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Life after Whitman Athletics

Kyle Howe

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All varsity athletes dedicate their lives to their respective sports at Whitman, working hard to balance academics and athletics. When these athletes graduate, they go in many different directions; some pursue careers, others turn their sights to graduate school. Regardless of what they do, the same work ethic that they perfected in college is with them after graduation.

Swimmer and alumnus Chris Bendix ’12 is still on campus, working a job his swim career helped him land.

“My current job is as the full-time assistant for the Whitman swim team. Because we are a combined roster (men and women) of 42 athletes and our season is so long (mid-September through mid-March), having a full-time assistant coach is extremely important for the success and advancement of our program. I do a lot of work with the actual on-deck coaching every day and I do a lot of work compiling data on swimming recruits as well as keeping in touch with them. My job also includes teaching swimming classes each semester,” said Bendix.

Bendix is also pursuing work outside of the Whitman community.

“Outside of the Whitman team, I’m planning to do some coaching with the Walla Walla Swim Club this summer. I got to help out a little bit with the Wa-Hi girls’ team back in the fall as well, which was very fun. It’d be fun to pick up something part-time with a local winery, too,” said Bendix.

His work with the swim team has quickly become a passion, and he is planning on making a career out of it.

“In the long term, I’d like to find a position working as a graduate-assistant coach, preferably at the DIII level. I definitely enjoy coaching, so if I can land a job earning a master’s degree and continuing to coach, I’ll be thrilled,” said Bendix.

Although graduated life has its perks, he misses the student life.

“Do I miss being a student?  I definitely miss the social aspect of it; but, at least for now, I’m happy that I get to spend my free time doing whatever I want. Reading whatever I feel like reading is also definitely a plus,” said Bendix.

Alumnus Conor Holton-Burke is an Academic All-American who graduated in 2012 and has also remained on campus, working hard on a research project and with the tennis team.

“I’m assistant coaching the tennis team. I’m also working as an intern for the Athletics Department. I’ve been doing research with Dr. Juers. His project involves developing a quantitative methodology for cryoprotection. Basically, cryocooling causes damage to crystals in X-ray crystallography, and he’s interested in minimizing that damage. The team is currently exploring many different avenues to do that,” said Holton-Burke.

Holton-Burke is also involved with a number of activities outside of research and tennis.

“I’ve also been volunteering at St. Mary’s hospital and shadowing a physician at a clinic. More recently, Alyssa Roberg and I have started a shoe drive to hopefully collect shoe donations in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Soles4Souls. There are boxes all around campus in most dorms, Reid, BFFC and Bratton for those with extra pairs,” said Holton-Burke.

Graduate life is essentially the same for Holton-Burke as it was in college.

“As far as being a graduate goes, it’s really not that different from when I was a student. I still stay busy during the day with volunteering basically substituting for class and research substituting for my lab periods. I still go to practices and workouts with the team as the assistant coach. When everyone else is doing homework, I’m writing game stories, taking pictures and managing the Athletic Department’s Facebook page,” said Holton-Burke.

Not all Whitman graduates stay on campus after graduating, however. Alumnus Jay Richards ’11 is a graduated varsity baseball player who made the Academic All Conference team in 2011 and is pursuing a career off campus.

Jay Richards.  Photos contributed by

Jay Richards ’11 when he played baseball at Whitman. Photo contributed by Richards.

“I’m working out in Gig Harbor. I’m opening up a Carl’s Jr. chain and doing commercial real estate development,” Richards said.

Despite being disconnected from the athletic life at Whitman, Richards has found ways to play baseball.

“It is hard to compete when you lose the structure that you are used to being involved with it. I played on my little brother’s team for a few weeks over the summer, and I played in an adults’ league with a few other Whitman alumni. What I miss most is being competitive. It is hard to find another outlet,” said Richards.

Like most alumni, Richards misses Whitman life, particularly the people.

“There are a lot of things I miss about it. The few things I miss most about it [are] being on a team and competing. That was a great experience. The thing I miss most about Whitman is being around people who are young and ambitious and thoughtful, which is difficult to find outside of Whitman,” said Richards.

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Life after Whitman Athletics