Softball Pitcher Emma Harrington Valedictorian of Williams College Class of 2015

Head Coach Kris Herman (l.) and Emma Harrington '15
Head Coach Kris Herman (l.) and Emma Harrington '15

W A T C H  Emma Harrington's Valedictorian Speech

WILIAMSTOWN, MA – The Valedictorian of the Class of 2015 at Williams College is softball pitcher and captain Emma Harrington (Columbus, OH/Columbus Academy).

Harrington is the first Eph varsity athlete to graduate as the Valedictorian at since men's ice hockey player Zach Miller '10.

Harrington, a four-year letter winner on the softball team, finished her career in the Purple Valley as the Ephs' all-time leader in wins with 52. In 2014 she earned First Team All-NESCAC honors and was named Second Team All-New England. This year Harrington was 16-6 for the 32-9 Eph team that advanced to the regional finals in the NCAA Tournament. She was 2-2 in the NCAA Tournament.

The softball team's appearance and success in the NCAA Tournament added to the Ephs' winning point total in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup national competition among all NCAA Division III schools. Williams edged Emory University 1,053.00 to 1,016.75 to wins its third straight Directors' Cup and 18th of the 20 awarded all-time. Points in the Directors' Cup are awarded based on team finishes at NCAA championship tournaments. NCAA Division III is the NCAA's largest division with 438 member institutions.

"Emma had a tremendous softball career to go along with her amazing academic record," stated Eph head coach Kris Herman. "Her work ethic and attention to detail served her well as she improved as a player consistently throughout her four years at Williams. Her example on the field and off is second-to-none and everyone in the Williams softball community is happy to be a part of her success."

"In each of her four seasons Emma was a great part of our success," added Herman. "In her junior and senior years she became one of the top pitchers in the region and was a huge part of our success in the NESCAC and the NCAA Tournament."

A computer science and economics double major with a cumulative GPA of 4.08, Harrington authored a senior thesis that spanned both disciplines, examining what motivates people to produce free content online.

Harrington is graduating with Highest Honors in Computer Science and summa cum laude.

Harrington delivers a pitch
from the circle

Harrington is a Phi Beta Kappa inductee, a Computer Science Class of 1960s Scholar, and she previously served as a teaching assistant for multivariable calculus.

Harrington spent last summer doing research with computer science professor Steven Freund, who was also her advisor, and she presented the results of that work at the Grace Hopper Celebration, a conference for women in computing.

In January The Computer Research Association (CRA) awarded Harrington the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for work performed in the computer science department. The CRA award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research. Each year, the award is given to two male students and two female students. Harrington received the award for female students at non-Ph.D. granting institutions. Her research involved software defect detection.

In her career at Williams Harrington appeared in 88 games in the circle, starting 76. She won 52 games, lost 25 and notched two saves. Pitching 449 innings Harrington posted an earned run average of 2.37. Harrington struck out 334 batters, walked 121, and authored 13 shutouts.

Following is Emma Harrington's speech at the Williams Commencement on June 7.

Big Hits and Level Heads

By Emma Harrington '15

Valedictorian Speech

Imagine you're in Vegas. You slide onto a stool and drop a quarter into the slot machine. Suddenly lights are flashing, sirens are blaring, and 400 quarters are spewing into your tray. You walk away with pounds of quarters and tons of courage. The rest of the day you take more chances than you otherwise would have because you can absorb small losses and still end the day ahead.

As cliché as it sounds, everyone graduating today has won the jackpot. The quarters started spewing out when we first arrived in Williamstown. When we were awkwardly mingling with entry-mates or getting soaked by Hurricane Irene, we may not have felt like winners. Many of us existed in a state of perpetual panic, with all the skittishness of prey animals. It was all too easy to forget our accumulated successes amidst the daily gambles. Every test, every game, every party felt like its own gamble, on which everything hinged.

That was freshman year. Now we are about to graduate. One of the most important lessons I've learned at Williams is how to use past wins to prepare myself for present risks. For me, nowhere is this clearer than on the softball field. Before every game, we stand on the foul line, remove our caps, and listen to the National Anthem. This year I used that time to think about all the ways in which I had already won. I thought about how lucky I was to go to Williams, to have friends in the stands, to play a sport I love among teammates that I care about, to work with brilliant advisors on my senior thesis, and to have parents who care more about me than anyone rationally should. In the context of so many past gifts, it would be greedy to expect to win the game that was about to begin.

Before every game, I collected together the quarters of my past gifts to draw upon if the game got tight. Between pitches, I often touched the Williams logo on my cap to remind myself of all my past successes. I knew that the gambles that didn't pan out and the big hits I gave up would feel smaller in comparison to my pile of past wins.

Fellow Classmates, the quarters are flowing, the night is young, and there are risks to be taken. We are walking into the casino of life armed with a huge pile of past wins, whether they be victories on the field, insightful conversations with professors, or fun times with friends. We can look forward to the many gambles that lie ahead, confident that we can absorb any disappointments and always end our days among the lucky ones.

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