Aashish Kamat ’88 Highlights Dominant Era of Squash

Aashish Kamat ’88 Highlights Dominant Era of Squash

Written by Jordan Cohn '19

There are 14 teams that have been inducted into the Franklin & Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame for seasons of unparalleled dominance. The 1952 men's basketball team, inducted in 2015, set the national collegiate scoring record at the time and boasted five future Hall of Famers.

The 2007 women's lacrosse team, inducted just last year, achieved the only undefeated season in the program's history with 21 consecutive victories and an NCAA National Championship. Perhaps most impressively, there is one team that made the Hall of Fame despite competition from the most prestigious Division I schools throughout the nation.

The 1986-87 men's squash team finished a remarkable campaign ranked second in the nation, with triumphs over Cornell, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. Fundamental to the team's success were three All-Americans. Two of them were seniors, Morris Clothier '87 and Chris Spahr '87, and both earned spots in the Hall of Fame in the 1990s. Joining them in the Hall this year was Aashish Kamat '88, whose incredible junior campaign contributed to the team's success, a memory he recalls fondly. 

"I think my proudest moment athletically is my junior year as a whole," said Kamat. "We lost only one match, and beat a lot of highly ranked schools." 

Kamat attributed the team's success to several different factors. Paramount among them was the close relationships between the members of the team. 

"Coach [William] Marshall and Coach [John] Stallings encouraged team bonding," remembered Kamat. "It helped that everyone was talented and we all gelled together, practicing with each other and constantly learning from each other. And a lot of it was luck and happenstance, in that all of us were together at the same time." 

Despite the inherent individuality of squash success, Kamat makes an important distinction, once again emphasizing the team aspect. 

"Even though it's an individual sport, an individual victory means nothing if the team doesn't win," explained Kamat. "That's why it was so important for us to get close and to motivate each other."

The Student-Athlete, Liberal Arts Experience

Kamat has found immense international success, and he owes a lot of it to his time at F&M as both a student and an athlete. In the harsh, dog-eat-dog world of banking and finance, Kamat values his experience as a student-athlete. 

"Squash is responsible for a lot of what I am today," said Kamat. "I wouldn't have gone to F&M, or even have been accepted, if not for squash. My time in Lancaster helped me to develop essential skills that I use every day: collaboration, leadership, and motivation are just a few." 

Born in the bustle of India's city life, F&M presented Kamat with a new environment. The small school fostered an organic sense of camaraderie, which Kamat called invaluable to his experience as a student-athlete. 

Outside of squash, the College provided Kamat with a wide variety of course offerings that helped to diversify his education. Kamat honed in on his interests through his accounting major but says the liberal arts setting serves as a fantastic foundation for success later in life. 

"Liberal arts teaches you the things that may not seem directly relevant to your career, but play a huge role," acknowledged Kamat. "I learned about religion, logical analysis, world cultures… the list goes on. It was so valuable for me to think outside the box and to connect different areas of study."

Speaking to the versatility of a liberal arts education, Kamat is thankful for the multitude of available course offerings.

"Getting cooped up in just one area can be detrimental," said Kamat. "But liberal arts allowed me to interact with many different people in varied fields. The business world is all about relationships, and F&M fosters that growth." 

The Business World 

Kamat has worked around the globe, from Philadelphia to Hong Kong, since his departure from F&M. Immediately out of school in the late '80s, Kamat found himself a position managing audits in Philadelphia.

"F&M exposed me to a completely different world from my years in India," reflected Kamat. "This helped with my transition into the next steps of my professional career." 

He stayed true to his accounting major and became an internationally recognized figure in the banking world with stints at JP Morgan and Bank of America in New York City. Kamat most recently headed the prominent Universal Bank of Switzerland in India. 

Even as a secondary activity to his professional career, squash remains a part of Kamat's life and a successful one at that. The 1984 Indian Junior National Champion still actively participates in tournaments and continues to impress colleagues and fans in India and around the world. He even achieved the status of one of the "20 best squash players on Wall Street," according to a 2013 article from Business Insider. 

Kamat decided to retire from the Universal Bank of Switzerland in 2017, and so he plans to spend more time playing squash, although he also wants to continue seeking out entrepreneurial opportunities in his fields of expertise.

Receiving the Call to the Hall 

The news of his selection into the F&M Athletic Hall of Fame caught Kamat off guard. 

 "I was surprised, in the sense that some of my teammates had gotten the honor earlier on and I wasn't expecting it now," explained Kamat.

But his squash resume justifies his selection; a two-time All-American, Kamat won 35 matches and lost only 15. His whopping .842 winning percentage in his stellar junior campaign ranks among the best seasons in Diplomats' history. 

Kamat made the visit to campus for the induction ceremony, flying himself and his family in from their home in India. He was escorted onto the stage by current members of the F&M Men's Squash team.

"It's probably been around 10 years since I've been here in Lancaster," said Kamat. "I was excited to see the new facilities, especially the new stadium, but also to reminisce with old colleagues and teammates and relive the old times."