Noel Keefer Henichen
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Team: Swimming & Diving

Noel Keefer Henichen '78
Cincinnati, OH
Sport: Swimming & Diving
Year Inducted:

Noel S. Keefer ’78 was only a freshman when she became Brown’s first woman athlete to earn the All-American designation. The one and three-meter diver from Cincinnati wasted no time in making a splash heard around the Ivy league and the region: During her freshman dual-meet season, she lost just one event. She also won the three-meter event at the New Englands, setting meet and pool records. At the Nationals in Arizona that March, Keefer displayed the grit and determination that marker her career at Brown. Handicapped by a recurring back problem, and diving under severe weather conditions, she barely made the first cut (twenty-fourth out of twenty-four) for the semi-finals. Diving well, she passed eight other contenders in the semis and qualified for the finals. In the finals, Keefer was required to perform a dive she had been unable to do for over a year due to her back problems. It would have been a tremendous accomplishment just to get through the dive, but Keefer did more than that: She performed one of the best double twisting one-and-a-half somersaults of the meet, and passed three more divers to finish in thirteenth place, gaining All-American status. “The pain comes and goes,” Keefer said in her junior year of the back pain that six doctors were unable to diagnose. She spent the fall of 1976 in a body cast, and was paralyzed for two weeks after it was removed. But she fought back, competed in the nationals that March at Brown, and finished twenty-fifth and thirtieth in the three and one-meter events. “Many times Noel has been in a lot of discomfort,” her Brown diving coach, Dave Sias, said, “but she wouldn’t stop practicing until I noticed her pain and made her stop.”

As a sophomore Keefer lost only one dual meet. She was undefeated in her junior dual-meet season, and set dual-meet records on both boards. Her one-meter record was broken this year after standing since 1977, her three-meter mark is still the school and pool record. Keefer finished her Brown diving career in top form: She won fifteen out of eighteen dual-season events, and the one and three-meter events at the New Englands (setting records in both). At the Division II Nationals, she placed sixth and third on the one and three-meter boards and was again named All-American as well as All-Ivy. Diving, Keefer said in 1978, is “a mental exercise. You can’t step outside yourself or you’ll lose your concentration. I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like having to depend on anyone else, and diving is all me.” This graceful perfectionist joins her late grandfather, Jackson M. Keefer ’25 (All-American in football) as one of the outstanding athletes in the Brown Hall of Fame. A Portuguese and Brazilian Studies concentrator, Keefer now navigates far continents as a travel director for the E.F. MacDonald Company in Dayton, Ohio – “the greatest job in the world,” she reported recently.