Washington & Jefferson College men’s water polo and swimming & diving student-athlete Nicholas Willison ’17 has been awarded a prestigious $7,500 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Willison is the 16th NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient at W&J, the first since Josh Etzel ’14 (wrestling) and Eddie Nogay ’14 (baseball) were recognized in 2014, and the eighth since 2007. A chemistry major with a minor in mathematics and member of the pre-health program, he is one of 58 student-athletes (29 male, 29 female) from all NCAA divisions to earn the scholarship for the fall season.
Willison, a native of Rockford, Mich., boasts a grade-point average of 3.99 and plans to use his postgraduate scholarship toward his studies at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he plans to pursue a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree.
He knows that his choice of W&J has helped direct his path toward medical school.
“Looking back, I could not have chosen a better school to attend,” said Willison. “W&J offers very challenging courses in all disciplines. The liberal arts education makes students well-rounded individuals.”
During the 2015-16 school year, Willison earned First Team Academic All-America honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America, making him the 48th W&J student-athlete to earn Academic All-America accolades and the 13th to net First Team acclaim. He earned the same honor again during the 2016-17 academic year.
He has twice been named an All-American by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches and is a four-time All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference honoree in swimming.
Willison understands that even away from the competition arena of the Henry Memorial Natatorium, his college choice helped prepare him for his future.
“I came to college as a very quiet and reserved person,” said Willison. “My experiences in college have caused me to leave my comfort zone, branch out, and to not only become more social, but also more personable.”
Willison is a seven-time Dean’s List honoree and Alpha Scholar at W&J, which recognizes students with a cumulative GPA above 3.85. As a sophomore, he earned the prestigious Rule, Hughes, Murphy Prize, which is awarded to sophomores with strong character and who demonstrate leadership in both the classroom and college community. He is also a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, Alpha Phi Omega, and Gamma Sigma Alpha honor societies, as well as a Peer Assisted Learning tutor and member of the Pre-Health Professions Society.
“Nick personifies all of the characteristics of a model NCAA Division III student-athlete,” said Scott McGuinness, director of athletics. “Earning a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship is a testament to his hard work and dedication in the classroom and the pool. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. We will always be proud to call Nick Willison a W&J President.”
Willison believes that the most important thing he will take away from his time at W&J is the value of dedication and perseverance.
“Dedication has taught me that if you are not committed to what is going on, either studying for a test or preparing for game or meet, the actual task will be miserable,” Willison said. “It is how the person reacts to the adverse situation that defines them.”
“Having perseverance makes weathering these situations tolerable. It is something you cannot learn in the classroom or from a book, but from experiences like those that I have had at W&J.”
As a well-rounded student-athlete, Willison realizes that there have been many people that have contributed to his growth at W&J. He counts among the most influential: Michael H. Orstein, swimming & diving head coach; his advisor, Michael S. Leonard, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair of chemistry; and Patricia A. Brletic, Ph.D., professor of chemistry.
“Coach Orstein has been my biggest supporter here on campus. Not only is he demanding of his swimmers to push themselves to greater heights, but he also cares about each and every one of us as a person,” Willison said. “Dr. Leonard and Dr. Breletic not only challenged me in the classroom, but helped me through major life decisions and wrote countless recommendation letters.”
When asked what advice he would give to future Presidents, Willison reflected upon the instances that he believes helped him grow into the person he is today.
“The best piece of advice that I can offer to future Presidents is to get involved in as many opportunities as you can in college. These opportunities will not only allow you to grow as a person, but will lead you to meet people who will become your lifelong friends and biggest supporters.”