known for her integrity and strict ethical reporting standards, a trait that extended into her personal life.

In 2001, Knapp questioned the legitimacy of former cyclist Lance E. Armstrong’s numerous victories, admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs in his Tour de France victory 12 years earlier.

Caroline A. Miller ’83, a friend on the swim team, said she was not surprised to read Armstrong’s story in Knapp’s obituary.

“I just laughed because it was Gwen,” she said.

“I respected her because so many women were still giving in to be nice back then. Gwen was someone who didn’t care if other people agreed with her. “She always had vehement opinions about everything.”

Rebecca Knapp Adams, one of Gwen Knapp’s sisters, says Gwen Knapp’s bold reporting stems from her ethical fortitude.

“If you knew Gwen, worked with Gwen, had any sort of relationship with Gwen, you know that she is guilt-free and that her demands, her determination and her tenacity are not ego driven. “It came from a desire to do the right thing, to see the right thing done.”

According to Leonard, Knapp has remained a staunch optimist alongside her commitment to covering injustices in the sports world.

“She will do her best,” she said. I was a total optimist at heart.”

“She laughed out loud, argued violently, and tried her hardest at everything,” Miller added.

remember the “little things”

Lawrence R. “Larry” Countryman ’83 first met Knapp in eighth grade after joining the swim team at a middle school in Delaware.

Although they attended different high schools, they kept in touch until they arrived at Harvard.

Countryman recalls that when Knapp was covering the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he called Knapp during the men’s 1500m freestyle to find out how the race was going.

Countryman is a freestyle long-distance swimmer who praised Knapp for remembering the “little things” of others and tending to include them in experiences he knows they will enjoy.

“She wanted to make sure you were taken care of, that you were a part of things – whatever it was.”

“I will never forget it,” he added.

Compatriots also spoke fondly of Knapp’s “loyalty” and generosity.

He said that when his mother got sick and he had to go home, Knapp told him, “Come to the airport tomorrow morning. rice field.

“Sister figure”

The eldest of four sisters, Knapp is remembered both officially and unofficially as an influential leader.

Adams, one of Knapp’s youngest children, said that Gwen has always been a role model for her older sisters.

“The big sister role was really important to her. She really thought of it as a responsibility to all of us,” she said. I think he was a role model.”

Adams added that while working as a swim coach over the summer, Knapp was looking for kids who needed a “big sister figure.”

The second oldest sister, Susan Knapp-McClements, said Knapp has served as a “great mentor” to all of her sisters’ children.

While in San Francisco, Knapp volunteered as a tutor at A Home Away from Homelessness. This is a non-profit organization that provides mentorship, tutoring, counseling, and legal assistance to children who are not housed.

Reverend Alison Jax, where Knapp was the director of volunteer services and mentorship there, said she was an invaluable volunteer.

“She was very lucky to be one of the volunteers. They were consistent, showed up, didn’t make big assumptions about anything, and were there to support the kids. Her curiosity and a love of life and a love of learning,” she said.

Gwen Knapp’s other sister, Nancy Knapp Piccione, said that beyond her role as a tutor, Gwen Knapp enjoys spending time with her children at the nonprofit.

“I think she was clearly a role model, an adult who cared for them, but she liked to stand on their level, understand their lives, joke with them and support them. I think.”

Former Crimson Associate Sports Editor Gwen Knapp '83 smiles at her nephew.

Gwen Knapp is survived not only by her father, Lawrence Knapp, but also by her three sisters.

The compatriot said Gwen Knapp’s legacy was rooted in her pioneering journalism career as a female sportswriter who always strived for fairness and truth.

“Gwen always tried to do something different and wanted to be good at it. She wanted to excel and get things right,” he said.

“I think when she got into the sport it was like, ‘Hey, people don’t expect this from women, so I’m going to show them what women can do.

— Patton D. Roberts, staff writer, Follow her on Twitter @paton_dr.

—Staff Writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at follow her on her twitter @ScottSophia_.

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