Ten Minutes With: Imogene Fish ’55
Achieving Great Heights
At the age of nineteen, Imogene Opton Fish ’55 traveled to Oslo, Norway, to represent the United States in women’s slalom alpine skiing at the 1952 Winter Olympics, placing fifth. After graduating from Mount Holyoke with a major in art, she raised three daughters, received master’s degrees from Harvard and Northeastern, and worked in higher education, retiring in 1992. In October 2013 she was inducted into the Mount Holyoke Athletics Hall of Fame. Today, she’s traded downhill skiing for cross-country skiing, which, she says, she’ll never give up.
At the level of the Olympics . . . if you’re going to do well, you have to go a little bit faster than you think is probably smart to do.— Imogene Fish ’55
On her journey to the Olympics:
I started skiing when our family moved from Germany to North Conway, New Hampshire. I got my first pair of skis when I was eight years old, and I just took to it. In high school, I was the only girl on the ski team, which was a little awkward. In 1951, I took a year off from college at the University of New Hampshire and went to Sun Valley, Idaho, for a program for up-and-coming skiers. We’d wait tables in the evenings in the resort and ski during the day with a coach. We went around to all these races, four of which were tryouts for the Olympics, and I managed to do well enough to be chosen for the team. It was a big thrill; I couldn’t get over the fact that I made it. I then took another year off from college to compete in the 1952 Olympic Games.
On her time at Mount Holyoke:
After the Olympics, I decided it was time to get serious about my education and applied to Mount Holyoke as a transfer student. I was accepted and came to campus in fall 1952. It was really hard to be back in college—a more structured environment than I was used to—after two years off. It took a while to adjust to taking tests and writing papers again.
I lived in Mandelle Hall and loved walking early in the morning to my 8:00 a.m. classes across the bridge over Lower Lake. I remember all sorts of things from my time at Mount Holyoke—my political science professor Ruth Lawson, hiking up the hill behind Mandelle to keep fit for skiing, and going to Northampton for a beer.
On her greatest accomplishment:
I’m very fortunate to have had the Olympic skiing experience, but I also had a wonderful husband, kids, grandkids, career, and volunteer work that have meant so much to me. I am very proud of my family life. The fact that all my kids and grandkids are really nice people, responsible, and contribute to their communities—I take a lot of pride in that.
This article appeared in the winter 2015 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
January 18, 2015