As we continue with our Alumni Spotlight project we diving in with Molly Dean Bittner of Dickinson swimming. Molly, who is a member of the class of 1987, talks about her passion for Dickinson because of the connection it has with people when brought up in conversation.
Molly got into swimming at a young age when her mother signed her up for a learn to swim program. "In my town where I grew up the learn to swim program fed into the AAU and U.S. Swimming programs, and then into the high school programs," Molly said. "It was all run by the same person and he was a very smart man. He told my mother after a meet or two 'she has natural talent, you have to get her on the swim team.' We only later found out he said that to everybody." Molly can of course laugh about it when she tells that story.
When it came time to decide on the where she would spend her collegiate years Molly knew that swimming had to be part of the equation. "There was never any doubt that I wanted to swim in college," Molly stated. "I didn't know what division I wanted to swim in though. After visiting Penn State, it was their coach that talked me into visiting Dickinson. He asked me what type of experience I wanted and he said 'you want to go Dickinson, you don't want to come to Penn State.'"
She knew she wanted a small intimate environment but didn't fully understand the value of a liberal arts education. As time went on Molly began to see the benefits of a small liberal arts school through getting to know her professors and other students outside of her teammates.
Being able to be a student-athlete, an RA, be involved in freshmen orientation, as well as other groups on campus helped Molly fully immerse herself in the collegiate experience. "What I really learned to do is pursue my passions," Molly stated. "I could keep my academics strong while maintaining a balance between athletics, Greek life, and other interests as well as learning time management."
In the pool on and on the pool deck it was the team that made Molly's experience so memorable. The memories always rush back when she sees her teammates or hears their names. Being able to maintain relationships and friendships with teammates from all different classes really was impactful for Molly and showed how close the team really was. However, the one thing that stands out most notably for Molly about her time here was how supportive the faculty was of her swimming. "Adjusting test scheduling or things like so I wouldn't have to stress before nationals was really meaningful," Molly said. Those types of relationships outside of the pool helped make her Dickinson experience that much better and impactful.
Now after 25 years in higher education Molly remembers the lessons she learned from the professors and Coach Joe McEvoy and how they played a vital role in her career. "I knew how to write, I knew how to analyze, and look for trends," Molly said. "You want to look for trends in fundraising, that's marketing. I felt very well set up to do that academically and get the job done from a time management standpoint."
Molly knows the value of alumni support for a program and with the connection to new Head Coach Katie McArdle it's extremely close to home because of the friendship built with Katie's father. "Her father [Dave] was a swimmer when I was there," Molly said. "So, I am looking forward to getting to know her and see how I can help the team continue to have the culture it has always had." The hire and feeling amongst Molly and her teammates, has been one of joy and excitement knowing that for them Dickinson swimming has come full circle in a way with Katie's hire. "It's fun to have that connection with Dave and know that his experience will live on. I am excited for her, as she is the first female coach in program history and youngest we have ever hired."
Molly had a truly outstanding career during her time at Dickinson, leading the Red Devils to a Middle Atlantic Conference Championship in 1984 and three straight second-place finishes in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In addition to being an All-American, she was highy decorated with multiple All-Conference honors and individual conference titles in each of her four seasons. She received the McAndrews Award in 1985 and was inducted into the Dickinson Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Click on the video below to watch her exclusive interview.