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Alumni

Professor Norton Starr took the following from our 25th Reunion Book.

The comments quoted are a non-random sample of non-random writings of a non-random subset of the Class of 1970, composed for their 25th reunion. Not all who wrote are wealthy, successful, in good health or necessarily happy. But on balance, the feeling seems to be one of appreciation for the institution and the friendships formed here, and a contentedness with having made a life for themselves. That was far from a likely outcome for those whose college years suffered from the ferocity of the war in Vietnam, to which hell they might have been drafted; the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King; the bombing of Cambodia; etc. Nevertheless, again and again, even among those whose marriages have not survived intact, the greatest happiness has been derived from loved ones. (The remarks presented below intentionally concentrate on other issues.) One submission which could not be reproduced (no home page) is Doug Swift's contribution: a sports card showing him in the Dolphin's uniform. Although all submissions were from men, one writer married a woman who spent her senior year here, and their child will enter the College a year from this fall (deferred entrance) as the first offspring both of whose parents attended Amherst. Comments in [...] brackets are my occasional explanations of possibly obscure references. Remarks from different individuals are separated by double asterisks. [Written in 1995.]
Norton Starr

**
You can always tell an Amherst graduate! In a decade and a half of
law teaching, all too many of the very best and the very worst students
I have had have been from our alma mater. And in both cases, the
reasons are the same. Amherst grads tend to have a creative flair,
facility with language, and abiding self assurance...
...University of Cambridge, Yale, and Harvard, UCLA... but none of
these fine institutions provide the type of attention to developing
one's thinking and writing skills, not to mention life's larger values,
that Amherst did... and, I believe, still does. The more teaching I do,
the more my admiration and gratitude for the teachers I had at Amherst
(such as Allen Guttmann, Gordie Levin, Leo Marx, Tillie Olsen, Donald
Pitkin, John William Ward and others) grows.
**
I trundled off to Amherst... Didn't know a soul there, having been
selected to round out the class's geographical diversity and having been
able to find only one positive recommendation for the College in my home
town because no one else in town had heard of Amherst. A friend of my
dad's had served with an Amherst guy in the Navy and thought he was OK.
My guidance counselor was concerned about the leftist influences at
these effete Eastern schools... I, and others, come to find out later,
labored for most of the year believing we were Bill Wilson's only
mistake. [Wilson was Dean of Admission]
The short of Amherst for me is that it was what it is supposed to be -
an awakening. It introduced me to important parts of my life that I may
have missed otherwise: choral music, classical music, squash (the court
kind), the art of critical thinking (I'm still working on that), the
necessity for rigor, and the rewards of the struggle for excellence. I
have all of the faculty , especially George Kateb, to thank for that...
An enduring and treasured part of this pillar is the friendships...
...remember that I avoided math at all costs - a mistake, it turns
out, that I would recommend others avoid!
**
The Mobilization march to Washington, getting number 18 in the lottery
[draft lottery - low numbers were first drafted], going c.o., helping to
organize draft (resistance) counseling, breaking off an Independent
Study project for teach-ins. Worrying about whether to delay finishing
my degree and get the summa I wanted or bag the year and get "only" a
magna, and hearing wise words from Bill Kennick: "Mitch, if that's all
they have to put on the jacket flap of your second book, something will
be wrong."
**
I remember jack cameron trying to read the opening page of "catch-22"
aloud and laughing so hard he couldn't all this surprising mirth turning
his cheeks pink and bringing joyful tears to his eyes...
I remember climbing into weber's mustang early a.m. on our way to miss
flo's for breakfast and hearing "revolution" for the first time we
turned it up loud and drove reveling in fatigue and beatles irony I
remember thinking I could never understand the world and I was right I
remember thinking the trouble with the studious life was that it implied
life could be ordered and it can't and I was right I remember graduating
with a sick feeling in my gut because I had no idea what to do next
except write and how the hell was I going to do that I remember all of
us trooping across the stage one by one wearing headbands and armbands
and all looking like lost confederates with our handsome mustaches and
gloomy eyes I remember suspecting that in a way I would never grow older
and I was right about that too.
**
In nostalgic moments, I suspect we all have thought it would be great
to go back and do it again. Would I like to go back to those years and
do it again? No. As I tell my daughter, things in life which are
worthwhile are usually difficult. That doesn't mean you have to do it
twice. I fondly remember the good times at Amherst yet I also remember
some hard, unpleasant experiences. Even in medical school, I never felt
as challenged as I did in college. My Amherst classmates and faculty
were the most intellectually gifted people that I have been associated
with as a group. I do know that if I did go back, I would take the
class work less seriously and the friendship of my classmates more
seriously.
**
In English 11 we spent a lot of time worrying about Amherst as an
Ivory Tower. Professor Craig could attest that I wasn't very good at
that exercise, but twenty-five years out, I'm glad there is some IT left
in the college. My daughter spent a beautiful October weekend at
Amherst in the care of two freshmen on the women's soccer team. The
women's victory over Williams and the beautiful weather helped, but x's
decision to apply for early decision was really driven by the rich
humanity of the students she met.
**
And in spite of my insecurity and fear and loathing of school, I still
know I was with the best and most entertaining bunch of people, and had
the most fun of any 4 years of my life.
**
Amherst initiated in me a process of self-study and of learning about
the world which I imagine will continue for the rest of my life. For
that I will always be grateful.
**
Orientation week was the start of the beginning...of what I was sure
to be the end of a short-lived Amherst experience. That week brutally
underscored the anguish that inevitably led to a mental paralysis of
unfathomable depth.
Simply, it was that damn summer reading list (recommended, as it
were)! It showcased the emerging trauma. More accurately, it was our
discussions, not the readings, that crystalized my difficulty. I did do
all the readings. I thought I read them diligently and
enthusiastically. It came as quite a surprise. I could not understand,
for the most part, what on God's earth you people were talking
about...relative to any of the books read! It was almost like I had
read different versions! Systematically shocked beyond belief, I'd
struggle back to my dorm wondering what I was doing here.
By the end of my twenty fifth (25th) day that fateful September, I had
managed to achieve both academic and social probation! Considering the
fact that I was still enrolled in Amherst, some of our classmates
considered this "accomplishment" quite noteworthy. Fortunately ...
pulled me along, pushed me through, and, ultimately, permitted me to
enjoy, relish, and forever remember, four glorious years at Amherst.
**
And I also feel very middle aged, notably when I get out of bed in the
morning and hear "snap, crackle, pop" from my body, especially my lower
back, instead of from my rice cripsies! I am more aware than ever of
all that I don't know, and yet people regard me as an expert in
empowering people to articulate their innermost concerns and in finding
words and expressions that touch that sensitive spot inside where
religion and psychology meet. I am more vulnerable than ever, and yet I
am probably the fittest I have ever been in my life, including football
and baseball days back in the late sixties. Life is more precious than
ever, yet death sometimes feels like it's around the corner. I am
working on accepting that life is mostly lived within these parameters,
that the tension between vulnerability and expertise, between fear and
safety, is that space in which we all make our choices. My lot in this
life is that I think about these issues and help others do the same.
**
...After bouts of various tropical diseases, and a few years teaching,
I founded a school ... for Hispanic and Haitian farmworkers. It was a
big hit and continues throughout the South.
Since Amherst I've spent lots of time trying to slay dragons that
plagued immigrants, farmworkers, Filipinos and children. These days the
demons that I am discovering are inside.
**
I've been sitting here for an hour and a half and I haven't written a
word. The dorm is starting to get raucous... But this damn English 11
composition is once again getting in the way. This assignment sounds
just like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before
that. I keep writing the same thing. How long can I fool Sofield? How
long can I fool myself? What is it with this Amherst Man garbage? This
"real World" stuff?
Gimme a break.
And then it comes, the original thoughts that I have lurking in the
inner recesses of my mind... These assignments are just an excuse for
thinking and creating and writing.
... I've been snoozing at the word processor, trying to meet Webber's
deadline of December 1 [1994, deadline for these letters], and that's
already 2 months late.
**
Technology is secondary. What makes a good doctor? A good listener.
If yours doesn't listen, find a new one.
1974... We owned the hospital as residents. Ostensibly, we were
training. But we ran the place, the ER, the wards, the ICU. Our egos
ballooned; we saved lives and were good at it. Real growth came later
and with it humility - there are limits. No one teaches you to face
death with your patients.
1990's-Medicine on its head. Capitation. They want to pay us for not
taking care of patients. Maybe I should have been a farmer.
Government-entitlements. What happened to responsibility? We're here
for our children, yet, we squander their heritage as government
mortgages their future. 1970: We protested sending children as fodder
to fight in a senseless war; 1994: children still are fodder;
entitlements co-opt us into acquiescence. What's it all about?
Eventually we will be gone. Each of us, in our own small way, must try
to make the world better for those who follow.
Fall, 1994-Work: In a professional environment where less is more,
what has worked best for me is a continued commitment to my patients:
listening to them, doing what I think is best for them, guiding them
through the minefield of "cost containment" without compromising their
care. And the response, "Thank you," makes my day as much today as it
has in the past. Community: Our little congregation of twenty families
has grown to one hundred twenty, replete with rabbi, our own building,
and a full program. It has been exciting and fulfilling to have brought
our goal to fruition, and to have made religion a positive experience
for ourselves and our children. In some small way, wrestling with God
has become a part of my life.
**
I've always been an independent and highly motivated individual, and
like most artists, it has been a struggle to replace the youthful fervor
by a mature willpower and momentary fantasies by naivete, and an
idealism with circumstantial reality...Whenever I think I'm safe,
reality comes along to mug me once again.
**
For me, the most important part of college - of Amherst - was a
testing of values. Away from home for the first time - with temptations
of all types around, I tended to stick with the values I started with.
**
Not passion so much, but involvement, comfort, a touch of joy now and
then.
**
But those are the small, valuable pieces of my life which, taken
together, are my life, much more significantly than the stirring pleas
and speeches I may have made before juries or the Board of Aldermen. We
spend our lives being driven by a multitude of such small demands.
**
I left Amherst halfway through my sophomore year to work for Gene
McCarthy's presidential campaign. Six months later I was drafted and
spent two years in the United States Army, returning to graduate from
Amherst in December 1972. I worked for several months as a
baker/laborer for Ryback's Pastry Shoppe in Northampton before being
hired as the Executive Director for a grassroots environmental group in
Montpelier, VT. From 1975 to 1978 I attended law school...
...and then ran successfully for the state legislature... and was
re-elected in 1994 to my third 4-year term. I am a veteran member of
the Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Federal Relations
Committee and known for leadership in support of tough gun control laws
- banning assault weapons and Saturday night specials...
**
I offer no apologies for being one of Amherst's many lawyer/alumni. I
enjoyed law school, and found it to be an extension of my liberal arts
education. To me, learning or practicing law is largely the application
of those critical thinking skills Amherst developed in me.
**
Fond memories spread out from inside and warm the soul. Development
of a respect for the mystery and fragility of life. Yearning to make
connections yet realizing and respecting that some are intuitive, or
different, or spiritual. These are the heritage of my Amherst days.
**
The years begin to melt into each other.
**
My lifestyle has caught up with me over the last few years. An
episode of congestive heart failure ... was followed by a small stroke
the next winter. A cholesterol level of 982 (that's not a typo) was a
tribute to the "stick-to-the-ribs" quality of the grinders I sold at
Amherst, but led to vascular surgery last March. My new femoral artery
will someday allow me to walk without claudication pain, but so far, I
haven't given it much of a test. While the surgery was successful, the
anesthesia wasn't, and complications left me partially paralyzed. I
spent the spring and summer learning to walk again and I look forward to
discarding my cane in time for the reunion.
**
It is fair to say that I am who I am - for better and for worse -
because of the experiences I had while there [Amherst College]. While
some were painful and difficult then, and have remained hauntingly so to
this day, I am proud of my association with the school, the tradition of
academic excellence rightfully associated with the institution, and the
men I came to know and appreciate...
Arriving on campus a naive and unsophisticated graduate of a middling
public high school, I was totally unprepared for the academic challenges
ahead of me. I was bowled over by the raw intelligence of so many of my
classmates and quickly discovered that they could talk more convincingly
than I, write more glibly and articulately than I could imagine, and
possessed a worldliness I could only hope for. Ours was a home that
Liked Ike, subscribed to Time, The Readers Digest and TV Guide rather
than The New Republic, Commentary or The Atlantic, watched Perry Como
and Ed Sullivan rather than David Susskind or PBS and vacationed at a
cabin in upstate New York instead of The Cape or Martha's Vineyard.
During the interview portion of the admission procedure when asked the
question about the most important book in my life I responded with The
Bible and The Fountainhead...
Academically Amherst was a trial for me and I came close to leaving
school my sophomore year. It was only through the personal attention of
Dean Ward that I was able to stay and graduate on time with our class.
That individual attention which he showed seems to encapsulate all the
best about the Amherst community.
**
... I wish someone had told me then that if I was to spend most of my
life in government, that the people serving in any large organization
need courage at least as much as they need intelligence or knowledge.
Figuring out what to do, even getting others to agree has not been for
me that difficult a task; finding that measure of persistence, politics,
work, luck, humor, and social skills to get it done, that's the
challenge for which I wasn't prepared. I've had to innovate an even
more expensive and incomplete an education than Amherst College and it's
rarely been pretty to watch.
We used the word "Power" a lot in the 1960's. In the private talk
among public officials, educators, and technology managers which I've
heard since, there's little recognition of having power and more a sense
of perpetual responsibility exercised in fear for the nation's future.
We mutually wonder how we can get our respective organizations to
operate even marginally at our publicized function. It's a tone that
mixes black humor, dread, and maddening frustration in a sense of
perplexity which somehow never quite makes it into the speeches and
media events. I wonder if any of that tone was present in 1970 and how
I might have heard it if it was.
As the song says, "I wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then"
--a line I can't even explain to anyone under 25. [We sometimes have
experiences which, if set forth in unambiguous prose, would strike many
readers as fictional. What we live through not only expands our
horizons, it also, slowly and softly, puts into place constricting
barriers.]
**
When I think back to Amherst, I appreciate the camaraderie, the
inspiration that came with learning, the brilliance and devotion of the
faculty, but I have a strong feeling of regret about those years. I
regret the war that overshadowed our times. I regret that I didn't
explore more disciplines [this from a guy who satisfied nontrivial
distribution requirements! listen up, current students], get more
involved, or get to know people better. Fortunately it's not too late
to learn these lessons.
**
In some such fashion did we all, I suppose, begin to come of age
together in the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, when our national
leaders were assassinated with unnerving regularity and our government
persisted in prosecuting a tactically and morally ambiguous war.
**
Coeducation and diversification of the student body have made Amherst
a more realistic and appropriate educational environment. However,
escalating costs of education, coupled with the uncertain job market
facing our present and future graduates leads to a more pressurized
experience than we faced.
**
My two sons have a hard time believing that I could actually run with
a rugby ball, let alone elude a tackler.
My work day and far too many evenings and weekends are spent as the
litigation partner in a small Vermont law firm dealing mainly with
mundane matters with an occasional pro bono case of real interest.
**
Why does rereading Assignment #1 run shivers down my spine? Why do I
remember Assignment #1 as if it had been handed down to me yesterday?
Why have I like a tortured Prometheus periodically pondered and fretted
this assignment for the last twenty five years? Was it that for the
first time I had been asked to think, and I was befuddled with the
process? Real World, Ivory Tower, Social Organization, what did these
words mean?
My feeling about Amherst is unchanged. That purple and white banner
draped across the Frost Library twenty five years ago as we first
stepped onto the golden leaf strewn campus still haunts my mind. It
read, "Achieve Excellence." I have given it a shot but as Gump says,
"Life is like a box of chocolates..."
**
Always shrewd in the money department, I took a $3,500 pay cut and
(with coaching, grading papers and advising) doubled the number of hours
I worked. When I made the mistake of letting it be known that I'd
brought up the tail end of the cross country team at Amherst for two
years, I was immediately appointed head coach of the boys' cross country
team at the school. As my runners loped by me, I'd yell complex and
esoteric instructions and strategies like "run faster."
**
For many aging boomers, the years have a way of coloring our memories;
the good memories are in sharper focus, and the bad times fade away.
Most of my experiences at Amherst were very positive ones. One of my
earliest recollections was of being alone, but not necessarily lonely.
My room in Morrow was small; there was a bed, desk and bureau. The
walls were high, smooth and barren. It reminded me of a prison cell. I
spent many hours in that room, and in the basement of Frost library
studying my various math and science courses... I saw more sunrises that
semester than in the first 18 years of my life... Out of the various
experiences have evolved deep friendships which have lasted 25 years...
There was talk of great exploits at Amherst, some greatly exaggerated,
but most of the discussions were about our families and our children.
Even though I hadn't seen some of these guys in 25 years, I felt as
close to them as that final spring in 1970.
A great shock on entering Amherst was the level of competition.
Coming from a small town in Vermont, you would have been the best, or
close to it. At Amherst, you met many students who were much brighter
than you. Each course was geared for students who were expected to go
on to graduate school. There were few easy courses; I never did take
"Holes and Poles." It took some adjustment to realize that you could do
your absolute best and still not be the best. But the preparation was
excellent for whatever was to follow.
After 15 years of marriage, she still makes me feel special, and I
continue to try to make her feel the same. At the ... reunion in May
'94,twelve out of twelve had been married once and still felt special.
Was Amherst an Ivory Tower? Yes it was! Did it prepare us for the
outside world? Yes it did! Perhaps it is why so many alumni return
year after year.
**
True joy has resulted from my few lasting Amherst relationships.
**
A change agent who lost his naivete along the way. Thought that
public service was about service and reaching out to needy
constituencies versus business as self-serving. Discovered en route
self-serving public officials, corruption, and just how hard it is to
generate change in public institutions. A masters degree. Helping
paraprofessionals in Bed-Sty. Classroom teacher. Curriculum developer
--- a favorite role. School administrator. Education association
leader. Awards won. Drop out.
**
Kirby is where I found my friends...and by stepping into the loony bin
of _Marat Sade_, was able to step out of the pressure of trying to live
up to a hodge-podge of expectations, most of which I had placed on
myself.
I know it has been said before, but Amherst is wasted on 18 year old
people...
The heating up of the anti-war movement and then 1968 - we all
remember the backdrop. A spontaneous circle standing on the green when
Martin Luther King was shot - some shouting their anger, some crying.
Bobby Kennedy shot and then the Democratic convention...
I meet and work with a lot of people who are still looking for _the
real world_ and I take comfort in the fact that although I still don't
know exactly what or where it is, that doesn't keep me from stretching
and taking some risks from time to time to find it. Amherst is where
that process began for me.
**
I remain indebted to Amherst for asking me, inspiring me to have
passion about the world outside my daily concerns, and also providing me
some discipline for detachment to help me maintain some sanity in a
world crazy...
**
As a freshman, I played lacrosse for the Darp [Jim Ostendarp, football
coach for 32 years and a legend in his time. Alas is now reported to be
very senile.]. The final game of the season was in Williamstown...and
we won... Anyway, after the game, Darp told the bus driver to take us
to the Art Museum. Darp was our tour guide, explaining the talents of a
particular water color artist he fancied. And collected too, it turned
out. At the end of the tour, Darp bought a framed water color, and took
it on the bus to Amherst. I have told this story many times to people
who ask what my Amherst experience was like.
I think we were right to go out on strike when Nixon invaded Cambodia.
I'm not sure that the war ended any sooner than it would have otherwise.
And perhaps the ivory tower should remain so, even when the collective
conscience of the community is outraged. I do know that I learned as
much knocking on doors in Northampton during the Moratorium as I did in
any classroom... Henry Steele Commager himself said that Amherst trains
one for nothing, but prepares one for everything.
I have lived and worked in academic environments all of my adult life,
but have not seen the equal of Amherst in terms of raw intellect. I
think the only time Duboff studied freshman year was when he was dummy
in thebridge games played down in Pratt library. Competition was tough.
Grades were hard to come by. Medical school was a cakewalk after
Amherst.
I would love to do it all again. I'd do it differently now, of
course. Be an English major. Take those Am Lit courses I couldn't take
because they conflicted with Organic. Take some music courses.
**
Greatest single memory: probably the hideous way the Vietnam War
conspired to make academia - and life at Amherst - seem irrelevant:
twenty-five years later, I'm still not sure how I feel about "the
strike, "even though I know how I felt about the War. Few experiences
at Amherst were more painful than graduation that year.
Biggest hope: that funding and genius, perhaps in the person of some
brilliantly trained researcher from Amherst, will unite to put an end to
AIDs.
**
We ran a Bed & Breakfast during the summer and foliage seasons, and
kept lambs to hold the weeds in check on the hillside where the
Christmas trees, whose maturation was timed to offset some of Ben's
college expenses, stand in ordered rows, reminders of the digging and
planting we shared over several springtimes.
We defined ourselves by our relationship with one another: we reveled
in being able to share experiences of teaching and of creating a rural
existence in which land, open air and quiet were paramount...
**
Amherst was a big change for me in a number of ways and even today I'm
amazed that in the early going I didn't stumble more than I did.
Arriving with a ho-hum secondary school education, a complete lack of
study habits, and what can only be described as a poor attitude, I
quickly found my way to the scholastic cellar of our class. Recovery
was slow and painful.
Dean Wilson, whose amazing service to Amherst spanned from 1947 to
1981,gave me the break of my life. By luck of the draw, I had my
interview with him. He asked me to talk about what it was like to work
on ferry boats seven days a week during the summers as a bartender from
the age of 16;what it was like to meet people from all walks of life
including the Wall Street guys, the hookers from New Haven and the
broken-down, alcoholic deckhands I shared quarters with. Dean Wilson
was able to get everyone to talk. And finally, having been accepted at
Amherst with a full scholarship only to be kicked out of high school two
weeks before graduation, I received a note from him saying, "Dan, just
make sure you collect a diploma, we're looking forward to seeing you in
the fall."
**
When not at work or in the yard I look for every opportunity to head
outdoors. My greatest passion is for climbing, having now knocked off
most of the taller Cascades. But there are more than enough others to
fill up a lifetime. One only needs to step up in degree of difficulty!
Between climbs I settle for mountain biking, road cycling, fly fishing,
and skiing. The enclosed picture was taken last summer at the summit of
Mt. Hyndman in the Pioneer Range or the Idaho Rockies. I still find
myself rowing on occasions when the masters program in the city finds
itself in need of a spare. But I gave up the competitive stuff a few
years after a national championship in the late seventies.
**
Serious work. Serious play. Serious challenge maintaining a balance.
Exploring, searching, questioning, groping, sharing, trying on a bunch
of different hats... growing up but not grownup. Security of the Womb
on The Hill while all hell broke loose down below, out There.
...the 2-for-1 special of spring '68, rugby and lax, undefeated and
side-by-side...
Extraordinary place, extraordinary people, extraordinary times - an
extraordinary place.
Proud to be a Jeff.
**
It's a funny thing about careers - what we most want to do isn't
always what fits in the inherited script. I remember one day crossing
the Bay Bridge, truly one of the most spectacular commutes in the world,
high over the whitecaps of the Bay on a bright spring morning under a
crystal blue sky, looking at the green hills of Marin and thinking that
I'd give anything to be hiking in the open air. Later that day I sat in
a fluorescent conference room listening to an arcane debate on Macintosh
menu items for a piece of software which I knew would never see the
light of day and thought "This is the most ridiculous discussion in the
world!" It's all a matter of internal perception and when it became
clear to me what I wanted to do was what I had set out to do back in
1970, then all the pieces fell into place. Photography is an acceptable
profession -permission granted!
**
As I look back 25 years, it seems to me that, like it or not, the
defining experience of our college days was Vietnam.
**
My mind actually has stored a surprising number of nuggets,
intellectual and experiential, that I acquired at Amherst. They time
release when needed, often lifting my spirits or making me appear more
wise than I am. The close relationships I continue to maintain with a
significant number of my Amherst friends also have provided repeated
pleasure over the years.
**
Whether it was the fortress-like shape of Frost or the piccolo
trumpets in "Penny Lane," Kennick had a way of opening my eyes to the
humanities that still affects my perceptions.
...As happy as Rob was driving the bus, he still judged himself a
failure in the context of his Amherst peers. I remember a point in a
lecture by De Mott where he pointed out that the dignity of a job came
from the effort put in rather than the "status" of the job itself.
**
During this period of time I attempted to take on an impossible job,
made even more impossible by an unmanageable boss... I was terribly
stressed out... My mistake was that for the first year of this
untenable period, I listened to and followed my boss 100% of the way. I
also allowed myself to be manipulated like a puppet. It was only after
a management course with my peers that I went on the offensive, and
eventually, due to a major reorganization, I was recalled (almost
terminated) to a new role thanks to a major downsizing. My boss was
terminated.
**
...Even after all these years, the thought of writing in a Blue Book
produces excessive sweating and palpitations.
**
...I went to law school in some desperation over the life of the
writer and it proved to be the turning point of my literary career.
**
...Going downstairs to awaken a classmate one-half hour before class.
Watch in awe as he stumbles from bed to desk in his underwear, eyes
slit-like, cigarette dangling loosely from his mouth asking "George,
what's the topic for today?". Clouds of smoke surrounding him, face six
inches from the typewriter, one more "A" paper completed in fifteen
minutes... Passing Physics - yes, there is a God.
**
The four years in between were filled with the passionate act of
becoming, trying on different versions of myself. Four years of
constantly judging, myself, my teachers, my fellow students, deciding
who was authentic (the highest compliment) and who was a phony (and
therefore irredeemable). Everything was a choice, and everything was
laden with the highest emotional consequences. Ideas mattered. Music
Mattered. Love mattered. Being yourself and being good at being
yourself and not appearing to try being yourself mattered.
I'm sure I took classes and took notes in the classes. The notebooks
are gone. What remains are the choices and the memories of the choices.
Cutting a varsity baseball doubleheader to cover Mario Savio for The
Student - and getting thrown off the baseball team. Late nights twice a
week in the basement putting out The Student with an incredible group of
people... trying to make sense of a tangled set of wants and needs, to
write and read, to care about politics, to understand what American
writing was. Wrestling with the war, the draft... How to resolve the
conflict between a marketplace of ideas and the freedom of the campus
and policies that were getting people killed and the youthful intensity
- the passion -that we had to do something. That we had to do
something.
Twenty-five years later and the first lesson is that, for all the
energy and angst spent worrying about becoming and being myself - I
still am and always was. I have worked hard, off and on, at the notion
of changing myself. And I am so completely and unmistakably the same
person now that I was then it argues awfully hard for the proposition
that people do not change. Period.
**
At Amherst I had a rough start academically and had to take an extra
course in bacteriology with Prof. Leadbetter to make up for an F. The
course turned out to be a real ah-ha experience for me, and now I earn
my daily bread as a microbiologist.
**
Looking back, the intellectual stimulation from classes, seminars and
bull sessions, the friendships formed, in dorms and dining halls, the
competitions of tennis and squash, and the sense of a secure base to
fall back upon when confronting new challenges, whether social, academic
or political, are the dominant impressions. Amherst was a great place
to come of age, to try out new selves, new attitudes, new convictions -
all likely to be challenged by teachers and friends (and one's past) for
logic, consistency, moral content and perhaps even practicality. My
chief regret is my failure to broaden my acquaintance among "different"
cliques and groupings among my classmates. Working in the dining halls
was a great way to cross boundaries, the social divides between frat
boys, jocks, poets, nerds, etc.; I should have found other avenues. My
only excuse is that finding your own identity sometimes entails defining
what you're not.
**
The human potential workshops and gurus have given way to regular
workouts at the gym, and the joys of _Shabbat_. Cravings for one of Mr.
Bell's luscious meatball grinders fade into a diet of whole grain,
veggies, and nothing that ever had feet.
**
In looking back, I think of my years at Amherst as a time when I came
of age. At Amherst, I was exposed to people and ideas that were very
different from what I had encountered previously. The college provided
a unique atmosphere and environment that allowed us to explore
-academically, politically, socially. At times the pressure of the
academic work was daunting, but we also found plenty of time for fun. I
think the college still provides a unique place for exploration and
growth...