Frits Dirk van Paasschen '83

Frits van Paasschen '83 Name:
Frits Dirk van Paasschen  (I am the fourth 'Frits' in my family, starting with my great-grandfather, and my son is the fifth.  We all have different middle names, so no roman numerals.)

Current Home:
Greenwich, Connecticut, plus last year I fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought an apartment on a canal in Amsterdam.

Place of Birth:
Oegstgeest, The Netherlands.  Both of my parents spent years as children in Japanese internment camps in Indonesia during the WWII.  They wanted my sister and me to grow up in a safe place, so they came to America. 

Aside from Amherst:  Mercer Island High School and Harvard Business School.  Not to mention more than a half century of making mistakes.

Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
Ed Wall visited my high school.  I figured any college with such a charismatic dean of admissions must be a great place.  I also thought I had a shot at making the soccer team at a D-III school.

Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
Genetics, with Professors Hexter and Yost.  Their lectures were hilarious.  The content was equal parts science of heredity and history of science.

Most memorable or most influential professor:
Frank Westhoff and Stanley Rabinowitz taught me you could be friends with your professors.

Favorite Book:
My current favorite is Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely.  It turns out that we are not the rational, information-seeking, utility-maximizing automatons that we learned about in Econ 11.  Magicians and marketers have known this for awhile.

Favorite Author:
Oliver Sacks.  His vignettes offer a glimpse into how the brain works, and he writes with a voice that is at once clinical and empathetic.

Tips for aspiring writers?
I am still an aspiring writer looking for tips.

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
I started writing as an endeavor to make sense of my own kaleidoscope of experiences.  For my work, I went to more than 100 countries, everywhere from South Sudan to Paraguay, the Maldives, and Oman.  In search of investors, I met with sheikhs, oligarchs, and billionaires, as well as heads of state and managers of sovereign wealth funds.  I wanted to write about disruption because my experiences led me to believe that the pace of change is not only accelerating, but outstripping our ability adapt.