After taking the Radcliffe rowing program to new heights, she began a connection with the Olympic Movement that remains to this day. Two-time Olympian Mary McCagg is now a member of the 11-person USOC Board of Directors.
"[We were] racing at Princeton our senior year, and having won," remembers Mary McCagg, "the coach came up to Liz [O'Leary, the Radcliffe coach] and said that they had just been "McCagg-ed." As it turns out, Harvard has been McCagging its opponents for some time now.
McCagg's grandfather, Louis, and an uncle, also named Louis, were Harvard rowing captains. Her father, Ted, was also a Harvard captain who almost made two Olympic teams. Her brother, also named Ted, competed for Harvard, and "my second cousin is currently competing on the Radcliffe rowing team," notes McCagg.
But it's Mary McCagg, and her twin sister Elizabeth, who have made the most enduring mark on rowing. A member of the U.S. National Rowing Team from 1989 to 1997, Mary McCagg won 11 national championships and gold medals at the 1995 World Championships and Pan Am Games.
Mary and Elizabeth have five Olympic appearances between them. They were members of the eights that finished sixth in the 1992 Games and fourth in Atlanta in 1996. Elizabeth also competed in the 2000 Games.
They also helped lead the Radcliffe Heavyweights to their most successful season ever in 1989 - an undefeated run. They "capped off the year with a trip to England where we won at Women's Henley Regatta," remembers Mary. It remains Radcliffe's only Henley title.
The family relationship with rowing got Mary and Elizabeth involved while in high school in Seattle. "My twin sister, Betsy, and I had seen my father row when we were younger," says McCagg, "and needed a sport to do in the spring." When it came time to choose a college "my father's family has a long tradition at Harvard but my sister and I were somewhat reticent to attend," she remembers. "We got the chance to visit the campus for my father's 25th Reunion [and] ended up spending the night with some great Radcliffe rowers who convinced us that Harvard was the place for us."
At Harvard, academically, "it was a challenge my freshman year, finding that balance, but my older teammates really helped to show me the way," she says. "I always found that rowing added structure to my day, so that not having practice left me with a lack of direction that was detrimental."
Majoring in child psychology, McCagg graduated cum laude in 1989. She found her future career path at another Radcliffe institution - the Radcliffe Publishing Course, the prestigious summer program that prepares students to enter the publishing field. "A coxswain on the men's National Team told me that I would like publishing because it had a team dynamic similar to rowing," she says. "I was recruited to work at a children's book company out of that course." She's currently Assistant Publishing Manager for Candlewick Press in Cambridge.
"Rowing also led me to become involved with the U.S. Olympic Committee right after ending my time with the U.S. National Team," notes McCagg, "and I now serve on their Board of Directors." She's also served on the Board of Directors for U.S. Rowing, and was able to accompany her sister to the 2000 Games as a USOC Athlete Service Coordinator. She was also an Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team at the Athens Games.
Harvard's greatest benefit to Mary McCagg, however, may be coach Liz O'Leary. "She has been and is one of the most influential women in my life," says McCagg.
"She guided me not only in becoming a stronger student athlete while at college, but also supported my sister and I as we trained with the U.S. National Team from 1989 to 2000. She has also been a sounding board for me as I transition into being a working mother. She has been a stellar example of balancing work and family."
— Stephen Eschenbach