Let Yourself Dream Too Big

By Matthew Hart

What’s it like to win a national title? What do conference champion soccer players talk about at dinner? How does Michael Jordan want to be remembered when he dies? Last spring Keri Lambert ’13, a history major, and Spencer Noon ’13, an American studies major, earned All-America honors for their performances on the field and track and were named Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America. In June they answered questions about their athletic and academic careers.

Let’s look at some high points during your junior seasons, starting with your national title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Keri. What was going through your mind before and after that race?

Lambert: Before trials, I was ridiculously nervous. It was my first time in an individual event at nationals, and it was very strange stepping on the line without my teammates. Before the championship, the girl next to me said, “You’re Keri. You must be so excited. You’re going to win.” After the race I was really excited, but I also had to run the 5k that afternoon.

Kerri Lambert '13 running Keri Lambert ’13 won a national title.
Photo by Megan Robertson ’15 

Spencer, in the final game of your junior year, you became the all-time leading scorer for the men’s soccer program. What was left to do after that?

Noon: Senior year, I was really focused on becoming a national champion and also an All-American. We weren’t able to win a national championship, but we never lost a game, and that’s still really special.

What courses shaped your academic experience?

Lambert: I came in thinking [I’d major in] biology but took a first-year seminar called “Drugs in History.” I started to realize there’s a lot more to history than a bunch of dead white guys. It was the professors who made the difference. The history department is so full of great characters—you’ll have one conversation with someone and want to go read their latest book.

Noon: I took an American studies seminar with [Assistant] Professor Robert Hayashi. The class invites you to pick a topic you’re passionate about and write a pretty long essay about it. I wrote mine on Michael Jordan, relating his Hall of Fame acceptance speech to a psychological term called “post-self,” [which relates to] how a person shapes their legacy before they die. The Hall of Fame speech signified how Jordan wanted to be remembered: Most people thank everyone, and he didn’t. He called out everyone, and it fueled the idea that he was the most competitive guy anyone had ever met.

What’s the key to combining academic and athletic success?

Lambert: Perseverance, letting yourself dream a little too big. Amherst is a special place, in that if you want to do something, have your heart set and want to work hard, you have the resources and the people available to you.

Noon: Flexibility is the biggest thing. Your schedule is always going to be changing, but you have to be able to take your time and portion it out. Sports actually make it easier: A lot of student-athletes do better when they’re in season, because you really value your time.

Spencer Noon '13 in a soccer game Spencer Noon ’13 is the all-time leading scorer in men’s soccer.
Photograph by Rob Mattson

Keri, you recently received a Watson Fellowship for the upcoming year. Describe your project and what motivated you to pursue it.

Lambert: I’m taking off on Aug. 7 and planning to go to Ghana, Tanzania and Malaysia. My project is premised on the notion that people’s environments define who they are, that how they interact with the ground beneath their feet is a huge part of their identity. I grew up in Amherst and think of it—the hills I train on, the streams I fish in—as being a huge part of who I am. I’ll be seeing how the production of goods that are consumed on the global scale affects people locally in their day-to-day lives, by going to rubber farms, fisheries, oil plantations.

Spencer, you’ll be working in finance.

Noon: I was fortunate enough to get a job in New York City with UBS in their wealth management program. Last summer I stayed in Amherst and worked for a socially responsible investment firm called StakeHolders Capital. I love helping people, so it was a natural thing for me.

When your grandchildren ask you about college, what’s the first story you’ll tell them?

Lambert: I would probably tell of going to outdoor nationals during Senior Week and how happy and exciting it was to get back to campus. I was bummed with my performance at nationals. To get back and walk into a tent party with people chanting my name was just huge for me.

Noon: As soon as I got to Amherst as a freshman, Coach [Justin Serpone] held a team dinner to talk about world issues. We debated immigration reform and got pretty heated. I thought, “This is only possible at Amherst, to have a bunch of soccer players debating immigration.” It was a culture shock at the beginning, but I think it speaks greatly to the kind of place Amherst is.