Paul Turner, Ph.D., an assistant track and field coach at Harvard for 13 years, passed away Tuesday morning in his home.
“The entire Harvard athletics community is shaken by this sudden and tragic loss,” said Nichols Family Director of Athletics, Bob Scalise. “Paul was universally adored and respected by his student-athletes and coaching peers. He lived and breathed Harvard track and field and his passion for the sport and for teaching was evident. Paul touched the lives of hundreds of athletes. His contributions to the sport and Harvard will not soon be forgotten.”
"Paul was the backbone of our program. It's no secret that much of our recent success was a direct result of his recruiting and coaching efforts," said Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Jason Saretsky. "Paul meant so much to so many people. Whether they were fellow coaches, athletes, recruits or parents, he was able to connect with people in a way that was truly inspiring. We were just at NCAA Nationals last week, and it seemed that every coach stopped to talk to him. Paul had a profound effect on the sport of track and field, and it's hard to find the words right now to express how deeply saddened the entire track and field community is at this moment."
Turner served as the throwing, high jump and multi event coach for the Crimson. He earned master’s degrees in clinical psychology from Middle Tennessee State University and kinesiology research from Indiana University, as well as a doctorate in human performance/sport psychology from Indiana. Following successful coaching stints at Indiana University and Western Michigan University, Turner joined the Harvard staff in 1994.
At Harvard, he coached three NCAA champions, including NCAA Indoor record holder Dora Gyorffy. His athletes earned All-America honors 13 times including this past weekend when Becky Christensen accomplished that feat in the high jump. He has coached 49 Heptagonal champions, 30 NCAA qualifiers and 19 NCAA regional qualifiers.
The athletes that Turner has coached or recruited at Harvard have also made an impact internationally. Two of his Harvard athletes are among the five overall Olympians that he has worked with. He also coached nine national champions from various countries.
Actively involved with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and United States Track and Field (USATF), he served as an administrator for both the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials and the Atlanta Olympics. For this and his other accomplishments in athletics Turner was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel. This is the highest award given by his native state and other notable individuals who have received this honor include former U.S. president Lyndon Johnson and noted British statesman Winston Churchill. Turner has also served as an assistant meet director for the NCAA Championships and has been involved with the United States Olympic Festival and was an administrator for the 1987 World Indoor Championships.
Turner was also a member of the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Throws Coaches Association and the American Psychological Association. In addition, he is also a USATF Master Level official.
An avid writer, Turner published various articles on technical aspects of track and field as well as psychological considerations related to high levels of performance. His work appeared in the 2005 National Throws Coaches Association Handbook, Track and Field Quarterly Review, Jess Jarver’s The Throws and the USA Track and Field Coaching Manual.
Funeral arrangements are being made in his home state of Kentucky. Additionally a memorial service will be arranged at Harvard in the fall. Please check back to GoCrimson.com for more detail as they become available