In September of 1972 three college students from New Jersey held a meeting for a new student organization they hoped to form at Tufts University, it was called Tufts Varsity Frisbee. The three undergraduates, Jim Pistrang, Ed Summers, and Mike Miller had been exposed to the sport in high school, with Summers notably a graduate of Columbia High School. Upon entering college they collectively decided to bring their enthusiasm for the new sport into their college experience. By October they had arranged their first game, against Clark University, which they won handily. Over the course of the year schools from around the Northeast heard of this new sport, and games were arranged with Rutgers, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of New Hampshire, among others. The Tufts team actively taught teams the rules, spreading the sport to any school that was interested. The three friends knew they are onto something, just quite what however, they could only imagine.
Forty years later, on a hot day in late June, those three college friends are together once again at Tufts University, cleating up. This time however, they are joined by hundreds of alumni of the Tufts Elephant Men and Elephant Women, who have overrun the hilltop campus in the suburbs of Boston for the weekend to celebrate the Fourtieth Anniversary of Tufts Ultimate. What was once their little student organization — originally made up of nine members — has ballooned into one of the premier Ultimate programs in the country, boasting over a hundred participants from year to year.
This year the 40th iteration of the team tied for 5th at the 2012 USAU D1 College Nationals tournament, a testament to the program’s consistent strength. Over the years the men’s team has made 9 Nationals appearances and produced the 2002 Callahan winner, Mike Zalisk. The women’s team, which split off from the men in the early 80s has appeared at Nationals 8 times, peaking this year with a semifinals appearance. Tufts Ultimate alumni can be found all across the Open, Womens, Mixed and Masters club landscape at all levels. They have been integral to the success and even founding of many club teams, including Death or Glory, Johnny Bravo, Lady Godiva, and more recently Ironside and District 5.
The reunion weekend, organized by 2006 graduate and current Assistant Coach of the E-Men Andrew Chira, was a joint effort with the Tufts University Alumni Association. Over 150 current and former players attended the weekends’ events, with the oldest attendee a member of the class of 1973 and the youngest a rising sophomore in the class of 2015. Players participated in a mixed hat tournament as well as pickup games of goaltimate, DDC and numerous rounds of golf on Tufts’ 9-hole course, which is passed down every year to incoming freshman. On Saturday evening the university hosted a catered banquet for all attendees which included a speech from founder Jim Pistrang, a silent auction of team gear and the retiring of the number of Jeff Brown – a member of the class of 1990, long time coach and mentor of the E-Men and multiple time National and World champion with Boston’s Death or Glory.
The sense of tradition, shared culture and companionship was palpable as young E-Men and E-Wo spent time with their predecessors and shared the common bond that the sport creates. As college ultimate continues to grow to new heights it is important to pay tribute to those who paved the way for the wealth of opportunities that we current players take advantage of. Every team’s individual culture is uniquely crafted and important to those who have been a part of it. The Tufts Ultimate community was proud to look back on 40 years of successful team play and individual growth, while looking forward to the future that the current students are creating.