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Photo by Justin Allardyce
Whether it’s in the pool or on a computer, senior Rich
Halpert has always performed at an accelerated level. His proficiency
at both has continued at Tufts, where he is a record-setting
swimmer and a computer engineer who will graduate magna cum
laude after just six semesters this May.
Raised in Acton, Massachusetts, Halpert was a prodigy who at
three years old was already helping people with computers.
He was a star student at programming camps in his youth. During
high school he worked summers as a software professional on
an internship at Thornton Inc., in Waltham.
Swimming was his other passion. He joined the popular town
team at nine. At 12 he earned a spot on a local United States
Swimming Club that competed around New England. His high school
team won the state championship during his junior season, and
Halpert was the runner-up in two events.
The combination of strong engineering and swimming programs
led Halpert to Tufts, where his sister, Kim, and his brother,
Jon, preceded him. He entered the university with eight AP
credits from high school that matched almost exactly his freshman-year
requirements. He also sensed he would have a very positive
swimming experience on veteran coach Don Megerle’s team.
“Coach Megerle amazed me right off the bat,” Halpert
said. “He was a very interesting, caring person. He was
very positive and upbeat about everything and very excited
to be doing what he’s doing. The team attitude was very
Halpert’s potential in the pool blossomed immediately.
He was one of the team’s most valuable swimmers as a
freshman following a phenomenal performance at the New England
Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship meet.
Despite being sick for the previous ten days, he broke the
school record in the 200 individual medley, where one is required
to swim all four strokes (butterfly, back, breast, freestyle)
in a single race, with a time of 1 minute, 56.23 seconds. He
also swam in the 200 backstroke and two relays, finishing up
as one of the highest-scoring freshmen at the meet.
“He was so sick that I thought he wouldn’t even
make it to the meet, let alone perform so well,” Megerle
said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He
caught everyone’s attention.”
As a sophomore in 2003, Halpert was a part of record-setting
foursomes in the 200 freestyle relay (1:25.24) and in the 400
freestyle relay (3:07.62). This season he was a member of the
All-NESCAC 400 freestyle relay that provisionally qualified
to compete at the NCAA national championship meet.
His performance in the pool has been matched in intensity by
his academic pursuits. In addition to carrying heavy coursework
as a computer engineering major and mathematics minor, Halpert
has been busy acquiring hands-on experience. He’s worked
as a lab teaching assistant and residential computer consultant
on campus, and as a consultant for several local computer firms.
Combining his two considerable talents, Halpert is the webmaster
of the swimming and diving team’s online site.
“He’s going all the time,” Megerle said. “I
could be coming to the pool at 3 o’clock in the morning
and he’d be walking the streets leaving the study lab.
The guy is unbelievable, in the most positive way.”
Intending to graduate as a junior, Halpert took six and a half
credits last semester. Five and a half were difficult engineering
courses. The daily workload was strenuous, to say the least.
Swimming helped him through it. Megerle was disappointed when
he first heard that one of his best swimmers was leaving a
year early. But, “Coach” soon put his full support
behind Halpert, as he has done for countless swimmers during
a 33-year career at Tufts. Megerle scheduled individual practice
times for Halpert and motivated him to persevere through the
semester. Early-morning hours at the pool freed the swimmer’s
mind. Halpert would earn his second-highest grade point average
for the semester.
Megerle’s swimming and diving program features many excellent
students. The squad’s 3.48 grade point average for the
fall semester was second-best among all Division III teams.
They were also competitively successful, earning third place
at the 2004 NESCAC championship meet in late February. Halpert
is disappointed to be missing out on his senior year with the
team, but with plans to pursue a Ph.D., the sooner he can get
started the better.
“I feel very accomplished with what I’ve been able
to do at Tufts,” Halpert said. “The balance between
engineering and swimming has been perfect. I had enough time
for both, and both were intense. I’m looking forward
to moving on to the next challenge.”