At a smaller Division I school like Marist College, it’s not difficult to put a name to the face of the many athletes competing for the school. After walking around campus for four years with their bright red backpacks and constant Marist Athletics apparel, these athletes have established themselves as just that — athletes. As they round the corner to graduation, the question remains: who are they outside of their sport?
The following story is a part of Center Field’s 19 for ‘19: Stories of the Senior Class series.
Ed Oser walked up to the simple piano in the Marist Student Center Cabaret, his appearance equally simple: a black t-shirt, jeans, brown boots and his signature round glasses. He sat down gently at the piano and began to play. While the notes of the A Star is Born hit, “Shallow” filled the crowded hall, Ed kept his head down and himself close to the piano. The final notes rang out and the roar of applause began. He coyly looked up from the piano and offered a shy smile before returning to his seat in the audience. While he walked back to returning to be one of us, he nodded and smiled in appreciation, but never basked in the glory of the cheers.
“As much as it is mine and I enjoy playing and I can sit and play for hours, it’s equally, I think, as fun to play for other people,” Ed told me.
Before hearing that he was performing at this student open mic night, I knew a few things about Ed Oser via people who know him: he is a biomedical sciences major who is insanely smart, a fantastic Division I swimmer, and objectively the nicest person you have ever met. It should be noted that all of these things are, in fact, true.
As I asked him questions about all of this, he seemed flattered and excited, but spoke completely openly. From swimming to school to the various ways he is involved in campus, he excitedly gave me the whole back story about how he got there and then updated me on what he was currently working on. There is a purpose and passion for everything he does, but when Ed spoke about music, he glowed.
Edward, as his mother called him, began playing the piano from a young age. His father played the piano and, following suit, Ed and his three siblings were classically trained on the piano. Despite the fond memories of singing Christmas carols with music always as a focal point in the Oser household, Ed was the only one of the four who stuck with the instrument. His music minor holds different from everything he does in the lab. “I grew up playing the piano. I really enjoyed it. I would just sit and play music for however long,” he said. “I play here all the time. I picked up the minor because it’s something different and totally unrelated to science.”
“It was a focus of fun for everyone, so he definitely enjoyed it,” his mother Meg Oser said. “He definitely has a talent I have to say; very creative.”
While music holds a special place in Ed’s heart, the main facets of Ed are all things that he has stuck with for most of his life thus far. He told me he is a quadruplet. His willingness to share and his outgoing personality make perfect sense once he divulged that. With one sister also at Marist, and his other two siblings elsewhere, he keeps these relationships close, while treating his friends as though they are also his siblings.
“Growing up, we were super, super close and I think that is a huge part of my life and probably part of the reason I am the way I am, in terms of being super social,” he said.
He is bright and chipper and constantly smiling. The same can’t be said for all biology majors. But with the passion for science that Ed has, the challenge and time commitment are a small price to pay. With both parents working in healthcare and introducing him to the field at an early age, he found the passion and rolled with it.
“I think that he enjoyed hearing about what we did,” his mother reflected. “He likes to be able to help his roommates if they’re sick and he wants to be able to share some knowledge and be able to help others.” She paused to emphasize the point she was about to make, “It sounds so cliche but he does like that aspect of it and being knowledgeable in the way the body works and how to stay healthy and promote that with others. He definitely has that helping aspect.”
Looking back to Ed as a child, she acknowledged that he always acted as a leader. “I think in that sense, he kind of has it in him to be in that field.”
Ed meets the dreaded question to most, if not all, college seniors, with a clear vision and determination: what does the postgrad future hold? “I will be taking a gap year. I’ll be taking my MCAT at the end of this year, [I’ve] been studying for that, kind of just completing my degree itself. Hopefully I’ll apply this upcoming cycle and then if everything goes well…go to medical school.”
Somewhere in the demanding schedule of a biology major and involvement on campus and with his friends, Ed also finds the time to compete as a Division I swimmer. In his senior season, Ed won the 100-meter breaststroke against Southern Connecticut University and the 100-meter freestyle at Fairfield University. He was named to the MAAC All-Academic Team every year from his sophomore year on, a feat that only makes sense for someone of his athletic and academic work ethic.
“My parents wanted to know that we could swim,” he said. “We joined a rec team in the summer and after a few summers, I hated it… In high school, going to an all [boys’] prep school — it being big and then sports being a big component of our student life there — my dad had the suggestion, ‘Maybe you want to try out for a sports team.’” Looking at his options, Ed saw where his strengths were. “I played middle school sports but I knew I was relatively okay at swimming, so I thought I’d try out.” Practicing with his dad at the local YMCA before tryouts, he made it onto the the high school team. After four years of high school and some club team swimming, the thought of continuing on in college was certainly a possibility.
Still, finding his academic and athletic home at Marist came as a surprise. “My sister had applied. I wasn’t even going to apply to Marist and then all of my siblings did.” He thought, “I’ll apply, it makes sense.”
“I saw it was a Division I program and I emailed our coach, Larry.” Ed inquired about the team and came to visit. “A month later he offered me a spot.”
“It was crunch time and I kind of revisited all my schools and I was like ‘This is where I want to be, both as a student and as an athlete,” Ed said.
Choosing to come to Marist, both for athletics and academics, paved the way for more benefits in his success in the pool and in the classroom. “The kids on my team are my best friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life, and I think the sport in itself helps create that. Swimming endless laps is sometimes a little hard on the mind,” he explained. “It’s definitely not something I could do alone, and that lends itself to the team environment we have which allows us to compete at a high level and do it when it gets tough.
“The last four years, it has been a family, which I’m going to miss a lot next year.”
There are a few constants across the board in Ed’s life. Whether being a supportive teammate, caring for his friends, hoping to help people through medicine or touching people with music, Ed Oser wants to help people. He never explicitly states this, but it is the focus of nearly everything he does.
The love he has for music makes it something he could do for hours, but the smaller joys that music brings, add to the the dynamic that Ed is all about. “I always go into Fusco recital hall and play because they have a beautiful grand piano there. And the door is open sometimes and people working at Marist that are cleaning or popping in and out, I’ll get a random ‘hey that was really good, I really enjoyed listening to that.’ It’s less so the compliment, but I was happy to hear that someone enjoyed it.
“It’s like, I love science and I love medicine and I want to be able to help people that way as a physician and provide the highest level of direct care that can impact someone. But in the same respect, sometimes I think you can do that with music,” Ed shares.
I ask, because I’m nearly sure that I already know the answer and because I believe one’s answer says a lot about them as a person: “If you could be anything in the world, if nothing mattered, what is the one thing you would want to do?”
“I would be a musician. I don’t even need to be famous. If I could just play piano for people or in general if I had access and the means to do it. I would do that forever.” He knows his exact answer without skipping a beat.
I think back to how seemingly shy he was when I saw him play at the open mic night. He didn’t bask in the applause, didn’t pick his head up much when playing and nearly blended into the piano in his attire. Now that makes sense: his music, his interest in medicine, all of it, it’s not for Ed—it’s for others.
Edited by the Center Field Editorial Team.
Header image by Kristin Flanigan.