Legendary coach Ned Harkness, who coached RPI and Cornell to NCAA championships in men’s hockey as well as leading RPI to a national title in men’s lacrosse, passed away Sept. 19 at the age of 89 at his home in Rochester, N.Y.
“Ned Harkness was a true legend,” said Jim Knowlton, Rensselaer’s director of athletics. “The things he and his teams accomplished are nothing short of amazing. Most importantly, however; he was a leader who used innovative techniques to teach and inspire with passion and intensity.”
Harkness, who was born on September 19, 1919, re-started the Rensselaer men’s hockey program in 1949-50 and quickly brought the team to national prominence. He enjoyed 10 winning seasons, including eight years of at least 14 victories, and saw three of his teams play in the NCAA tournament (1952-53, 1953-54, 1960-61), winning the 1954 national championship to become the first coach in NCAA history to win national titles in two sports.
In 14 years with RPI, Harkness compiled a 176-96-7 record, making him the winningest coach in school history at the time. He currently ranks third in RPI history in wins and second in winning percentage (.643). Among the student-athletes Harkness recruited and coached, 10 went on to be named All-Americans, including six chosen to the First Team.
Harkness, a native of Ottawa, Ont., went on to coach at Cornell, where he won the 1967 and 1970 national championships in hockey. He led the 1970 team to a perfect 29-0-0 record, the only unbeaten, untied national championship team in NCAA history. Overall he was 163-27-2 with the Big Red in hockey (1963-70), winning five Ivy League titles and playing in four NCAA tournaments. Individually, he earned the U.S. Hockey Coach of the Year Award in 1968.
Harkness moved from Cornell to coach the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League in 1970, becoming the first college coach to go directly to the NHL. He also served as the general manager of the Red Wings from 1971-74. Harkness later revived hockey at Union in 1975, leading the Dutchmen to a 46-6-2 mark. His final overall college coaching record was 396-124-11.
“Ned was a legend, not just at Cornell but in the hockey world,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “As a coach, he had a positive impact on a lot of lives. He was a pioneer of the winning hockey tradition here at Cornell.”
He later became the director of the Glens Falls Civic Center and the president and chief executive office of the Olympic Regional Development Authority in 1982. He retired in August 1993.
Nevin D. “Ned” Harkness attended Glens Falls Academy and Glens Falls High School before graduating from Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass., in 1939. He then enrolled at the Royal Canadian Air Force Academy and served with the Canadian Air Force in World War II (1943-45), flying 39 successful bombardier missions over Europe. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1949.
A memorial service for Harkness will be held October 11 at 11 a.m. ET in the First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, N.Y.