HAVERFORD, Pa. – Haverford College's Department of Athletics on Thursday evening honored senior Aaron Buikema with the William W. Ambler Award, presented annually to the senior athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average.
To win the award, a student must have participated and started in at least one sport throughout his/her college career, and demonstrated commitment, sportsmanship and leadership.
The road to Haverford College’s cross country and track teams wasn’t without its personal hurdles for Buikema. After taking up running in middle school as a way to keep busy, Buikema headed into his high school years planning to continue to pursue the sport on a more serious basis. Hurdles rose in his path, though, as Buikema labored through a high school career so filled with injury that at least one doctor advised him to try another sport.
Choosing to continue to run on a college team seemed out of the question given an on-again, off-again relationship with the sport in high school, but Buikema found at Haverford "a welcoming community comprised of runners who pushed themselves to their limits both on and off the course," which turned that difficult decision into an easy one.
"Haverford looked to be the kind of place where I didn’t have to choose between sports and school," remembered Buikema. Once enrolled at the College, "I was able to learn how much the athletic experience compliments the academic one."
Buikema endeavored to follow two academic paths, both in the sciences, at Haverford. He terms the mathematics and physics programs "intellectually rigorous." Though the programs were challenging, Buikema found the two inspiring and enjoyed the small community at the College which "allowed me to interact with my peers and numerous professors."
Advisor Peter John Love shares a high opinion of Buikema with a pair of collaborators—Greg Engel at the University of Chicago, and Ken Brown at Georgia Tech—who have worked with the Haverford senior on a theoretical project for Buikema’s senior thesis and voiced similar thoughts. "While he is a true laboratory scientist and loves experimental science," states Love, "Aaron’s abilities are equally strong in theoretical work. He has been working on one of the most long-standing and difficult problems in my research program and his work has pointed us toward a solution. It has been a real pleasure working with Aaron."
When his academic road became frustrating, Buikema found that "pounding out a few miles" was as helpful intellectually as well as it was athletically, something his coach, Tom Donnelly, appreciated.
"Aaron is incredibly dedicated, hardworking and passionate about running," said Donnelly. "Even though a series of injuries have sidetracked him, Aaron has never backed off from his goal of being the best athlete he can be, and a person who contributes to the overall success of the team."
The programs Buikema has been a part of have captured three Centennial Conference cross country titles, two indoor track & field conference crowns and two outdoor league titles. Buikema has run alongside 10 cross country All-Americans and has been part of indoor and outdoor track & field teams that produced 12 individual all-American honorees. In addition, Buikema trained with a pair of relay quartets that earned all-American honors for the distance medley relay.
Buikema is active off the race course and track as he has been a physics tutor since his sophomore year and currently shares the leadership position of Street Outreach, a Haverford club that makes and delivers sandwiches to the homeless of Philadelphia.
Future plans include graduate school to obtain a doctorate in physics, with a focus on experimental atomic, molecular, and optical physics.
Ambler epitomized the scholar-athlete. He graduated from Haverford in 1949 with honors in mathematics and was a starting tackle on the last undefeated football team in 1942. Despite his lack of bulk, a teammate once said of him, "When Bill hit you, you stayed hit." Originally in the Class of 1945, Bill left Haverford to perform alternative service as a conscientious objector in World War II.
After graduation, Ambler taught math at Oakwood School and was an admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania when Director of Admission Archibald MacIntosh ’21 asked him to return to Haverford as his assistant in 1956. Ambler was named Associate Director of Admission in 1960, then Director upon "Mac’s" retirement in 1965. He himself retired in 1987, was honored by Haverford with an Honorary Degree in 1991, and died in 1995 soon after his 50th class reunion. No one who knew him will ever forget Bill’s piercing blue eyes, his spiritual depth, his interest in everyone he interviewed, and his love of Haverford.
In addition to Buikema, Thursday's banquet honored 15 of Haverford's most distinguished scholar-athlete for their own accomplishments and as representatives of the many student-athletes who have excelled during their time at Haverford. Listed below are those athletes along with their sport, head coach, major(s), advisor, and faculty liaison.
- Kimberly Carlomagno (track & field; Fran Rizzo), biology/psychology Jonathan Wilson, Alex Kitroeff
- Matthew Cebul (tennis; Sean Sloane), Political Science/Philosophy, Barak Mendelsohn, Robert Germany
- Alessandra Chen (soccer; Jamie Gluck) Biology, Rachel Hoang, Ken Koltun-Fromm
- David Colletta (cross country, track & field; Tom Donnelly), Mathematics/Physics, Josh Sabloff, Indradeep Ghosh
- Kevin Goff (baseball; Dave Beccaria), Chemistry/Psychology, Casey Londergan and Jenni Punt, John Dougherty
- Sara Hess (cross country, track & field; Fran Rizzo), chemistry, Casey Londergan, Alex Kitroeff
- Sydney Hyder (field hockey; Jackie Cox), biology/psychology, Rob Fairman, Wendy Sternberg
- Peter Kissin (cross country, Track & Field; Tom Donnelly), physics, Peter Love, Indradeep Ghosh
- Alec Koffer (track & field; Tom Donnelly), economics, Saleha Jilani, Indradeep Ghosh
- Emma Kornetsky (Track & Field; Fran Rizzo), psychology/cities and neuroscience, Rebecca Compton, Alex Kitroeff
- Matthew Liscovitz (baseball; Dave Beccaria), classical languages, Bret Mulligan and Deborah Roberts, John Dougherty
- Linus Marco (fencing; Chris Spencer), economics and political science, Richard Ball and Zachary Oberfield, Maud McInerney
- Sheera Rosenbaum (cross country, track & field; Fran Rizzo), biology, Karl Johnson, Alex Kitroeff
- Matthew Smith (cricket; Kamran Kahn ), chemistry and mathematics, Alex Norquist and Joshua Schrier
- Jacob Weisenthal (tennis; Sean Sloane), political science and Spanish, Anita Isaacs and Roberto Castillo Sandoval, Robert Germany