When Louise Tench Willard ’97 received a phone call from retired Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Head Cross Country Coach John Goldhammer, his familiar voice took her back to a time she recalls as one of the best of her life.
“I was totally shocked,” Willard, who was a two-sport athlete and distance runner for the Athenas cross-country and track and field teams while studying economics at Scripps, says. “It had been 25 years since I graduated college and I never expected this to happen.”
But, it did.
On March 26, Willard, who earned the position of captain of the cross-country team, will be inducted into the Ted Ducey CMS Hall of Fame Class of 2022 for track and field and cross-country.
Throughout her sports career, Willard won several prestigious championships and accolades. She was a two-time All-American, a two-time Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Runner of the Year and, in her senior year, she won the SCIAC and West Region championships. She also ranked in the CMS all-time top five in the 3k, with a time of 10:00.21, which she ran during the 1997 season.
Excelling in her sport wasn’t always seamless. Willard says her running success didn’t happen until her final two years of college. Appendicitis made Willard’s freshman year difficult, and she struggled to get back into shape during sophomore year. Willard credits support from her family and friends, as well as a sense of community from her Scripps classmates and Athenas teammates, with helping get her back to the level she worked so hard to achieve.
“You really have to put in the time and effort, especially at the collegiate level. And that really pays off,” Willard says. “What you put into it is what you get out of it.”
Along with her achievements as a student athlete, Willard says she also gained valuable life experience from her time living and learning at Scripps.
“Cross-country practice was at 5:30 a.m. every day in college, and that is really hard. It meant not being able to stay up late or go to parties and prioritize how to study differently. I had to study on buses as I was going to meets or I had to study when I was in the recovery room icing my legs,” Willard says. “Those were life skills I developed from being a college athlete and they have transcended to my life now. Like most adults, I still have to prioritize what is most important and try to fit it all in.”
Nowadays, Willard is a working mother who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more than 20 years, she has worked at the Federal Reserve Bank, which she fondly calls her “dream company.” Willard started at the Fed in economic research immediately after graduating from Scripps and has since held various positions and leadership roles. She is currently a senior vice president and head of technical product for payment systems at the Fed, and she still makes running a part of life, striving to run 20 miles a week.
Willard is looking forward to traveling back to Claremont for the Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday, March 26, 2022. The ceremony will be held at Roberts Pavilion on the campus of Claremont McKenna College.