Letters to Class of 1963 Reunion Books
Amherst Class of 1963 Twentieth Reunion
December 29, 1982
In reminiscing about Amherst, I am grateful for the friendships I made and have since sustained. Also, I feel I carry an open-mindedness that was encouraged by the Amherst faculty/curriculum and that was enhanced by my exposure to such a disparate group of fellow students, as exemplified by my freshman year associates Freeland, Silberg, Davidson, Dybikowski and Tavano in the “isolation ward” wing of Morrow Dormitory.
The words “fellow students” remind me of the only drawback I see in retrospect about our Amherst experience, namely the absence of females in all but our social lives. This deficiency has, of course, been remedied at Amherst since our departure. I wish we too had been blessed with a co-educational setting.
After leaving Amherst, I spent a 7-year tour as a communications officer in the Air Force and another 7 years as a data processing administrator at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. Neither stint satisfied my desire for accomplishment and thoroughly enjoyable work. In 1976, my family and I embarked on our “pioneering experience”; we emigrated to Texas where I serendipitously fell into my present occupation as an oil & gas lease negotiator and mineral titles analyst. A sometime sleuth, soft-sell salesman, and quasi-lawyer, I love my work. I seem to learn or accomplish something new almost every day; and I’ve developed persistence and inquisitiveness that I wish I had had at Amherst.
While the satisfactions I draw from my professional life have been increasing, I find that my civic involvement has descended to virtually zero (I still do vote!) In Connecticut, I was on a town political committee and was active in organizing tenants in my apartment complex, but in Texas I have not participated in any civic activities. I hope to fill this void soon.
Joining me in my life cruise for the past 15 years has been my wife Carol. We have a son Tim (13) and a daughter Samantha (11). Also with us is Carol’s daughter Laura and her son Henry, so I have the pleasure of being grandfatherly (i.e., I play with the baby but don’t have to change his Pampers).
I have no pronouncements on the human condition or on America’s role among the nations of the world. If pressed to describe my world view, I would speak from the perspective of a person who considers himself to be an agnostic, an existentialist, and a humanist, or some combination thereof, and, oh yes, a son of Amherst.
My regards to all of you.
Peter “Boomer” Shull
Amherst Class of 1963 Twenty-fifth Reunion
PETER "BOOMER" SHULL
Houston, Texas 77043
December 14, 1987
What a difference five years can make.
In my letter for the 20th Reunion Rook, I said "I love my work", that my wife, son and daughter were co-passengers on my "life-cruise," and that I considered myself "an agnostic, an existentialist and a humanist or sane combination thereof."
Today, five years later, I'm experiencing burnout at work (as an oil & gas landman); I'm a widower; my 16-year-old daughter lives with a family in a San Francisco suburb; my 18-year-old son,Tim, lives with me in Houston; ... and I'm experiencing the sense that a Higher Power (God as I understand God) is in me and in my life.
What accounts for these changes? In my view, these changes resulted primarily from the ravages of my 25 years of active alcoholism ... and from the blessed effects of the recovery process.
Key events/discoveries of the past five years include:
A car crash December 9, 1983, in which my wife, Carol, sustained fatal injuries while riding asleep in the front passenger seat of my Mustang. I also fell asleep in that car that night ... while driving ... under the influence of alcohol. Fortunately the resultant accident involved only my car. If Carol had been wearing her seatbelt, she probably would have emerged with physical injuries on the order of mine (cuts and bruises). However, it is not probable that our marriage would have survived much longer without treatment for our respective difficulties in relating to each other and to life.
For a long time after the accident I experienced guilt, depression, and deep sadness. To some extent, these feelings have subsequently been lifted from me and been replaced by: an awareness that it was the diseased person in me, not the essential me, who was driving that car that night; a feeling of aliveness, coupled with gratitude for being alive; joyfulness and wonderment. This transformation, which continues to evolve on a daily basis and requires daily attention, has emerged from the following:
Sessions (including some involving Tim and Samantha) with a compassionate and competent therapist (Vivian Eberhard) from March 1984 to February 1985. My walk through a figurative portal marked "Sobriety" on March 24, 1984. Consciousness raising workshops at The Natale Institute in Houston. My active participation in the Adult Children of Alcoholics (and Other Dysfunctionals) program since November 1985. This program helps adults who wish to recover from hurts received as a child (or as an adult) in a household or extended family in which alcoholism or other dysfunctional approaches to life were subtly or blatantly active in the adults who were/are the care-providers/authority figures/role models in those households/families. I am deeply grateful to my ACA friends whose loving support and courageous sharings about their own difficulties have helped me heal and grow so much in the past two years. My involvement in peer counseling provided through Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC) since October 1986. My spiritual awakening to the existence of a Higher Power that is re-connecting me to my Self and to the universe around me.
As can be deduced from my earlier remarks, I believe that I drank alcoholically at Amherst; indeed, I believe that my alcoholism began to blossom at my fraternity house (where I was awarded the Social Conduct Keg in my senior year). I do not blame my brothers or the fraternity system for this. Because of low self-esteem (particularly in social settings involving women), I was ripe for the "cure" which became my disease.
One of my favorite sayings in ACA meetings is: "Take what you like (from these meetings) and leave the rest." I have applied this to my upbringing and relish many gifts that I received from each of my parents; I have also applied this to my marriage and savored the good things that were present in my marriage. When I apply this saying to my experiences at Amherst, I choose to take the following from Amherst: my caring for my collegemates (particularly my Morrow Dorm "Isolation Ward" mates, my soccer team friends, and my fraternity brothers); my passion for the artistry and gentlemanly competition of intercollegiate and intramural sports as practiced at Amherst (Noel Wilson's soccer playing leaps to mind); and my enjoyment of the camaraderie in eating and working at Valentine Hall.
What I choose to leave behind from my Amherst days are: my isolation from women; my alcohol abuse and my desire to spend time with other alcohol abusers; my inability to relate to the academic aspects of Amherst; my suffering in silence in the presence of any professor who used ridicule of me or my work as a means of trying to awaken me to alternative ways of expressing myself or of experiencing the universe.
More and more I live by the AA/ACA credo "One Day At A Time". Nevertheless, I do spend some time looking toward the future; in so doing, I see myself: taking a leap into a new career as a career/life planning counselor, an alcoholism counselor, a college administrator ... or whatever; marrying again, probably to a "down-home" woman who is active in ACA; being active in ACA the rest of my days; playing soccer till I'm 70 or older (I scored the longest and prettiest goal of my life in a mens' game two Sundays ago!); being adventurous, as I was this sumter when I went backpacking in southwestern Colorado with my girlfriend Betty DeWitt; encouraging my children along the way.
As for our 25th Reunion, I'm interested in attending, but I do not know if I'll be there. If I'm unable to attend or choose not to attend, please know that I'm grateful that you were/are in my life.
Yours in Terras Irradient,
Peter “Boomer” Shull
P. S. In concluding this letter, I wonder if I was being "appropriate" in disclosing the information and sentiments I've expressed. I let go and let God and trust that I will learn the next lessons I need to learn in my life.