Tenley E. Albright Performance Center
“As pioneers and pillars in U.S. Figure Skating history, it is truly fitting that The Skating Club of Boston honors its member, Dr. Tenley Albright by naming its international performance center after America’s first ladies Olympic champion. Tenley’s spirit and dedication to the sport will continue to inspire generations of athletes who train at and compete at the Club”.
– Anne Cammett, President of U.S. Figure Skating
The Skating Club of Boston takes great pride in recognizing and honoring one of its most distinguished members, Dr. Tenley E. Albright, with the naming of the Tenley E. Albright Performance Center. A true trailblazer in the sport of figure skating, Tenley became the first U.S. female skater to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games (1956) and the World Figure Skating Championships (1953); as well as the first woman to win figure skating’s illustrious triple crown (1953) with championship titles at the World Championships, North American Championships, and the U.S. Championships. An iconic competitive career resulted in Tenley’s induction into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, The Olympic Hall of Fame, National Women’s Hall of Fame, National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, New England Sports Museum and the New York Athletic Association.
Apart from her many pioneering successes on the ice, Tenley has also been a trailblazer off the ice. A student of Radcliffe College and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Albright became a surgeon and went on to practice medicine and surgery for over 23 years. At Harvard Medical School Tenley held a faculty appointment as Lecturer in the Program of Surgery, was a Clinical Instructor in Surgery, a member of the Admissions Committee, and a member of the Visiting Committee to the Board of Overseers.
She has since held many prominent positions within the medical community and on the boards at numerous organizations. A true leader both on and off the ice, Tenley continues to this day to be a champion of every skater, regardless of age or ability.
With the establishment of the Tenley E. Albright Performance Center, the Club intends for Tenley’s legacy of innovation and excellence to continue to inspire the figure skaters of today and those of the next 100 years.
The Tenley E. Albright Performance Center celebrates the character of an extraordinary athlete and scholar who had a bond with The Skating Club of Boston since her first strokes on Club ice as an eight-year-old. Tenley’s love of responding to music through creative movement, her perseverance, her courage, and her deep passion for skating are the hallmarks of what the Club believes is important for its athletes of today and tomorrow. While she has banked many firsts—she was the first U.S. woman to win Olympic gold, the first to win the triple crown of World, North American and United States titles—Tenley always believed, “it’s about more than the medals!”
At just 11 years old, Tenley won the Joan Tozzer Award which was awarded to a Club member who demonstrated an exemplary scholastic record, showed evidence of good sportsmanship, possessed notable talent, and gave promises of developing a high level of ability in competitive figure skating. Given to the most improved skater that season, and perhaps the most meaningful to Tenley at that time, the award included money for skating lessons.
Her playfulness and curiosity about pushing boundaries sent her to the rink at 4:30 a.m. before classes at Radcliffe College. Tenley took nothing for granted: instead of asking “why?”, she asked, “why not?” During more quiet moments on the ice, she had the space to invent many of the moves that skaters rely on today, such as the walking camel, the jump backspin, the cross-foot spin, and the split-toe loop. Her delight in movement—it was not unusual to see her doing waltz jumps down the sidewalk and mazurkas on the trampoline—came through in her choreography. Tenley’s joy in skating continued to be about playing and inventing, long after she retired from competition.
Tenley’s own path demanded the strength of mind and body, and developed her belief that “if you are not falling down, you’re not trying something that is hard enough.” She was thrilled to be allowed to return to skating after a childhood bout of polio, working hand-over-hand along the rink barrier at The Skating Club of Boston’s first facility on Soldiers Field Road.
At the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy, at the first televised Games, Tenley suffered a serious injury to her landing leg. “The morning of the competition I fell flat catching a rut while avoiding another skater during practice. I didn’t know how I would skate, but I just knew I would get through my program.” She took to the ice with a program set to Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman and remembers the crowd humming along to the music. “It was the most comforting, marvelous feeling, and it emotionally lifted me up.” That connection exemplified her indomitable spirit and her natural ability to communicate with her audience.
As a young surgeon, Tenley brought her three daughters to skate at the Club any chance she could, including the traditional Friday Night Dinners, and to perform in Ice Chips, the annual show that captivated her at eight years old when she saw U.S. champion Gretchen Merrill perform, and asked her mother to let her try skating. It did not stop there. Eventually Tenley would also shepherd her children and grandchildren on the ice and in Ice Chips. The Skating Club of Boston became a home away from home for the whole family, a place to enjoy recreation and competition, to celebrate their shared passion, to forge lifelong friendships, and to celebrate reunions and decades of family and friendships as they all grew.
The Tenley E. Albright Performance Center will host the Club’s traditional annual events in addition to other local, national, and international events sanctioned by U.S Figure Skating and the International Skating Union. It is a destination for original theatrical productions seeking a best-in-class venue where every discipline of figure skating is both welcomed and celebrated. It is a venue that celebrates the joy and thrill of figure skating at its finest, as it also deepens and amplifies the Club’s outreach to audiences from across the nation, and indeed, from around the world. Tenley’s example of pushing oneself through dedication, innovation and delight is the ideal inspiration for the Club’s showpiece performance center, for those competing for titles and appearing in shows, and importantly too, for the many skaters training on an everyday basis.
The Club came together with generous contributors in this long-overdue tribute to a figure-skating legend who is a champion not only by virtue of her talent, but also by virtue of how she lived her life. The Tenley E. Albright Performance Center is an honorific for and about Tenley – as it is for figure-skating audiences and for generations of skaters to follow – especially young skaters. For the future generations of skaters who pursue their own passion for figure skating, the Tenley E. Albright Performance Center will elevate their hopes and encourage their dreams, as it forever cements Tenley’s inspiring legacy.