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  • Delaney Waterman

Student Spotlight: The 80-Year-Old Man in the Sauna

80 year old man in a sauna

No matter the day, rain or shine, or whatever holiday it is, Carl Samson can be found in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, getting his sweat on. Samson has spent 720 hours in the Rec Center sauna, a total of 30 days, breaking the record for the sauna’s longest user. This Iowa City resident has been at the Rec Center for so long that the staff there have given him his own Student ID.

Samson never went to college, and went straight from high school into the workforce. But being at the sauna gives him the feeling of being a student, especially now that he has his very own ID. “So that makes me a student, right? Maybe I should just start walking into classrooms and see what I learn.”

Sitting in a hot room, sweating your ass off, isn’t for most people. In fact, I don’t know many people who would be able to sit in one room for that long, but Samson finds ways to keep busy. “I do everything there. I read, I write, one year I brought my accountant in with me and he did my taxes there. It is my second home. Actually I think I spend more time in the sauna than in my actual house.”

Even with the entertainment and relaxation provided through the sauna, Samson claims that there is something special that can be found only in that sweaty, steamy room in the Rec. “I just love the environment there. Where else can you hang out completely naked in 100 degree heat, while opening up to complete strangers? Everyone from all walks of life come into that magical space. I love the classic confused 20-something-year-olds. The other day I helped this young man change his major to something he actually wants to do. Shout out Ethan, I hope Graphic Design treats you well. Then there’s the other older people coming in, and sharing all our wise, old tales. And of course, the Rec staff. By now, they all know me by name, and they are my family. We all ate Thanksgiving dinner in the sauna this year. In my house, on the street, I’m just a regular guy. But here, in this sauna, I’m the Carl Samson, and that’s what I think I love most about this place.” 

But, it is pretty obvious that there is a large age gap between Samson and most of the other users of the Rec Center. The average student at the university is 20 years old, while Carl just celebrated his 83rd birthday earlier this month.

We asked him what he thought about this age gap:

“The people here help me to stay young. They teach me that I am more than just my arthritis, my age, my past occupation. I’m the wise man in the sauna. They make me excited to leave my house, because I never know who I’m going to see there. Everyone there reminds me that life is short, and it should be fun, and that is exactly what I am doing. And also nothing bonds people more than being naked together and sweating out all your problems.” 

So if you’re ever in the mood for some deep intellectual conversation, life advice, or just some good old sauna mess around, stop by the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. Carl Samson will make sure you feel right at home.


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