Tell us about your career. What does a typical workday look like for you?
I am in my 11th year at Woodberry Forest School, an all male, grades 9-12 fully residential boarding school in Madison County, Virginia. I currently serve the school as dean of 5th & 6th Forms and head swimming coach & aquatic director. Throughout my tenure, I have also served the school as a chemistry teacher, dormitory head, faculty adviser to the student newspaper and president of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Committee.
A typical workday: Rise and shine at 5:25 a.m. With a large coffee in hand, my K-9 companion Tucker and I meet members of the swimming team and walk to the Ruffin Memorial Natatorium, where practice begins at 6:50 and ends at 7:00 a.m. I will quickly make my way home in order to shower and get dressed, after which I will head to the Terry Family Dining Hall to greet students eating breakfast and cramming in extra minutes to prepare for the day's assignments. My academic day is filled with meetings, emails and phone calls. Additionally, I will need to find about 1.5 hours of time to circulate around the dormitories checking on room cleanliness. At 3:15 p.m., I will return to the natatorium to lead the team in another two hours of grueling practice. Our main season begins in late August and does not stop until early March, following our state championship and senior championship meets. When practice concludes, I will return home to shower and change before heading to the dining hall once more for an all-school seated meal. It is my responsibility to oversee our student waiters—students are rotated through serving meals to the entire student body on a regular basis—which includes ensuring tables are set, served and cleaned properly. Dinner ensues, during which I am lucky to share in rich conversation with the student body. A small period of free time follows dinner until, at 7:45 p.m., study hall begins. I will circulate through dormitories and academic buildings between 7:45 and 10:00 p.m., until study hall ends. All students should be checked in to their respective dorms by the faculty members on duty by 10:30 p.m., and all students are expected to be in bed by 10:30, 11:00, or 12:00, depending on their form. My day ends with a campus wide stroll, ensuring that all boys are catching their z's and campus is quiet.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?
Aside from connecting me with the institution and profession where I have spent the past 11 years of my life, Dickinson's education provided me the tools necessary to serve in my role as effectively as I hope I have. At Dickinson, I majored in biochemistry and molecular biology and was a captain and member of the varsity swimming team. Both of these roles provided me with a base to understand each craft but the breadth of engagements in which I participated at Dickinson provided additional communication, writing, problem-solving and relationship-building skills that have been instrumental in my role in a residential community. Life at the Extremes and Metabolism gave me great ideas for labs I used in my own classes as a teacher; Cultures of the US and Anthropology for the 21st Century helped me to understand different cultures and their backgrounds; Environment, Culture and Values gave me a newfound respect for nature and our role in protecting our resources; Introduction to Public Speaking taught me how to present my ideas clearly to an audience; and Fundamentals of Business taught me how to take an organization or idea from concept to reality. All of these classes in addition to others came together to give me the skills necessary to thrive in today's ever-changing climate and the education of young people therein.
What inspired your gift to Dickinson?
I recognize my responsibility to give back to an institution that provided me with so much. I am proud to have spent four years at Dickinson, and, given the choice, I would choose Dickinson again. In addition to my parents, there were others that made my Dickinson experience a reality, and I hope my gift provides the same and additional opportunities for future students to forge a path inspired by Dickinson values.
Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?
Our school is and always will be as good as its alumni. As such, I think it is important for all alumni to support a school that has supported us.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?
There are so many memories that draw from so many different moments—it is cliche for me to say but it is impossible for me to pick a single memory. I suppose one of the highlights that comes to mind goes all the way back to my first year, as a "Drayer 3rd-floorian.” I fondly look back on my time living on the third floor of Drayer Hall and occasionally using the rickety old elevator to get from the 3rd floor down to the basement. I recall the spring festival out on the lawn, weekly screenings of whatever television series was most prominent, epic Super Smash Brothers battles, and heart-to-heart conversations with now longtime friends. Grabbing chicken tenders from the SNAR, soft pretzels from the Quarry, a brown bag full of drinks from grab-and-go, or spending hours sitting in the Dining Hall with other Drayer residents; all were regular occurrences which created moments in time I know relish. And, believe it or not, evenings in Waidner-Spahr Library bring back nothing but great memories or study sessions filled with coffee, Rold Gold Pretzels, and Gummy Worms. My memory is littered with moments of great times at Dickinson—all made possible by friends and faculty to whom I am eternally grateful.
Can you tell us about what you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.?
I enjoy spending time with family and friends, ideally outdoors on a farm. I enjoy traveling to new states or countries and talking with people I have never met before. I enjoy shooting sporting clays and skeet. I enjoy reading books about motivation, leadership, and organizational culture. I enjoy rewatching old episodes of The Office, seeing new movies in theater, and watching live theatrical and musical performances. And I enjoy taking my dog Tucker Phelps Guldin on long walks.
What is one piece of advice you would give to today’s students?
Listen; don't react. Compromise; don't convince. And be humble through it all. I appreciate the words of President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." I am hopeful that we can get to a place where people are genuinely interested in listening to the thoughts and opinions of others without reacting or convincing them otherwise. I think we can accomplish much by working together and putting the collective good and will to serve others before our own, often selfish desires.
Published September 30, 2020