When Jake Bingaman ’19 started college for the first time, in 2004, the U.S. had recently invaded Iraq. Although he wanted to earn a college degree—and had a scholarship from Miami University to do just that—Bingaman also felt a growing sense of commitment to his country. “We as a nation were doing something important, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he says. So he took a break from school and enlisted in the Navy.
Bingaman, who was raised in a military family and went to high school in Tennessee, says his experience with the SEALs “taught me a lot about who I am.” It was through one of his specialties, as a Special Operations Combat Medic, that the seeds of a future career were planted. As a member of SEAL Team 8, he deployed three times, primarily in different regions of Africa. “On several of our missions, I provided medical care for the African soldiers we were working with and, in some cases, their families and the community at large,” Bingaman says. “I found I have a real love for medicine.”
This fall, Bingaman, now a veteran who served for nine years as a Navy SEAL, is a freshman at Williams, planning to pursue pre-med studies. “I chose Williams because of the liberal arts,” he says. “I want to explore all the opportunities and understand what’s out there.”
That’s an ideal he’s living large. In addition to the biology and chemistry classes he’ll need if he applies to medical school, he’s enrolled this semester in the History of Greek Philosophy and Drawing I. “I’m open to what else I might discover about myself while I’m here,” he says.
The other reason Bingaman chose Williams is more personal. “This is a great place to raise a family,” he says. In 2010, Bingaman married his college sweetheart, Charlotte. Their daughters, Isabelle and Aurelia, are 4 and 1½ years old. “When I was with the SEALs, I was away from home about 300 days a year,” he says. He left for his last deployment nine days after Isabelle was born. “Here I can structure my own time, and it gives us a chance to reconnect as a family.”
While he knows he isn’t a typical Williams first-year student, he is delighted to have been “adopted” by Dennett 4. He experienced First Days with that entry and loves welcoming them into the college-owned house on Southworth Street where he lives with his family and their two dogs. The Bingamans opened the house on Halloween, and members of his entry carved jack-o-lanterns with his kids. “The connection with Dennett 4 has helped me to identify as a freshman on campus,” he says. “And it’s helped everyone else see that I’m not really all that different from them.”