Peter Quimby, former Deputy Dean of the College and current Headmaster at the Governors Academy, delivered the following address upon receiving the Princeton Varsity Club Award for Distinction at the 2011 PVC Banquet. During his time at Princeton, Quimby served as an Academic-Athletic Fellow for the Field Hockey and Men’s Ice Hockey programs, and as Princeton’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA, among numerous other duties
“I confess that when Gary told me that he wanted to present me with an award this evening, but that he wasn’t sure what the award would be, I was a bit uneasy. Those of you who know Gary well are aware of his fondness for practical jokes, and it struck me that coming up on this stage tonight, where Gary clearly has home field advantage, would leave me totally exposed. My mind ran through the possibilities—perhaps we would present me with something to remember him by: a box of plastic cockroaches, for example, or one of his patented sound effects machines, or worse still, his office parrot. So what did I do to relieve my anxiety? I did what everyone on campus does who wants to know what’s really happening in the Department of Athletics—I called Kim. She reassured me that this would be a nice award, that I shouldn’t worry, and that I should bring my family. Well, Gary, nice doesn’t begin to describe it.above and beyond those required of the Deputy Dean.
Since I wasn’t sure until just now what I might be getting an award for, it was a bit hard to prepare remarks. I tried to imagine what I had done that might be award-worthy. And the more I thought about it, the more puzzled I became. Gary’s words were touching, and kind, and I am enormously grateful. But it strikes me that this situation is a bit inside-out. The more I reflected on the work I have done with the department of athletics over the last few years, the more convinced I became that I ought to be recognizing Athletics, not the other way around.
Being associated with Princeton Athletics has truly been an honor, and I’m not just thinking about the astonishing record of victories Gary mentioned earlier, or of Princeton’s complete and total domination of the Ivy League. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good win as much as anyone. But that’s not what makes me so proud to be associated with Princeton athletics. Rather, it is the dedication that I see from everyone in this department—from trainers and grounds keepers and administrators and coaches—to making Princeton an institution that embodies the student-athlete ideal. From where I sit in the Dean of the College Office, I simply could not be more proud of the work that you all do every day to create such an enormously positive educational experience for our student-athletes.
But even more importantly, I am honored to have had the opportunity to get to know so many incredibly talented student-athletes. And here I have to admit to a bit of bias. The welcome that I have received over the years from the men’s ice hockey team and the field hockey team have been highlights of my time at Princeton. It has been a tremendous privilege to develop relationships with so many men and women of extraordinarily character and ability. In fact, I think that in some ways you have inspired me to move on to a position that will allow me to have more regular and direct interaction with students, and I am sincerely grateful for all that you have given to me.
You have shared with me the joys of your triumph in competition, and you have also allowed me to share with you in the difficult and painful moments of defeat. But mostly, you have honored me by coming to me for advice and guidance on everything from career plans and course selection to summer internships and working with your faculty members to find balance in your complicated and extraordinarily challenging lives. If by giving me this award the Department of Athletics means to suggest that it values the time I have spent with you, and the efforts I have engaged in to make it possible for student-athletes to make the most of their time at Princeton, then I am honored, indeed. Honored to have played any part at all in the extraordinary tradition into which you breathe life every day—the tradition of Princeton Athletics. This is not merely a tradition of winning, but a tradition of excellence.
At the risk of singling out anyone when I am grateful to so many, let me mention just four people. First, my partner in the Dean of the College Office, Associate Dean Diane McKay. As I prepare to leave Princeton the one thing I’m clear on is that I could have accomplished little of lasting value without your dedication, hard work, incredible talent, and unfailing good humor. I will truly miss working with you. I have also had the joy of working closely with two extraordinary head coaches: Guy Gadowski and Kristen Holmes-Winn. Guy and Kristen, I cannot thank you enough for welcoming me so warmly into your programs. I have learned more from you than I can ever express, so let me just say this—educator to educator, you are two of the finest teachers I have ever seen in action. Your passion for the development of young men and women, as students, as athletes, and as people of character, has been a source of tremendous inspiration to me. Thank you. And finally, to Gary Walters. Gary, when we first met, President Tilghman issued us a challenge—to figure out how to make Princeton the best university in the country at creating an institutional culture that would support the academic and athletic success of our student-athletes. Whether we have succeeded in our mission is for others to say, but I am certain of one thing—I could not have asked for a better or more dedicated partner in that effort than you. Princeton Athletics is a successful organization because of the values you bring to your work. I have been thrilled to partner with you over the last few years, and I am proud to have you as my friend.