Michael Spence ’66 – Hockey

spenceExcerpts from the acceptance speech of the 2004 Citizen-Athlete Award Recipient: Michael Spence ’66

…”I have been an academic administrator, venture capitalist, and board member.

But at heart I am an academic-economist. What I do is stare at things that are very complex, and try to make them seem simple – first to myself and then to others.

“People who haven’t had the privilege of the athletic experience think (I have discovered) that athletics is merely physical – a perception or understanding that is simply wrong. Be assured that it’s physical in the sense of coordination, training, balance, etc. But it’s mental and emotional and social: it’s about the integration of all of these.

…”It’s about imagination, creativity (individual and collective) and discipline.

A sustained effort – with lots of ups and downs contributing to character development and producing tangible results.

“To be able to do something complex you have to be able to see it first – in your mind. So for me, it was an important part of my high school and college education and not at all something that I did just in addition to my academic education.

“So as I’ve watched over 40 years the growth of college athletics, sports, participants, coaching, facilities, training programs, and levels of performance, I’ve thought of this is as a major movement in education and a very good thing.

“Over the same 40 years, one can observe a decline (in many places) in the support for high school athletics under budgetary pressure in part. But also in part because not everyone and not enough people view athletics as an integral part of the educational process. They are mistaken.

“School districts compound the problem when they try to reduce funding for the arts. I suspect that the training, development, and education of a musical genius like Yo Yo Ma has significant parallels to the development of a first rate athlete. First you master the technical fundamentals of your art form which then sets the stage for more sophisticated understanding, visualization, and creativity.

“So I was very fortunate to be admitted to Princeton – and the education I received here changed my life permanently – but understand that the physical, mental, emotional, and social components of playing hockey were a crucial part of that education.”

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