Battling cancer, Nan Harvey gives $200,000 to UB Athletics
Buffalo, NY---In her 28 years as a softball umpire, Nan Harvey has learned a lot. She says her time behind the plate helped make her patient, which allows her to deal with adversity and handle emotions calmly without matching a coach's anger or her own.
Those character traits came in handy in July 2000, when Harvey found out she had stage four ovarian cancer--which meant it was advanced and had spread to other locations.
She talks about it matter-of-factly, mentioning to the University of Buffalo athletics staff that she'll be in her office after her chemotherapy appointment as if saying she'll be late because she had to stop at the bank.
UB's associate athletic director has been undergoing chemotherapy for 34 straight months, with her doctor trying to control cancer cells sprinkled throughout Harvey's torso. The prognosis is uncertain, the battle ongoing.
So with her health in a precarious state, the 46-year-old Harvey decided to get her estate in order. After taking care of her family--brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews--she took care of her second family-UB athletics.
In her planned giving, Harvey bequeathed to the UB athletic department a minimum of $200,000 from her retirement funds. The money is to be used with an emphasis on women's sports.
"I've never been more touched by a gesture in my life," UB Athletics Director Bob Arkeilpane said. "For someone who has already given so much of her time, energy and enthusiasm to the University of Buffalo, this is the ultimate gift commitment. I don't know of anyone who has committed more to the success of UB athletics than Nan Harvey."
"I feel as though we have a lot of very successful women wo have graduated from the University of Buffalo and are former student-athletes who are in a position to give back to the university," Harvey said. "But I don't feel as a department--and I think this pretty standard around the country--that we pursue them at the same level that we pursue some of the male graduates. It became apparent to me that I'm one of the people who should be giving back. And I thought, if not me, who?"
In return, UB on June 3 renamed its softball facility Nan Harvey Field. The ceremony took place between games of the doubleheader betweeen Buffalo and Akron, scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
"This is my way of making a very public statement about how important the University of Buffalo is to me, " Harvey said. "It's a way for me to thank the coaches and professors who taught me, the administrators who guided me, and the peers and students who supported me. When those people drive by and see Nan Harvey Field on the softball stadium, that's my way of saying thank you to all those people."
The gift brings Harvey's career full circle. The Cheektowaga native and Cleveland High School graduate got her physical education degree from UB in 1978, playing volleyball and basketball as a student athlete. But upon her return to UB in 1983, she was able to return to her first love--softball, which the university did not offer as a varsity sport until 1979.
She recorded 38 wins over the next three years as head coach , earning SUNYAC Coach of the Year honors in 1985 after guiding UB to its best record (19-9), a No. 12 ranking and an appearance in the NJCAA Division III Regional Tournament.
Her coaching followed an outstanding career on the field, which earned her eduction into the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in 1991.
"I'm very proud of the fact that I played major fast pitch softball in Buffalo at a time when fast pitch softball was huge," Harvey said. "I played for the Buffalo Sunbirds, which were archrivals with the North Tonawanda Shamrocks. It used to be just knockdown, drag-out battles to see who would win the regionals and win the right to go to the nationals. I got to play in the national championships four times. I have a great fullfillment from that."
She has received numerous accolades from her work as an umpire, including being named the Amateur Softball Association Metro Buffalo Umpire of the Year in 1996. That year, she received one of the highest honors for an ASA umpire when she was inducted into the National Indicator Fraternity of the Amateur Softball Association National Softball Hall of Fame.
She's been an umpire for several national slow pitch tournaments, and, for three years, for the NCAA Division III National Championship. She was ISF certified in fast pitch in 1996.
She may be UB's senior women's athletics administrator, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Bulls' teams, with a particular concentration on the women's programs. But it is softball that is her first love.
"She's a person who first of all was talented as an athlete, is an incredible umpire and everybody in the area respects her so much for her knowledge and ability," Bulls softball coach Marie Curran said, "She was just put on the Division One softball committee, which is a great honor. That alone says what the world of softball knows of her and how it respects her experience. There's a picture of her making the last call at the Division III College World Series. It's kind of neat seeing all of the different places she's been."
"She is UB softball. She bleeds blue. There's no doubt about that."
Editor's Note: Nan Harvey passed away September 2, 2003, in Buffalo, NY at the age of 46.