Remembering Ferrum’s Beloved Swim Coach

Tom Calomeris

By Sloan Champney

“We are gathered here to mourn and celebrate the life of our dear friend and coach Tom Calomeris,” The Dean of the Chapel, Jan Nicholson, began. The vigil for the beloved head coach of the swim team was held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7th at Vaughn Chapel. The entire swim team lined the front two pews, arms joined to support one another. The ceremony began with an introduction from Jan Nicholson, offering words of respect and healing towards the mourning community. According to Ferrum College website, Calomeris came to Ferrum in 2012, to be the women’s swimming coach. He began recruiting for a men’s swimming team, which launched in the fall of last year. Prior to coaching at Ferrum, he coached at Catholic University from 1987 until 2004. During this time, his team won four Capital Athletic Conference championships. He also had eight individuals qualify for the NCAA Division III National Championships. He was honored with Capital Athletic Conference Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year four times. In 1996, Calomeris served as the Paralympics Games Assistant Swimming Coach at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. He helped Joyce Luncher win four gold medals and break four world records for the United States. Other than his time serving as a renowned swim coach, he was also a police officer in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He earned the rank of detective before retiring after 20 years on the force. He is survived by his wife Mollie, as well as a 10-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.

Mr. Abe Naff, head of the athletic department, stepped up to the microphone with a heavy sigh. “I wear my emotions on my sleeve as I speak,” he said, continuing to honor Coach Cal’s life as he spoke highly of the swim coach. “You were his family, you swimmers. And he wasn’t just trying to teach you about swimming. He was trying to teach you lessons you’ll need 10, 20 years down the road. His motivation came from you.” Naff paused. “You can ask why he’s gone. But instead ask this: why were you so fortunate to have come into contact with a guy like him?”

Nicholson stepped back up to the microphone to speak. “Sometimes our spirits cry out in sighs that are too deep for words,” she said before guiding the congregation into prayer. Finally, the captains of the men and women’s swim team stepped up to the single lit candle in the center of the chapel and placed their candles into the flame, taking the light and sharing it throughout the congregation. Soon enough, every candle was lit in the chapel, binding the entire congregation together to mourn the loss of Mr. Calomeris.

After a heavy moment of silence, Kelly Webster, the men’s swim captain, stepped up to speak. “Him trusting me with the position of captain was more than an honor,” he said. “He believed in us even when we didn’t. We want to carry his legacy through this season and others to come.”

The men’s swimming team is currently 2-0 this season while the women’s swimming team is 1-2.

“The thoughts and prayers are with you and the rest of the campus. Be mindful of the light you hold in front of you,” Nicholson said, stepping up to speak one final time. “It represents that spark that Coach Cal had, a look, a smile that he may have given you. I encourage you to spread his light amongst others you meet. Go now, in peace.”


2 Responses to “Remembering Ferrum’s Beloved Swim Coach”
  1. Kim Blair says:

    Ferrum College was so blessed to have Coach Cal as a part of our community. He truly cared about the Swimmers as student-athletes, and the promise that each one holds for a bright future.
    He will be missed!

  2. Mary Boitnott says:

    Excellent, and thanks

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