At the Wellesley athletics department, Tom Wilson has three titles: assistant director for facility scheduling, physical education registrar and assistant volleyball coach. Wilson, who initially planned to work at Wellesley as the assistant volleyball coach only until he finished his PhD in history, has been working for Wellesley since 1997.
Born in Nebraska and raised in Missouri, Wilson has had a passion for both history and volleyball for over 40 years. After graduating from Central Missouri State with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in history, he taught high school social studies for 10 years just outside Kansas City, MO. Then, in 1991, Wilson and his wife moved to Boston so that he could pursue a PhD in history at Brandeis University. However, after completing all of his coursework, finishing most of the dissertation research and completing a two-year graduate fellowship at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT, Wilson’s dissertation grant money ran out. He then decided to work part time for a year as an assistant volleyball coach to pay the bills.
“My plan was to work at Wellesley for one year while I finished my dissertation, then become a history professor somewhere. I’m still here,” Wilson said.
He is not surprised that he ended up in an athletics department at a liberal arts college, as he has always valued education and sports. His biggest passion is volleyball, which he has played and coached for almost 40 years.
“I love the choreography, the athleticism, the power and finesse, the logic, the angles, the sounds, the tactile sensations… everything. I even love the way the ball smells. So yeah, I guess I’m passionate about volleyball,” Wilson stated.
Aside from his seasonal job as the assistant coach, Wilson also spends time scheduling events at the Keohane Sports Center (KSC) and at the outdoor athletics facilities. He schedules Physical Education (PE) classes, varsity contests and practices, club sports, student organizations, outside groups, meetings and major events. The KSC holds an average of 12,000 events each year.
“My job is to make them all fit and keep everyone as satisfied as possible,” Wilson said.
In addition, he does PE registrar work each day, working with students, the registrar’s office and class deans. As the PE registrar, he oversees PE registrations, maintains student records, builds the PE schedule each year and is the first point of contact for students as they pursue fulfilling the graduation requirement. His workload tends to be the heaviest in the weeks around the start and end of each semester.
“It’s challenging work, but I enjoy it,” Wilson said. His three roles at the athletics department each present different challenges. But, according to him, they all boil down to logic problems, which he enjoys solving. And the rewards for his three roles are the same: interacting with members of the Wellesley community every day. He enjoys working both with his colleagues and with students.
“I’ve worked here for 20 years, and every morning as I drive down [route] 135 and approach the entrance to the college, I think to myself, ‘Man I get to work at Wellesley.’ As my wife always said, I have the best job in the world,” Wilson said.
As someone who enjoys reading, solving crossword puzzles and looking at maps and did some database work while in graduate school, his job positions at Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (PERA) suit him well.
Wilson advises Wellesley students to explore outside of their comfort zones while at college.
“Sleep more. Exercise more. Laugh more. Most importantly (and this is coming from a perfectionist), stop trying to be perfect. There are things in life that are much more important than winning volleyball matches or getting an ‘A’ in organic chemistry,” he explained.