A tribute to Nate Krissoff from Seth Borland ’03, his swim team co-captain.

I still remember when Nate Krissoff ’03 first called me “baby.” A few minutes earlier while scavenging the cheese selection at the “meet the president” party during First Days, another freshman swimmer introduced me to Nate. We had your typical get-to-know-you conversation, discussing our backgrounds, where we were from, and where we lived on campus.

He was from Reno, I was from Pittsburgh. He went to a prestigious west coast boarding school, I went to a small east coast private school. He lived in Fayerweather, I lived in Williams Hall. Though we had little in common we clicked, and for some reason I didn’t falter when he called me “baby.” It seemed natural, and without thinking too much about it, I also began using the word.

Rest below the break.

Though popularized by the movie Swingers, Nate’s favorite saying was soon picked up by the rest of the swimming and water polo teams at Williams. I still say it whenever I speak with Williams alums. Those alums still say it back. In creating a unique lingo, Nate helped solidify a memorable bond between friends and teammates. Needless to say, Nate’s arsenal of one word anthems didn’t end with “baby.” Most Williams’ swimmers remember being constantly pelted with Nate’s one-liners: “epic,” “carpe diem,” “standard” and, most notably, “athlete.”

Athlete: Nate said it often, but always with vigor. Nate was an athlete, and he believed that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary feats of the body and mind. He was a Junior National champion kayaker in high school and represented the United States at multiple competitions in Europe. He was the captain of the swimming and water polo teams in high school and at Williams. He loved competition, particularly the annual swim meet against Amherst. He treasured the stillness of the locker room with everyone deep in thought, the synchronized claps as we marched out onto the deck and the electricity in the air signifying that the moment had come to put it all on the line. These were the snapshots of time, he would say before the Amherst meet, we would have forever.

He cheered loudly for the little guy, the teammate who swam simply because he loved Williams swimming. I believe he cherished most the moments when that timid swimmer, who up until then remained quiet, swam out of his mind to score essential points for the Ephs.

As co-captains of the swim team our senior year, we acted as motivators. Nate was a natural leader, and a beautiful orator. His words of encouragement were as sincere and as bold as I have ever heard. Before big meets, Nate would quote Aristotle, Shakespeare and Tolstoy, but mostly he spoke from his own breadth of knowledge and experience. His words were brief, eloquent and passionate. He said more in one sentence than I could say in a ten-minute monologue. Nate believed everyone could make a difference, be it as an individual or as a part of a team, and his words fueled everyone’s potential.

“It’s just a letter grade,” Nate often told me during my time at Williams. It took me awhile to accept Nate’s dogma, but now that I’m in graduate school I know exactly what he meant. Nate lived for the experience. He never set swimming goal times for himself or spoke about what GPA he wanted to maintain. Instead, his goals focused on the emotive power of sport, or the thrill of questioning a professor’s statement. Often when I had to choose between studying or going out, he’d say that later in life I’d remember the times with friends and forget the schoolwork. As usual, Nate was right. Today I can recall details of times spent with friends, while the exams are collecting dust in the recesses of my mind.

There are other small things that I remember about Nate which, though odd, defined him and have left the imprint of his character upon my own. If he found a new song he loved, he would play it incessantly but somehow not tire of it. He spoke constantly about the places he’d been, and the foreign women he doted upon.

Also memorable was the blue and white Adidas track suit-top he wore almost everywhere, from breakfast in Mission to dinner at Mezze. Nate appeared laid back, but was constantly in thought. Most people said he wore an expression that made it appear that he knew something you didn’t. He was a talented musician, a beautiful writer and a great friend. He will be forever remembered at Williams, as well as among his fellow Marines and his family. We will miss Nate and cherish the memories that we will always carry with us.

“Carpe Diem” is, indeed, a wonderful phrase for Williams. The more memories of Nate that we record now, the easier it will be to remember him in the decades to come.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email