Introduction of Jeanne Ashworth, Presented by Gracie Marshall, Class of 2015 and Softball Team member
A 1960 graduate of Tufts with a degree in physical therapy science, Jeanne Ashworth was a true athlete. She played field hockey for the Jumbos, and she played softball at the national level after Tufts, but the sport that brought her international acclaim was not even a sport that was sponsored at Tufts – it was the sport of speed-skating.
While an undergraduate at Tufts, Jeanne had been winning national indoor and outdoor speed-skating championships for a couple of years. But in 1960, during her senior year at Tufts, Jeanne made history. That year, women were allowed for the first time to compete in speed-skating at the Olympic Winter Games at Squaw Valley, California – and Jeanne made the most of it. She won the bronze medal in the 500-meter race, finishing the course in 46.1 seconds, becoming the first American woman to ever win an Olympic speed-skating medal. Let me repeat that – Jumbo Jeanne Ashworth is the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in speed-skating.
When asked about her achievement years later, Jeanne humbly said, “It was all so lucky, because I didn’t know too much about what I was doing, I just went out and skated fast.”
After the Squaw Valley games, Jeanne represented the United States at the 1964 games in Innsbrook, Austria and the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. She broke seven world records during her career.
For her many achievements, Jeanne was inducted into the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 1993. She was also appointed to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Committee, and she was one of the dignitaries chosen to fly to Greece to witness the lighting of the Olympic flame and to return with it on Air Force One to the United States for the Lake Placid Olympic Games.
Jeanne passed away just last fall in October 2018 at the age of 80.
“Jeanne was an Olympic pioneer, not only in speed skating, but for women competing in the Olympic Games,” it said in a statement from the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. “She was always dedicated to the Olympics and our community to inspire youth and visitors from around the world.”
At this time, I would like to invite Jeanne’s daughter, Robin Ashworth, to the stage to accept the Hall of Fame award in her mother’s honor.