On paper, Shaun Chapman ’98 and Michael George ’98 seem like polar opposites. Shaun is a gregarious showman who can own a room. Michael is reserved, content to run the show from behind the scenes. Yet the two friends share a thoughtful, curious way of approaching the world that unites them. And there’s one other factor that set their friendship in stone: their time at Williston, where they played water polo, competed on the varsity swim team, and once got lost hiking Mount Tom (their mutual favorite memory). Today, Shaun splits his time between Boston and San Francisco working as the director of government relations for Weedmaps. Michael is the principal advisor at the Center for Naval Analysis in Washington, D.C. We caught up with them last spring at their 20th reunion.
You guys are clearly different, but how are you similar?
Shaun: At first blush, we are opposites in almost every single way, but both of us have strengthened ourselves as individuals by trying to replicate what makes the other person strong and solid. Michael helped me organize myself when I was disorganized. I helped him break out of his shell. Our better qualities have bled into each other.
Michael: We share the themes of being a gentle spirit, and of being emotive, emotional, self-aware, and sensitive. We’re like family; he’s my brother. We don’t think twice about giving each other a big hug and telling each other, “I love you.” It’s a deep friendship.
Where would we have found you on the Williston campus?
Shaun: Probably on the Quad throwing a Frisbee or goofing off.
Michael: If we were not at the pool for water polo or swimming, we’d be at Swan Cottage or down by the Manhan River swimming.
Tell me about this hike up Mount Tom.
Shaun: We wanted to get to the top of the mountain, but we didn’t follow any sort of path. We didn’t bring any water, and we got dehydrated. It was just such a mess, but we weren’t really in danger. We were out there pushing some of our limits and boundaries, and we had each other to rely on.
Michael: We climbed the sheer rock-face side. It took a long time to get up, and it was clearly not meant to be hiked. We looked down and realized that we’d gotten ourselves into a predicament. And we had to navigate our way down together.
How did your time at Williston cement your bond?
Shaun: Our friendship and our time together at Williston is almost too profound for me to put into actual words. It’s been extremely significant, and I wouldn’t change one thing. I’m choked up even thinking about it.
Michael: Shaun was always this reassuring voice if ever I was anxious about trying something new, like joining the Caterwaulers. He would say, “You should just do it. You’ll do great.” He was a good champion.
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