Bill Cleary, who coached Harvard to an NCAA National Championship in 1989, is retiring as its athletic director, effective June 30, 2001.
Cleary was the men’s hockey coach for 19 seasons before stepping down after the 1990 campaign. He served as the school’s athletic director since then.
“Billy Cleary has brought delight and distinction to Harvard athletics since 1952,” said Jeremy Knowles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “We have been truly fortunate to have his example and his leadership.”
Cleary was a standout player at Harvard from the time he arrived in 1952 until leaving for the Olympics in 1956. That year, he helped the U.S. captured a silver medal. Four years later, he was the top scorer for the U.S. team that won the gold at Squaw Valley, Calif. Cleary was also the leading scorer for the 1957 U.S. National Team, and captain and MVP for the 1959 U.S. National Team.
After several years as a high school and college hockey official, he returned to Harvard in 1968 as the freshman hockey coach and later as assistant varsity coach. In 1971, he began his tenure as the head men’s coach, where he posted a 324-201-22 record. In 1989, he guided the Crimson to a 31-3 record and the NCAA Championship, the first-ever NCAA-team title in school history.
Under Cleary, Harvard reached college hockey’s final four on seven occasions and advanced to the national championship game three times. Harvard also won two ECAC Tournament titles, four Beanpot Championships, and 11 Ivy League Championships.
“Harvard is a very special place and it has been a privilege to be part of such a tremendous educational and athletic environment for so many years,” said Cleary. “It’s been a unique opportunity to work with students, coaches, alumni and alumnae, faculty members, and the many other wonderful supporters of our athletic program.”
In 1997, Cleary received the Lester Patrick Award for contributions to hockey, was named to the NCAA Ice Hockey 50th Anniversary Team, was chosen the U.S. Hockey Player of the Decade for 1956-66, and was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1996, he was selected one of the “100 Golden Olympians” by the U.S. Olympic Committee. He had previously been inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 1989.
Cleary, who also lettered in baseball at Harvard, holds or shares seven Crimson hockey records: most goals in a period (4, vs. Northeastern); goals in a game (6, vs. Providence); goals in a season (42, in 1954-55); longest goal-scoring streak (15 games, during 1954-55 season); most assists in a game (8, vs. Dartmouth); most points in a period (5, vs. Northeastern); and most points in a season (89, in 1954-55). He was a First Team All-America selection in 1954-55 when he helped the Crimson to the Beanpot title, a berth in the NCAA Final Four, and an overall 17-3-1 record.
With 41 sports, Harvard has the largest Division I athletic program in the nation.
Under Cleary, the athletic department has seen the expansion and renovation of many of its facilities, including the Murr Center, an 89,000-square foot facility adjacent to Harvard Stadium that houses administrative staff, the ticket office, varsity weight room, Varsity Club, Athletic Hall of History, six tennis courts, and 16 international-sized squash courts.
Cleary has taken pride in guiding Harvard as its led the way in opportunities for women. Women’s lacrosse and ice hockey have particularly flourished in recent years.
Cleary is a member of the Ivy League’s Committee on Administration, and is on the selection committee for the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. From 1992 until 1996, he was a University Division representative of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
In 1999, Cleary was named by Sports Illustrated as Massachusetts’ 33rd best athlete of the 20th century. The Boston Globe, meanwhile, placed him 68th on its list of the top-100 New England athletes of the past century.