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A dinner celebrating the newest class of
Penn Athletic Hall of Famers featured laughter,
tears, and a demonstration of the true meaning
of the word teammate.


Patricia “PK” Kennedy C’87 didn’t know everyone inside the banquet room at the Inn at Penn when she rose to the dais, took out her notes and, with borrowed eyeglasses and homemade courage, gave a lip-quivering speech that alternated between laughter and tears.

But none of the people she spoke to were strangers, either. As Kennedy—a former two-sport star and one of the dozen men and women honored at the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 8—acknowledged throughout the evening, playing sports at Penn was less about wins and losses and more about common bonds. It was a means to an end, except there was no end. From sport to sport and generation to generation, Quakers young and old are linked forever, united by shared experiences, reminded always of the school’s rich history every Friday night at the Palestra or sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field.

And so, as one of the two featured speakers representing Penn’s seventh class of Hall of Fame inductees, Kennedy did not mind telling a room full of Quakers how her kilt once fell off while running toward the goal, or about the time she accidentally yelled “Go Lafayette!” during a game, or managed to get herself stuck inside the locker room when the combination was on the outside of the door.

Then, when the laughter subsided, she reminded everyone of the importance of the word teammate.

“At the heart of all of it we loved what we did together, and Franklin Field was the end of the rainbow,” Kennedy said. “Which is why when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March of 2006…”

Long pause. Deep breath.

“… and my world and my body started to fall apart, I was not surprised that it was my teammates throughout my life who made me realize who I was. When I started losing the ability to walk not long after that, it was my teammates who told me we would not go lightly. And despite our shared shock and fear over what the future would hold, we would fight together.”

Together. It was a word that came up a lot throughout the evening as the courageous Kennedy and her fellow inductees were ushered into an elite fraternity of Red and Blue legends. Perhaps most noteworthy, the members of the group represented three centuries—a feat, athletic director Steve Bilsky W’71 boasted, few universities could match.

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FEATURE: Common Bonds by Dave Zeitlin
Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett

©2010 The Pennsylvania Gazette

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