Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Rich '96: tennis player, fraternity member, Assembly president

In between two-hour practices and weekly intercollegiate competitions, most varsity athletes at the College barely find the time to attend classes, study, eat meals and sleep.

Now try to imagine being a varsity athlete and the Student Assembly President, a job which many students say is a large enough time commitment in itself.

But somehow Assembly President Jim Rich '96 is able to juggle his classwork and his presidency and still keep his spot as the number one seed on Dartmouth's tennis team.

It is not unreasonable to think that all this power and prestige might go to Rich's head. But Rich said he tries to keep it all in perspective.

"I'm not the most talented tennis player," he said in a recent interview, adding most of his successes come from hard work. Rich denied he is the type of guy who always seeks the spotlight, except for on "the tennis court -- there I enjoy the spotlight."

Life as an athlete

Rich said the College's academic reputation intimidated him when he first enrolled at Dartmouth.

Heavily recruited out of The Derryfield School in Manchester, Rich joined the tennis team his freshman fall.

He said he ended up spending all his time that term either studying or playing tennis.

Holden Spaht '96, Rich's doubles partner and captain of the men's tennis team, has known Rich since that first term in 1992.

"The first thing I noticed about [Rich] was his desire," Spaht wrote in an electronic-mail message.

"He wanted to be the best at everything he did (and still does), and he has come pretty close," he said.

Rich escaped the routine of tennis and studying in his sophomore fall, when he pledged Alpha Delta fraternity. Rich said becoming involved in the Greek system enabled him to have more of a social life and that it gave him the opportunity to meet a lot of people and opened the door for lasting friendships.

"I like the Greek system," Rich said. "It's been really good to me."

But while Rich conceded the Greek system has some problems -- specifically that it should more inclusive -- he said the Greek system is open to all students.

"The Greek system is not just for the white male or female at Dartmouth," he said. "It's for everyone."

Rich's roommate, Matt McGill '96, met Rich during a party their freshman year. McGill, who said Rich is "my best friend around here," added that while Rich's schedule is often packed, the two still find time to hang out.

"We may go to Murphy's and have a beer, play a game of chess, shoot the breeze," McGill said. "I try to encourage him to take it easy sometimes."

"Jim is a hard-working kid," McGill said. "Things don't always come as easily to him as people would believe. He works hard for what he wants."

But Rich has not always been an automatic success at Dartmouth. When he first joined the tennis team, his individualistic attitude offended some of the older players, according to Spaht. Rich began his tennis career by playing for himself before the rest of the team, Spaht wrote.

"The trick is learning to put the team first and focusing on winning your matches against your opponents regardless of where you play in the lineup," Spaht wrote.

Spaht wrote that Rich eventually learned his lesson and became a positive member of the tennis team.

"Once he learned [his lesson], the team warmed up to him and he has played a huge leadership role on our team ever since," Spaht wrote. "I consider Jimmy a loyal friend, and beyond that I have the utmost respect for his extensive achievements."

Rich is currently Dartmouth's number one singles and the number one doubles player and is currently ranked as the number nine singles player in the Eastern Tennis Association.

Life in the Assembly

A 22-year-old government major from Bedford, Rich garnered 32 percent of the student body's vote last spring to win the presidency. A newcomer to the Assembly, Rich promised to reduce the infighting and divisiveness that has caused the Assembly to lose student respect in recent years.

Since his election, Rich has worked hard to ease the Assembly through changes created by a new constitution, and has had some success in depoliticizing the student government.

Rich said he decided to run for Assembly president because he was attracted to the challenge of restoring legitimacy and credibility to the Assembly.

"My goal is that come Spring term, Dartmouth students will be able to say that the SA matters, it does things for students," Rich said. "It's not a bunch of college kids trying to play politics."

Rich said he was very optimistic about this year's Assembly. "People on this Assembly respect each other," he said. "They respect the Assembly."

"I'm not intimidated by my job. I just have to put it in perspective," he said. "The job takes a lot of patience, a lot of hours. I take it day by day, give it my best, then I'm able to sleep well."

Assembly Vice President Kelii Opulauoho '96 declined to comment about Rich's job as Assembly president or on his relationship with Rich.

Breaking the jock mold

Rich said tennis has always been Rich's favorite sport. "The tennis court is a real home for me," he said. "It's an intense place for me, the most comfortable place."

Rich played throughout his high school career and was an All-American two years in a row.

He said during his sophomore year, he decided to break out of the "jock mold."

Rich tried his hand at journalism and drama, finding success in both areas. He was editor in chief of his high school newspaper for two years, during which time he revitalized the previously failing paper, he said.

Rich said he really enjoyed the struggle to rejuvenate an organization that was on the ropes. He said his experiences as an editor helped him decide last year to run for Assembly president.

While he said is currently unsure of his post-graduation plans, Rich did not rule out one day running for public office, citing his experience working for Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H.

Rich is currently applying for a Rhodes scholarship. He said he would "love to go to England and study at Oxford," adding that such a trip would fulfill a "childhood dream."