Bob Callahan '77, a man who has helped shape the course of squash at both Princeton and beyond for more than three decades, will be inducted into the U.S. Squash Fall of Fame this October.
Callahan, who will be inducted along with Joyce V. Davenport and John F. Herrick, has been a part of Princeton squash for 35 years, including 31 as a head coach. His already golden résumé was bolstered last season with a historic 5-4 win over Trinity in the 2012 national championship match, a win that ended the 13-year championship reign for Trinity.
And now it will be bolstered again, with his induction to the US Squash Hall of Fame.
"I am deeply honored to be inducted with this great class," said the soft-spoken Callahan. "I have loved helping to grow the sport at such a great institution, and I have worked with amazing people throughout my time at Princeton."
In his 31 years as head coach, Callahan has led the Tigers to 302 victories, 10 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012). He has coached the individual national champion 10 times, including one title by returning senior Todd Harrity.
"Bob has been the heart and soul of the Princeton Squash Program both as a player and as a coach," said Director of Athletics Gary Walters '67. "Although winning the national championship this past year represents a special achievement in his career, it pales in overall importance when compared to the values and core competencies he has taught his players. Bob isn't just respected in squash circles; he is revered."
Callahan played on three national title teams, including his senior year when he captained the Tigers to an undefeated season (1976-77). A two-time All America, he was ranked fifth in the intercollegiates during his senior season.
He took over the coaching duties in 1981, and shortly afterwards, Callahan founded the nation's first major squash camp in 1982; he has run it continuously ever since. In 1998 he directed the World Junior Men's Championships at Princeton, the first time the U.S. had ever hosted a world singles championship. That event, while an incredible success at the time, would ultimately help him land a young player now considered the greatest collegiate male squash player ever.
Yasser El Halaby became the first male player to win all four individual championships (2003-06), and he helped Princeton to two of the eight Ivy League titles won by Princeton over the last 13 years.
"Playing for Coach Callahan's team is a privilege that one recognizes after the first few team training sessions but only truly understands with time," El Halaby said. "I have a tremendous respect for a one-in-a-million individual who exudes kindness, generosity and character integrity. The many lessons I have learned and continue to learn from Coach Callahan are not restricted to the game of squash, but encompass all aspects of life.
"A father-figure, friend and life mentor, Coach Callahan's greatness as a squash coach rests in his innate ability to recognize the team's needs and do everything in his capacity to create the most conducive environment for success," El Halaby continued. "I cannot imagine what my college experience would have been like without Coach Callahan. I have much love and respect for Princeton squash's leader, one of the greatest squash coaches I have come across."
Callahan has worked side-by-side with women's head coach Gail Ramsay to create one of the top collegiate squash programs in the nation. Since 2007, Princeton has won six Ivy League titles (four men, two women) and four national championships (three women, one men). No school can match Princeton in either department.
"In my eyes, and obviously in the eyes of others, Bob is so deserving of this recognition," Ramsay said. "He has touched US Squash and World Squash on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. He has been a leader, innovator, monitor, and ambassador to the game. He is known around the world for his warmth, knowledge and commitment to the squash world. He has touched every part of the game with his passion, generosity and foresight. Much of US Squash growth and development has been from their partnership with Bob. I am so thrilled to see them show their appreciation with this honor."
Though his career is filled with superlatives, few matched the one his team accomplished Feb. 19, 2012, when Princeton ended Trinity's 13-year reign atop college squash. After falling 7-2 in the regular season, second-seeded Princeton rallied from a 4-2 hole at home to win at 5-4 championship thriller. Opposing head coach Paul Assaiante, who had experienced several championship celebrations at Callahan's expense, could take solace in the fact that his friend was the one to break the streak.
“Bob is probably one of my best friends,” said Assainte. “He does everything with total class. For 13 years, I prayed that when our streak ended, I would be able to hand the trophy to Bob. He’s like my brother. He is an iconic figure, bigger than the game of squash. We work in a business of the highest intensity, but none of us have ever seen him lose his balance.”