Enduring Qualities

Tarun “Ty” Saini ’93

by Ty Saini '93

I love spring. As the weather begins to warm, I look forward to waking to the chorus of birds outside our bedroom window and the early sunrise. Both help me mentally and physically begin my day. When my schedule allows, the earlier daylight and comfortable temperature beckon me to go for a run or grab the bicycle and hit the road.

Most weekend mornings this is rather automatic and my family knows that I will be the first one up but back in time for our busy schedules. Sometimes I find myself thinking I should still be asleep since I didn’t get as much rest as I should have during the week. But I press on, only to return a much happier and fulfilled person.

The first triathlon I ever competed in was the summer I graduated from Dickinson and it seemed like it would be a lot of fun. I knew how to bike and run at a good clip, so the swim was just something I thought shouldn’t be too difficult. When the race director pointed out the course we were to swim and the exit from the river, which I could not see, I knew I had a problem. Once I entered the water and felt the current moving against me, my problem list grew. And unbeknownst to me, I was suddenly swimming alongside about 100 “new friends.”

My father watched from the shoreline and took many pictures—all of which showed me doing the backstroke while the true athletes left me in their wake. I am also certain I swam about twice the distance intended, as I could not maintain a straight line. I would soon learn to respect the sport and the discipline its training demands.

Just a few weeks later, I moved to New York City by myself to begin graduate work. I felt excited, empowered and thought I could achieve anything I wanted to. For the next seven years while I lived and studied there, the confidence that carried me can be attributed to my time at Dickinson and the other endurance races I had the good fortune to complete. For the past 10 years as an engaged, volunteer alumnus, my experiences have only strengthened what I appreciate and perceive as Dickinson’s endurance.

For me, our wonderful college invites, teaches and challenges us to have vision, aspiration and courage. By striving for vision, we learn new things; by aspiring we can achieve the next step, or even something we thought was impossible; and by having the courage to try, no matter the outcome, we become better and more informed people. I have seen these Dickinson traits embodied by students, demonstrated by faculty and staff and championed by alumni and trustees. Our founder set the example and so many have followed his lead.

I have been part of countless conversations about what makes Dickinson so meaningful in people’s lives. Many alumni have shared that when faced with a challenge, Dickinsonians respond with “I can solve this. I’m not sure how, but I’ll figure it out.” And then do so with success and humility. I believe their appreciation for our college stems from the enduring values our professors, coaches, administration, staff, alumni and fellow students provided them while on campus and beyond.

I have been fortunate to be around sports for most of my life, that my body still allows me to participate and to have gained many friends along the way who have taught me a great deal. Sometimes they drive me to go farther and faster. Some days we take it slower and pick a new road to see where it takes us and enjoy the beauty of nature. They have pushed my mind and body beyond limits that I thought could not be broken, always leading to a feeling of accomplishment, an appreciation for what we achieved and anticipation for the next time.

However, this May brought something I have never experienced before. It made it much harder for me to write this column. It made me not want to jog or ride my bike. It left me with many questions and planted a fog in my mind. A very good friend, teacher at my children’s school and training partner thought she had a cold that was taking longer than usual to recover from and sapping her energy. This young mother of two, marathon and Ironman finisher, community volunteer and friend to many was admitted to the hospital for observation and within two weeks was told she would need a heart transplant.

While I shied away from the roads to try and make sense of this (the doctors have no definitive cause) and as my friend went through two major surgeries to save her life and prepare her for the eventual transplant, it took a bike ride through the Carlisle area with a Dickinson professor during Commencement weekend to remind me how precious life is and how important it is to live it. I know my triathlon buddy will make it. I know she will return to racing, perhaps not as a participant but rather a volunteer or coach, and I know that she will inspire others to find the greatness within themselves. That spirit for life is the greatest enduring quality any of us could hope to achieve.

Tarun “Ty” Saini ’93 is an orthodontist in Maryland. He and his wife, Shelly, have two young daughters. He served as president of the Alumni Council from 2013 to 2015 and just completed his term on the Board of Trustees. In his spare time, he enjoys training and participating in endurance sports  and has completed more than 40 marathons, bike races and triathlons.

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Published July 11, 2017