John Hartigan’s crew career at Penn helped to prepare him for international competition. Hartigan was a two-year letterwinner with the Penn heavyweight varsity team (1962-63) and during his junior year, he helped the Red and Blue to the Eastern Sprint Championship which they shared with Yale.
Hartigan served as coxswain for two United States Olympic teams (1968, 1976) after his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. He was also the co-captain of the U.S. rowing team that won a bronze medal at the 1979 Pan-American Games.
In his first Olympic competition, the 1968 games in Mexico City, Hartigan was a member of the fifth-place United States team in the four with coxswain event. It was an all-Penn boat with Hartigan at cox and Luther Jones, W’71, Bill Purdy, C’68, Tony Martin, EE’70, WG’76 and Gardner Cadwalader, C’70, GAR’75 rowing.
In 1974, Hartigan was a member of the United States boat that won the inaugural Lightweight Eight World Championship and included Penn alumnus Mick Feld, W’74 who was a lightweight oarsman at Penn. Two years later, he competed at the Montreal Olympics in the four with coxswain boat that was coached by former Penn heavyweight coach Ted Nash.
In 1979, Hartigan traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to compete in the Pan-American Games. That year he served as co-captain of the U.S. team and his four with coxswain boat earned a bronze medal. In 1980, he was crowned national champion in the four with coxswain at the U.S. National Championships. He also earned a silver medal at the championships in the coxed pair event.
Hartigan won another gold medal in the four with coxswain, this time at the 1983 Pan-American Games in Caracas, Venezuela.
Under the leadership of former Penn Lightweight Coach Bruce Konopka, W’78, Hartigan's lightweight eight boat finished sixth at the World Championships in 1986.