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The Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund Dedicated to supporting Harvard athletes who suffer from ALS or other neurological diseases.

The Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund

In 2016, the Harvard Varsity Club established The Michael Vollmer '90 Fund to assist Harvard alumni athletes battling ALS and other neurological disorders. The fund is named in honor of Michael Vollmer '90, a two-time football letterwinner and All-Ivy League honorable mention selection in 1989. Vollmer passed away on August 29, 2015 at age 48 after having been diagnosed 12 years earlier with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

Neurological diseases deliver a horrific blow to individuals, which can quickly radiate through family and friends. The Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund allows Harvard athletes to support fellow athletes across all sports, makes the Harvard Varsity Club a more vibrant community, and reaffirms that the HVC is ‘Your Team for Life.” - Bob Glatz '88, The Broadbent Family Executive Director of the Harvard Varsity Club

MIKE VOLLMER '90

Mike Vollmer ’90 was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at age 36. ALS is a disease that attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord, affecting the functionality of motor neurons, which hinders the ability to voluntarily control muscles. An alumnus of the Hill School ’86 and Harvard University ’90, Vollmer was an active athlete participating in lacrosse in high school and football through college. He was selected as Captain of the Hill School football team, named to the All-Ivy honorable mention in 1989, and honored with the Joseph E. Wolfe Award in 1989 as the team's outstanding interior lineman. He earned praise from the Harvard community for his QB sack in his senior year at “The Game”, which solidified the Harvard victory over Yale. For this superior athlete, the slow deterioration of his body was devastating, though close friends say the disease never touched his spirit.

TEAMMATES FOR LIFE

Word of Mike's diagnosis spread throughout the Harvard community, reaching teammates and close friends. Neal Kaufman ’90, along with Greg Gicewicz ’89 and John Brzezenski ’91, spearheaded an effort to establish a Trust to raise funds to assure a high quality of life for Mike in his remaining years. With great help from classmates, teammates from the Harvard football team, and others in the community, the Trust raised over $100,000 in donations.

MIKE'S LEGACY

Michael Wayne Vollmer passed on Saturday, August 29, 2015, at age 48, after a valiant effort fighting this dreaded disease. With the support of the Broadbent Family Executive Director of the Harvard Varsity Club Bob Glatz ’88, and then President Andy Freed ’90, the remaining donations from the Trust were used to establish the Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund at the HVC. Harvard alumni athletes battling ALS and other neurological disorders are eligible to apply for a grant from the Vollmer Fund to provide financial support for basic and specialty care items, similar to those enjoyed by Mike in his final years.

“Few have fought as fiercely as Michael Vollmer ’90 did in his 12-year battle with ALS. The Harvard Varsity Club is pleased to be able to honor Mike’s legacy with the creation of the Vollmer Fund. At the V-Club, we like to say that we’re your team for life—and all that it brings—and this fund will go a long way toward helping Harvard athletes in need.” - Andy Freed '90, Men's Water Polo & HVC Lifetime Member

HELPING TEAMMATES

November 21, 2016: Mike Ernst '83 received the first grant from The Michael Vollmer '90 Fund

MIKE ERNST '83 | Football

There are very few things that could be worse in life than hearing these words, “I’m sorry Mike, but you have ALS.”

Ernst, a bruising running back, was a three-year football letterwinner, a member of Harvard’s 1982 Ivy League championship team, and the recipient of the Henry L. Lamar Award for total dedication to the program. Mike also served a year as the running backs coach for the Crimson’s freshmen football squad in 1984, before moving to Italy where he coached American football for over a decade and met his wife, Christiana.

"Mike was diagnosed officially in 2013 and since then he has lost his mobility, but not his spirit... The Vollmer Fund has been more than helpful for us. We were able to purchase a van (pictured below) thanks to your generosity and have been able to go to the camp in Harvard that Mike loves and to go see his son play football at Trinity. The Vollmer Fund has been very helpful to us since Mike's diagnosis and everything you (HVC) have done for us has been such a blessing" -Christiana Ercoli, Mike Ernst's wife
Mike Ernst '83 and his wheelchair accessible van.

TOM TIFFANY '71 | Heavyweight Crew

Tom suffered a stroke in October 2016. As a result, he has weakness of his right side (arm and leg) and aphasia, which causes difficulty with language and speech. He uses a wheelchair, but can walk short distances with the assistance of a cane and a brace. Tom has lived in an assisted living building of a senior community in Minnesota since December 2017.

Tom earned three varsity letters as the coxswain of the men's heavyweight crew. He was the co-captain of the team as a senior in 1971. Tom and his boatmates won three Ivy League Championships, two Eastern Sprints titles and, most importantly, three consecutive victories in the Harvard-Yale Regatta. He competed, and later coached, many teams in national and international regattas. Tom spent his lifetime involved in rowing on the Charles. He actively participated in the Head of the Charles regatta and Community Rowing programs. He taught many people of all ages how to row.

Tom Tiffany '71 working on strengthening his right side during exercise therapy.
In December 2019 The Vollmer Fund granted Tom funds for pool/exercise therapy, massage therapy, and for a speech therapy app. Despite some restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Tom has avidly pursued these activities. His background as an athlete and a coach has shaped his recovery from the stroke. He has maintained a positive attitude. Tom deeply appreciates the Vollmer Fund grant that has enabled him to maintain his health and increase his strength. Thank you for helping him continue to improve." -Margaret Tiffany '76, Tom's sister

BY THE NUMBERS

  • $50,360 | The Vollmer Fund was created with a generous initial gift of $50,360 from the remaining balance of the Mike Vollmer '90 Trust.
  • $84,012 | Since 2016, the Vollmer Fund has raised $84,012 in additional funds.
  • $120,000 | To date, The Vollmer Fund has granted $120,000 to former Harvard athletes

HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

MAKE A GIFT

APPLY FOR ASSISTANCE

THE MICHAEL VOLLMER '90 FUND COMMITTEE

  • Martina Albright '90
  • John Brzezenski '91
  • Andy Freed '90
  • Gregory Gicewicz '89
  • Bob Joyce '87
  • Neal Kaufman '90

All donations to the The Michael Vollmer '90 Fund and HVC are 100% tax-deductible.

Questions? Email us at hvc@fas.harvard.edu.

Thank you for your continued support of the HVC and Harvard Athletics community.

About the Harvard Varsity Club

No matter the sport. Or the era.

No matter the gender. Or the race.

Special teams all share one thing in common: a bond.

A feeling of comradery, of brotherhood or sisterhood that lasts more than a season, or even an entire college career. It lasts a lifetime.

Since 1886, the Harvard Varsity Club has been a special team. Through events and programs, the Varity Club celebrates, supports and connects Harvard athletes and their families, past and present, while preserving the traditions and fostering the ideals of Harvard Athletics.

Harvard Varsity Club. ‘Your Team for Life.’