Academic-Athletic Fellows Spotlight: Peter H. Quimby

Peter H. Quimby is currently Princeton’s Deputy Dean of the College and an Academic-Athletic Fellow with the Tiger Field Hockey and Men’s Ice Hockey teams. He recently took the time to answer some questions for a segment in the PVC News. The full text of the interview follows.

PVCN: Could you briefly discuss your background and interest in athletics?

PQ: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in intercollegiate sports. I grew up playing hockey on the rink at Hamilton College and loved to watch D-III teams play. I was a student-athlete in high school, and not a very good one, either!, but enthusiasm for soccer and hockey and my love of competition kept me engaged. For most of my adult life I have worked in higher education and have developed a special appreciation for the role that athletics can play in the educational process—for student-athletes and non-student-athletes alike.

PVCN: Why did you choose to join the Faculty Fellow program?

PQ: When I stepped into the role of Faculty Athletics Representative I knew I wanted to find ways to get to know student-athletes. And while my responsibilities as FAR transcend all teams, there’s no way for me to create meaningful relationships with student-athletes as a whole. So I decided to choose two teams—one men’s team and one women’s—in different seasons. I chose men’s ice hockey because I’ve been a college hockey fan my entire life (I go to the Frozen Four every year with my father and brothers), and because I was so impressed with the work Guy Gadowsky had done to rebuild the Princeton program. I chose field hockey for one simple reason—I worked with Kristen Holmes-Winn on the NCAA Certification process and was blown away by her commitment to the success of her student-athletes both in and outside the classroom. I knew nothing about field hockey, but I was so impressed by her as a person that I wanted to be a part of her program.

PVCN: What has been the most rewarding aspect of the program so far?

PQ: Getting to know so many student-athletes. Being an undergraduate at Princeton is a serious undertaking. Adding the responsibilities of being a D-I varsity student-athlete on top of that is extraordinarily impressive. Quite honestly I am inspired by our student-athletes. Their dedication to their teams, to each other as individuals, and to the University make me proud to be a part of Tiger athletics, and the Princeton University community more broadly.

PVCN: Have any specific experiences with Princeton Athletics or Tiger student-athletes had a particularly strong effect on you?

PQ: I don’t think any experience can compare to being on the road with a team. Traveling with student-athletes has given me an even deeper understanding of and appreciation for the time management skills and tremendous focus our students possess. Weekend trips require that students do their reading for class on a bus, write papers in hotel rooms, expend enormous physical energy in competition, and then return to campus exhausted. Any yet, they manage all of this without complaint, enjoying the privilege of being Princeton student-athletes. I just find our student-athletes to be an enormously impressive group.

PVCN: This is a quote from Alan Reynolds ’11 (Men’s Hockey), discussing your time as Faculty Fellow for his team: “Some people say, ‘I’m here for you if you ever need anything,’ and he did that, but he went beyond that… he was very involved and a very positive and helpful person” (The Daily Princetonian, 10/7/2010). Discuss the relationships that you’ve been able to develop with the student-athletes on your teams.

PQ: I believe that our Academic-Athletic Fellows Program works best when fellows find ways to establish meaningful relationships with student-athletes on the team. Those relationships are just like any others; they require an investment of time and energy. I have tried to be a visible presence for the teams with which I work, and have tried to find ways to suggest to students how I might be helpful to them as they make their way through the University. By being around and getting to know students, I think they feel more comfortable reaching out to me when they have questions. Sometimes the questions relate directly to my work in the Dean of the College Office, but just as often students are just looking for a mentor—someone to talk with who isn’t their coach or their professor. For me, these conversations are the best part of being a fellow—helping students make the most of the opportunities available to them at Princeton.

PVCN: You have served as Princeton’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA – could you describe that position and experience?

PQ: In general terms, the FAR is the person whose responsibility it is to ensure that the work of the Department of Athletics is aligned with the University’s educational values and the academic policies of the NCAA. In Princeton’s case, that job is pretty easy. I can’t imagine any institution where the values of the Department of Athletics are more in sync with the values of the University as a whole.

PVCN: What does “Education through Athletics” mean to you?

PQ: Princeton offers a residential liberal arts education, and as President Tilghman noted in her Commencement address last year, this philosophy assumes that students are engaged in the educational enterprise both in and outside the classroom. In this sense, the Department of Athletics is offering student-athletes a very profound educational experience, one that is focused on developing a wide range of personal and interpersonal skills—working together as a team, dealing with adversity, overcoming challenges, establishing and working toward common goals, to mention just a few.

PVCN: You’re moving on to become headmaster of The Governor’s Academy at the end of this academic year. What are you most looking forward to about your new position?

PQ: I am looking forward to leading an academic community where I can know every individual by name, students, faculty members, and staff alike. The high school years are tremendously important ones in a young person’s intellectual and social development, and independent schools bring adults together in powerful ways to help students articulate goals for themselves and decide how they can make a difference in the world. I look forward to creating an environment that fosters the development of thoughtful, intellectually curious, engaged citizens.

PVCN: Do you have any parting words that you’d like to share with the Princeton Athletics community?

PQ: Thank you! Gary Walters, the members of the PVC Board, and the coaches, administrators, and student-athletes in the Department of Athletics have made me feel like part of the team. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with the community, and will forever cherish the fond memories I take with me as I head on to other challenges.