The First Best Fan

By Michael O’Brien

When no one else was watching the game, Professor Frank Westhoff was there. Forty years later, he still is.

It’s easy to make the case that Frank Westhoff is the No. 1 fan of Amherst sports. The professor of economics has been a constant, generous fixture on the sidelines ever since his arrival on campus in 1973. He reliably attends every women’s soccer home game, as well as most home football and basketball contests. When he’s not in the stands or in the classroom, he’s in his office on the third floor of Converse, where classical music plays softly in the background and Pittsburgh Steelers paraphernalia—a foam finger, a mini helmet—decorate the shelves.

His first real job
Westhoff grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, played high school football and was on the track team. He majored in electrical engineering and economics at MIT before starting a Ph.D. program in economics at Yale. He accepted his first and only “real” job, in the economics department at Amherst, and finished his doctorate a year later.

Frank Westhoff, Professor of Economics, watching women’s soccer

Coeducation’s early years
As a young professor, Westhoff, with his wife, Louise, became friends with Michelle Morgan—then head coach of women’s basketball, lacrosse and soccer—and her husband, Jay. In those early days of coeducation the two husbands were often the only fans at the women’s games. “To have a consistent faculty presence on the sideline became very important for the players,” says Morgan, now senior women’s administrator in the athletics department and head coach of women’s golf. “He took an interest in the kids, would see them in passing on campus, remembered their names and would congratulate them on their good efforts.”

Making it official
In the early 2000s then-Athletic Director Peter Gooding instituted a formal faculty liaison program, and Westhoff became the official liaison to women’s soccer. Westhoff has been with the team ever since.

“He’s there for the students if they have any academic questions,” says head coach Jen Hughes.

“He’s a great resource for the players and he’s also our No. 1 fan.” Over the years, he has traveled as far as Maine, Vermont and New Jersey to watch the team play.

At the start of each season he invites the players to stop by his office. Some take his classes or have him as their academic adviser. Every spring he takes the senior players, as well as the coaching staff, out to Bistro 63 or Johnny’s Tavern to offer congratulations and say goodbye. But it’s not always the last goodbye: the relationships he’s built are so strong that he’s been invited to players’ weddings.

At a recent alumni event Hughes asked former players to think of words they associate with the program. “Almost all of them,” she says, “wrote down Professor Westhoff.”

Most memorable games
When you’ve attended almost every home game and occasional away games for 40 years, it can be hard to pick favorites. But two contests stand out: In 1994 Westhoff watched the women’s soccer team play its first national postseason game. And he’ll never forget the abundance of fans who showed up when the women hosted the Final Four, in 1996.

What’s new this season
Women’s soccer ended last season with a 10-4-3 overall record and a third straight NCAA championship appearance. Now the Purple & White boast a stellar defense, with all-league selections Maya Jackson-Gibson ’15 and Holly Burwick ’16 headlining the unit. While the team  lost six of seven top goal producers from 2013, it returned leading scorer Megan Kim ’16.

Soccer phenom, Megan Kim ’16, dribbles through Bates defense.
Megan Kim ’16 dribbles through the Bates defense on Sept. 28
as Westhoff watches from the Hitchcock Field sidelines.

The team has a talented newcomer in forward Hannah Guzzi ’18, who is leading the team in goals and points. Among the early victories of the 2014 campaign was a 2-0 win over Williams. Throughout the fall, Westhoff was there on the sidelines, as always. He’ll continue to be in the seasons to come, devoted as ever.

Rob Mattson photos

Head Cheerleaders

Which psychology professor is an ice hockey fan? Which math professor can’t get enough of Amherst football? Which sociology professor cheers at both softball and volleyball games? Here’s a list of the faculty liaisons to Amherst teams.

Austin Sarat Baseball
Austin Sarat, left, (LJST, political science)
Gregory Call (math)
Trent Maxey (history)

Men’s: Ben Lieber (academic support and student research)
Women’s: Molly Mead (Center for Community Engagement)

Field Hockey
Sandra Burkett (chemistry)

Field hockey player, Annika Nygren, dribbling past opponents
Mark Bok photo

Peter Uvin (provost)
Danielle Benedetto (math)
Vanessa Walker (history)

Men’s: Paul Rockwell (French)
Women’s: Sarah Turgeon (psychology)

Catherine Sanderson Ice Hockey
Men’s: Catherine Sanderson, left, (psychology)
Women’s: Samuel Morse (art history)

Men’s: Matthew Schulkind (psychology)
Women’s: Nicola Courtright (art history)

Rhonda Cobham-Sander Soccer
Men’s: Rhonda Cobham-Sander, left, (English)
Women’s: Frank Westhoff (economics)

Softball and Volleyball
Ronald Lembo (sociology)


Men’s: Robert Benedetto (math)
David Ratner (biology)
Women’s: Elizabeth Young (chemistry)

Mark Marshall (chemistry)

Women’s: David Sofield (English)

Track/Cross Country
Men’s: Rebecca Sinos (classics)
Women’s: Ashley Carter (physics)