Philip J. Lawrence '69
When I graduated from Amherst I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. And, of course, it hasn't turned out that way at all! According to plan, by now I should be settled on some quiet college campus living the life of the mind. In fact, I am an officer of a major management consulting firm dividing my working days between airplanes and working with major companies to make big changes in operating effectiveness, fast. At Amherst, I never gave much thought to a family. Today, I am the father of four and the frenetic daily dynamics of this bunch is the centerpiece of my life. When my wife, Peggy, and I chance to talk about this journey, for example as we did before I sat down to write this letter, we concluded it really beats us how we got here but overall it’s been fun and satisfying.
At any rate, when I look back on my Amherst years, and I have often, I hold them as a defining time for me in two key ways. The first is grounded in the old core curriculum. The curriculum gave us a foundation of general skills and appreciation that I frankly don't see in people who have experienced the "salad bar" approach to education which succeeded it. Most importantly, it forced me to confront my weaknesses as well as play to my strengths. One of the great lessons of my life has been how to create strength from actively balancing strength and weakness - from being a continually "incomplete" person. I really believe that people who can do this have a true advantage over those who only do what they do well. The second defining thing I found at Amherst was my relationship with my wife, Peggy (Smith '69). We have been through good and bad together; we will celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary in August.
In between, I stayed on my original plan for a while and got my Ph.D. from Harvard, History of Science, in 1973. I stayed on to teach at Harvard but found the work unfulfilling after a couple of years and drifted over to the business faculty and from there into consulting. I got an MBA from Harvard in 1980, a couple of years after Peggy got hers. After stints with the Boston Consulting Group, Arthur D. little, and a sojourn doing "real" work for Equifax, I am now a vice president with esc Index responsible for our financial service practice. I love the work. Everything that I enjoyed in teaching is there in terms of moving people's thinking, both clients and training our new consultants, with the added stimulus of helping organizations take real actions to create significant results.
So, I can happily say that work is satisfying. However, the real core of my being has always been with my family .Along the way, Peggy and I have had four children, Andrew 16, Brian 11, Brendon 9, and Nora 5. We live in Concord, Mass. The lives of the kids seem to define our role in the town. Over the years, I have coached over twenty town soccer teams and now, minimal jock me, I've even been "promoted" to a league coordinator organizing teams. Andrew, Brian, and starting next year Brendon, have gone to a boy's school in town, the Fenn School, and so I find myself a trustee. Peggy's activities have developed apace around school and town organizations. In addition the activities of four kids, despite au pairs, made us decide that she needed to work out of our home–Peggy now is a writer of business articles ; along with a constant flow of article, her first book is due out in early 1994, from the Harvard Business School Press and in conjunction with The Economist.
Looking back over twenty-five years, one obvious truth that continually hits me is that be it either participating in your kids growing up or finding satisfaction from your work, you never get time back. Trade-offs made between family, work, personal activities, are irrevocable. Overall I am happy where I have come. My only regrets are some episodes where I equivocated and did not commit my time purposefully or to full advantage. Looking ahead, I intend to avoid such equivocations. I know my life priorities and intend to focus on them.