As we continue with our Alumni Spotlight project we are diving back into the pool and speaking with Dickinson swimming alumnus Sam Eaton. Sam, who now is at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about the honor and privilege it was to be at a place like Dickinson, that was rich in history both academically and athletically that gave him experiences and values he couldn't have gained elsewhere.
Sam, who grew up swimming, only really took part in the sport during the summer as something to do. He didn't join his school swim team until he was a senior. "My senior of high school, some people approached me and said, hey you are pretty good at this, we'd love to have you on the high school swim team," Sam stated. "From that day, I jumped into the water and haven't looked back since."
When it came time for Sam to decide where he wanted to spend the next four years of his life, it was almost a forgone conclusion for him. "I think I am in the minority when I say I am not only a legacy but a double legacy here at Dickinson," Sam said. "Both my parents went to Dickinson and graduated in 1981. My mom was actually on the Dickinson swim team, back when the pool was in the basement of the Weiss Center."
Sam truly wanted swimming to be part of his experience but didn't want that to get in the way of his success in the classroom. Dickinson jumped off the page to him when he was going through the process and after meeting with Coach Richards it was done deal.
Through a rigid structure and finding a balance between athletics, academics as well as a social life, Sam was able to find success both in the pool and out. "I found that as soon as I stopped that regiment and that structure in the postseason it was so much more difficult to keep my schedule together," Sam said with a laugh. "I was so fortunate that we were able to organize captains' practices year-round."
Having a fascination with science when he arrived on the campus of Dickinson College, Sam knew the direction he wanted to go academically during his four years. "What I found so fascinating about Dickinson, was the relationships that I got to build with my professors," Sam said. "I was able to join the lab of Professor Mike Roberts and begin a research project. Being able to talk to others in the Chemistry and Biology Departments really helped show me what I wanted to do."
Now at the University of Pennsylvania working toward achieving his PhD. Sam continuously pulls on the lessons he learned from Dickinson and in particular the professors and people who helped him along in his journey. "What I found so valuable about my liberal arts education was the ability to think about questions," Sam stated. "I am able to think about them in an abstract way and think about how I can approach a problem. Developing that way to think critically to go about how you can answer those problems."
When looking back, Sam takes great pride in knowing he got to 'Wear The Red' and call himself an alumnus from Dickinson. "Swimming is an entire team effort," Sam said. "Knowing my performance helps my teammates gave me such a tremendous feeling of belonging." Sam stated that being at such a small school forced him socially to branch out and get to know people and "really forces you to be out going and get to know people that are there from different groups and that is something so valuable."
Sam capped a great career with a strong senior season. He was named the 2017 Centennial Conference Men's Swimming Scholar Athlete of the Year, garnering the highest grade-point-average among student-athletes that earned All-Conference recognition. Sam earned All-CC honors placing second in the 200-yard breaststroke. He broke the school record in the prelims with a time of 2:05.67 and was just off that mark in the finals with a 2:05.79. He added a school record in the 100-breaststoke as well, clocking a 57.39, which still stands. Sam claimed a bronze medal in the 200-breaststroke at the 2016 championships, anchoring the 800-free relay to another school record. He was also a three-time selection to the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll.
Follow the link below to check out Sam's exlcusive interview.