An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Ruth Heffernan Marsh ’85: “I was a skipper on the varsity women’s sailing team. I don’t recall which regatta this was, but I’m sailing a Tech dinghy, so it was definitely a home regatta. I know it was my first year at MIT, during the fall of 1981. I remember someone from the Tech newspaper was taking pictures that day. It’s clearly the middle of a race, and I’m guessing by the position of the boat and sail and how I’m sitting that it’s the downwind leg.

“I first learned to sail when I was 12, on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Massachusetts, eventually becoming an instructor of adults and kids when I was in high school and then a racing instructor. So, by the time I got to MIT I was very experienced. I loved sailing on the Charles!

“I can’t remember how well I or the team did on the day this photo was taken, but I do recall the team doing well that season. I have very fond memories of that fall—I loved the boathouse, the coaches, the camaraderie between the men’s and women’s teams. It was a place where I felt instantly comfortable and had some mastery while I was figuring out the whole MIT scene, which I found fairly intimidating that first year.

“Though I was one of the more experienced women on the team, I did end up quitting after that season. It was a hard decision to quit, but I chose instead to join the women’s varsity cross-country team for the next three years, maximizing the exercise/time ratio, which gave me more time to study. I even ran the Boston Marathon in April 1985 with fellow women’s-cross-country-team runner and Delta Psi fraternity sister Andrea Ghez ’87, who later became the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in physics.”

Ruth Heffernan Marsh ’85 graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. She resides in Bellevue, Washington, and is the principal engineer for offshore wind at DNV Energy.

Tech Reflection is a new Slice of MIT series that tells the first-person stories behind MIT photos. Read more reminiscences of campus life.