Jan. 25, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. -
As part of Flashback Friday, GoStanford.com presents an interview between a former Stanford gymnast and team manager Tori Lewis. This week, Tori interviews Merilyn Chapman.
Tori: Can you catch everyone on up on what you’ve been doing since you graduated Stanford?
Merilyn: Yeah, It’s been quite some time! I graduated in 1985. I have raised 3 children. My daughter just graduated from Stanford. She completed a co-term and graduated just last June, in earth systems. I got to go back to campus often and go to gymnastics meets.
I have a son who also just graduated from college last June, from Western Washington University and he majored in economics and political science. He’s now living in South Korea.
My youngest son is an engineering student at the University of Washington. I also have a personal training and fitness business that I do part time.
Tori: What life lesson has stuck with you from your time in the gym?
Merilyn: There are just so many things that you learn early on. Our sport is so unique because you start to learn from such a young age the sort of mental and physical discipline that comes from training for something.
I have to say, as I’m older now, the one thing that I look at now is the daily regimen of exercise. I stay in shape! That’s what I do in my business, is I teach other women and men how to stay in shape. Physical health has gotten so important as I’ve gotten older.
Aside from all the psychological benefits from participating in a sport like we did, it’s just the physical thing of “I work out every day, it’s just who I am, I’ve done it since I was 5 years old.”
Tori: What’s your favorite memory from SWG?
Merilyn: It’s been so many years and when I started competing at Stanford, the program was in its infancy. The coach at the time [Jackie Walker], her goal was to recruit, so that she could develop the team. I don’t have memories of a big competition, you know, we never made NCAA’s or anything like that, but some of my favorite memories are just the road trips that we took. Just a bunch of goofy, quirky, intelligent young ladies traveling together. Probably not unlike it is today, we got into a lot of crazy antics.
As I read about the team, it’s different now, it’s a little more serious competition, but the team camaraderie is similar.
Tori: Can you talk a little about your broader Stanford experience?
Merilyn: I was a liberal artsy gal, and I was a history major. I loved languages, and I think some of that is that before I got to Stanford, I was on the national gymnastics team and travelling overseas and visiting different countries. So when I got to Stanford, I totally gravitated to studying overseas.
I had the opportunity to go to Austria, actually, with a group of teammates. It is probably one of my most vivid memories. I also studied in Berlin. I learned to speak German. I really enjoyed being able to get away from campus, and being able to study and learn in a different country. We even got to work out – the coach had set up a gym where we got to train while we were there.
Tori: How have you stayed connected to the community post-graduation?
Merilyn: It was tough before the internet and Facebook. We drifted apart over time. Once the internet and Facebook became huge, we were able to reconnect more. It used to be really sporadic but now it’s like we didn’t even miss a beat. We can sit there and reminisce, falling right back into that old teammate mode. I think that shared bond lasts.
Tori: Do you have any advice for the current athletes?
Merilyn: Stanford is such a unique experience. Having raised my three kids, just the experience and opportunities that Stanford has – take it all in. Go outside of the gym. If your schedule allows, study abroad! Take advantage of the really big programs that our school offers. It’s quite an opportunity.
My daughter ended up studying in Madrid and South Africa, and I highly encouraged that. Now she looks back and she’s so glad she did that. Outside of enjoying the beautiful campus and learning, go outside your comfort zone. Also, go above and beyond to maintain your friendships because those things are so key.
Tori: Do you have any other thoughts or reflections you’d like to share?
Merilyn: To see what Kristen Smyth has done with the team and how she helps to develop the gals in and outside of the gym is really exciting. The girls are so lucky to have such a great coach. And listen to her because she’s wise! She’s developing fantastic athletes and wonderful young women. It’s so great to see where the program is now. One of these days, we’re going to win NCAA’s! It’s interesting to feel like a pioneer of this program that is now doing so well.