Student-Athlete Spotlight

John Vaiani - Fencing

Class Year: 2018

Position: Foil Squad

Why did you choose Penn?

I choose Penn for a few reasons: first, Penn is an incredible academic institution, and I knew that I wanted to get the best education that I possibly could.  Along with this, many of my friends were at Penn on the fencing team, and on the foil squad specifically, so I knew that coming to Penn I would only improve both academically and athletically. 

What does the experience of being a Penn Fencing student-athlete mean to you?

Being a student-athlete Penn means much more than simply competing in your respective sport every other weekend, but instead being a part of Penn Athletics and the Penn Fencing team means that you always have a family to turn to whenever you are in need.  The Penn Athletics family is always there for you whether you need assistance in athletics, with recovery, with academics or if you just need someone to talk to.  It is reassuring to know that.

What has been your favorite moment/memory with Penn Fencing?

My favorite memory would probably be winning the Ivy League Championships last year at Cornell.  The Ivy schools are all the most elite schools that compete in the NCAA for fencing, and to win the tournament really does speak volumes about the level that Penn fencing is at and how we are constantly improving.  It was probably one of the coolest and happiest days of my life so far, and I hope we can repeat it again this year at Penn.

What has been your favorite class to date and why?

My favorite class thus far was probably HIST 168, the History of American Law taught by Professor Mary Frances Berry. The class is extremely interesting, not only because of my desire to one day become a lawyer, but also because Professor Berry is probably the best professor I have had at Penn to date.  Not only does she have real life experiences from being the chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, Professor Berry is also an excellent lecturer who holds a wealth of knowledge that makes you just want to sit down and listen and learn from her for hours.

What does life after Penn look like (where you live, what you will be doing)?

I’m not sure just yet what life will be looking like. Ideally I’ll be living somewhere warmer either in the South or on the West Coast studying law and looking for a job at a firm in those areas, but realistically I’ll probably be around the North East helping out with my family and studying to become a lawyer. 

What are some lessons that you have learned through athletics at Penn that will stay with you after graduation?

One of the most important things I have learned through athletics at Penn is to never give up no matter what your situation looks like.  After having just lost Ivy’s my freshman year, our men’s team was able to pick itself up, qualify the maximum amount of men for NCAAs, and go on to win the championships the next time around.  To witness the adversity of this team, not only as a member of the team, but also as a captain, I have learned to always stay positive and to continue to work hard because it is that work that will eventually pay off in the long run.

Last year, over 100 Penn Fencing alumni, family and friends made a financial contribution to your program to help provide you with things like equipment, training tools, uniforms, travel to away meets, meals on the road, sports medicine and sports performance.  What would you say to those who invest in your experience as a Fencing student-athlete?  

I would thank them for their support, and encourage them to continue that support with the future of the team. It is very clear that the fencing program at Penn is only getting better each year, and with the financial contributions from those Penn Fencing family, alumni, and friends this improvement will only be expedited in the coming years.