A brother and sister, born two years apart, reached the heights of collegiate squash, each winning national individual championships. For good measure, Jeremy and Jordanna Fraiberg did it on the same day.
March 1, 1992, turned out to be a pretty special day for Jeremy and Jordanna Fraiberg. On that day each became a national collegiate squash champion.
"It was so amazing," remembers Jordanna. "We were both playing people who had beaten us the year before — Berkeley Belknap for me, and Adrian Ezra for Jeremy. And it was on my birthday."
Ezra remembers the match well. "To this day it bugs me," he said in an interview when elected to the College Squash Association's Hall of Fame in 2004. "I still dream about it." No wonder. This was Ezra's only loss his entire college career.
These dual championships culminated a journey that began when Jeremy was 10 years old. "Dad signed me up for a clinic at the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. The first day I went up a level. After that I went for lessons after school."
For Jordanna "Jeremy introduced me to squash," she remembers. "I'd be bored sitting in the car for hours on long drives to tournaments." She started taking lessons and won the first tournament she ever entered, at the Harvard Club of Boston. She attributes her rapid improvement to playing against Jeremy.
"I played with boys always," she says. "By the time I was 13 and 14, I played on the men's ladder. There weren't any women good enough to play in the province."
Jeremy was having a similar time with competition. A Canadian junior national champion in high school, he began thinking about Harvard "by around the age of 12, maybe earlier. Luckily, the Ivy schools are the leading schools for squash. "He was attending summer squash camp in Cambridge, run by Harvard tennis coach Dave Fish, so the choice of Harvard was pretty straightforward. "I didn't have to give anything up athletically."
He certainly didn't give anything up educationally. As an undergraduate Jeremy, a philosophy major, worked for Harvard Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Armand Nicholi, "on his book and a [PBS] documentary," He did more than that, actually appearing on the PBS special "The Question of God," which is based on Dr. Nicholi's book of the same name and examines Freud and Lewis' conflicting secular and spiritual worldviews. Of Dr. Nicholi Jeremy says simply "he helped shape my thinking."
John Rawls, perhaps the most influential philosopher of the last 50 years, supervised Jeremy's undergraduate thesis. His topic? "The justification of Rawls' theory of justice and defending it against charges of relativism," explains Jeremy. The experience was at times a little surreal. "I had to defend my thesis before the department chair and [future Nobel prizewinner] Amartya Sen," he remembers. We had an exchange over what Rawls, meant, and Rawls is sitting right there."
Jeremy was learning on the squash court as well. A three-time first team All-Ivy pick, his 1992 national championship win over teammate Adrian Ezra was a personal triumph. "He beat me in the intercollegiate finals my junior year 3-0, and I was really dejected. Then October of my senior year he beat me again 3-0." The national title match was grueling, but "I beat him with both of us cramping," he remembers.
Coach Steve Piltch imparted some lessons as well. "In squash you self-call [balls out and other transgressions], and "I sometimes let my competitive drive get the better of me. Steve Piltch helped teach me to put fairness on the court above everything else."
Jordanna followed Jeremy to Harvard, and had a "big pedigree" as U.S. and Canadian junior national champion. She lost in the national championship finals her freshman year to Yale's Berkeley Belknap, and "wanted to quit" not because of losing but "because I didn't feel challenged anymore," says Jordanna. "This was my issue which I had to learn to get over. Steve Piltch helped me do that." In response Piltch personally trained Jordanna and Adrian Ezra. "We had double practices, and I felt more fulfilled," she says. "I loved his coaching style — it was very nurturing, with compassion and empathy."
The coaching seemed to agree with her because she beat Belknap the next year for the national title. After studying in India junior year (her major was British history and literature) Jordanna came back senior year to repeat as women's individual champion, giving her a unique accomplishment. Between 1992 and 1994 American collegiate squash changed from a hard ball to the soft ball, then used internationally. Jordanna is the only person to win national titles with each ball.
Her thesis was also due at the same time as the national championships. "I didn't want them to cut me slack," says Jordanna. "I was up 48 hours straight to finish it," then went "to meet the team and drive to Williams [College, where the matches were held] and play two matches." Things worked out, because in addition to winning the second title Jordanna graduated magna cum laude, was a Rhodes finalist, and won a Commonwealth scholarship (the Canadian equivalent to an American Marshall scholarship), which she used to earn an M. Phil. degree (with distinction) from Oxford in English Studies.
While at Oxford she "produced a short film," and was considering a Ph.D., but instead went to Hollywood and never left. She's currently the Vice-President of Production for Village Roadshow Pictures, and is currently working on "License to Wed," an upcoming film starring Robin Williams.
She's also a writer, with her first novel to be published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, in the fall of 2008. It's a "young adult love story about two teens who meet through a house swap," says Jordanna. Her long term goal is to "continue writing and be involved in making movies."
After graduating Jeremy played professional squash for three years, but was injured his third year and stopped playing, opting for law school and graduating from the University of Toronto in 1998. He then clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Currently Jeremy's an associate for Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, in Toronto, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. He was also a senior policy advisor to the "Wise Persons' Committee" appointed by Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to recommend the best securities regulatory system for Canada.
"There's no national securities regulatory system," he says. "It's just a matter of time" before there is one. He's also been an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
Jeremy is to be inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame this May. As the only Harvard woman to win two individual national championships one wonders — can Jordanna be far behind?
— Stephen Eschenbach