EDITOR’S NOTE (Mike Stenhouse): One of the greatest privileges of my life was growing up in the Edgewood section of Cranston and getting to know, admire, compete against, and learn from three of the greatest sports and academic families in Rhode Island’s prolific history: the Bennett family, the Cavanagh family, and the Harrington family – all of whom lived withing a few blocks of each other. Each of these families, led by wonderful parents, raised a large gaggle of children … almost all of whom were tremendous students & athletes … and saw at least one of their children attend an Ivy League university. While it was an honor to closely know all of thes families, I am proud to have played with one of the Bennett boys as well as the three Harrington brothers pictured below, while my brother played with a fourth brother, and my father coached the youngest brother at Brown U. Thanks to John Gillooly for penning this terrific family expose.
Originally published on Cranston Online, written by John Gillooly
Sports helped pave way to Ivy League for Harringtons
One of the best examples of that union of athletic and academic excellence that I saw in my 50-year career as a Providence Journal sportswriter was the Harrington family of Cranston.
The late Walter and Jeanne Harrington were raising a large family in the Edgewood section of Cranston in the 1960s. It was a middle-class home of seven children, six boys and one girl. Walter supported the family by running a popular children’s shoe store in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center in Warwick
So there never was a lot of money, but there also was never any concern the family didn’t have the important things in life.
“We were poor as dirt but we didn’t know it because we had everything we needed,” Jim Harrington, the second youngest member of the family told me about five years ago.
It was a family filled with love; a constant reminder of the importance of education – and sports.
“Neither my mother or father went to college, but they understood college was the goal for their children”, Jim Harrington added “My mother made sure we did a lot of reading.”
Mr. and Mrs. Harrington also made sure their children were involved in the extensive youth sports programs that were a bedrock of the Edgewood community in the 1960s and 70s.
“In our family it wasn’t an option. We all loved to play sports, but we also all knew you had to do all your homework and we all read a lot.” Jim Harrington added.
Tim, the oldest child, went on to become a three-sport standout at Cranston East High School in the early 1970s then went on to play hockey and baseball at Dartmouth College.
Having a son go to an Ivy League school probably wasn’t something Jeanne and Walter Harrington had envisioned when they first started raising a family, but after an Ivy League athletic coach recruited his oldest son, Walter Harrington realized the combination of sports and academics might open avenues to educational institutions not usually available to a middle-class Rhode Island family.
“I don’t think my father even knew about college athletic recruiting when we were younger,”, said Jim Harrington “But when sports helped open the door to Dartmouth for Tim, I think my father realized sports could play a major role in his children’s future.”
When sports helped “open the door” to elite colleges, the Harrington boys had the academic resumes that impressed the admission department as much as their sports stats impressed the athletic department.
Dave Harrington, the second oldest son was an All-State football, hockey and baseball selection at Cranston East. At the end of his senior year at East in 1974 he was named the Providence Journal Honor Roll Boy, the annual award presented to the top senior male high school student/athlete in Rhode Island. His high school athletic and academic career paved the way for Dave’s admission to Yale University where he played hockey and baseball. The coaches at Yale where so impressed with Dave that they recruited two of his young brothers, Steve and Gerry, who attended both Cranston East and Phillips Academy. All three brothers enjoyed outstanding athletic careers at Yale. In the spring of 1978, they all were members of the Yale varsity baseball team. To this day it still is one of the few, maybe the only time, three brothers have been teammates on the same Yale athletic team in the same season.
Jim Harrington was a hockey and baseball star at La Salle and went on to play both sports at Middlebury College, the nationally prestigious Division III, college in Vermont.
Bobby, the youngest member of the family was a baseball star at Hendricken before going on to an outstanding baseball career at Brown University
Of the six brothers, all earned at least one Providence Journal All-State honor during their high school careers and all went on to become student/athletes at an Ivy League or a prestigious NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) college.
They had grown-up in Cranston at a time when the idea of having even one child from a family that didn’t have the money to grease the admission process to an Ivy League or a prestigious NESCAC school seemed like an impossible dream.
Yet, six Harrington sons lived that dream and there never was any question sports helped paved the road to a different world for them.
Best athlete of the family
“The irony is my sister, Diane, (the second oldest child in the family) probably was the best athlete of all us, but she was in high school (Bay View) just before Title IX. She made it to Boston College on her own without any help from sports,” Jim Harrington related.
“Tim, Diane and Dave were the oldest and they set the example for the rest of us when it came to school work. The rest of us just followed the path they had set.”
It’s not surprising all the Harrington “kids” have gone-on to enjoy successful adult lives and professional careers.
After graduating from Dartmouth, Tim Harrington began a career at the U.S. Department of Defense. Today he lives in Richmond, Va. His son Walter, a University of South Carolina graduate, is named after his grandfather.
Diane (Harrington) Marshall graduated from Boston College and also earned an MBA from Simmons University. When her late husband died suddenly 16 years ago in Florida she and her daughter moved back to Rhode Island where her daughter, Jamie, was a star athlete at Moses Brown before becoming a Yale University neuroscience graduate.
Dave Harrington, who was inducted into the R.I. Interscholastic League Hall of Fame in 2019, has enjoyed a long career as a bond trader in New York City. He and his wife Carol live in Locust Valley New York where they raised a family of three children who now are all college graduates.
Gerry Harrington, who was a member of two Ivy League championship football teams and two Eastern Collegiate Conference baseball championship teams during his years at Yale, currently is a lawyer/lobbyist in Washington D.C. and active in National Democratic political affairs.
Steve Harrington, who earned eight varsity letters in hockey and baseball at Yale currently lives in South Kingstown. His three children all were standout collegiate athletes at Princeton and Stanford universities.
Jim Harrington has enjoyed a long career in the investment industry. He and his wife Lisa live in Wakefield, RI where they raised a family of four children. All four children were outstanding student/athletes at Moses Brown before attending, UPenn, Boston College, Boston University and the University of Vermont.
Bobby Harrington recently retired after a 35-year career working on Wall Street with UBS (PaineWebber). He and his wife Lisa live in Rye, NY. All four of their children have attended Ivy League schools.
The Harringtons – a Rhode Island family that became the personification of the American Dream and it was nurtured on the athletic fields of Cranston.