Tell us about your Dickinson experience.
I came in not knowing anyone; frankly, I was not sure what to expect. Typical first-year, right? Dickinson did a great job in providing just the right balance of support and independence. No mistakes were ever disastrous, no problems were too intractable, and no opportunities were completely out of reach. It was an environment where I started to give myself permission to try a bunch of different activities, which was the whole point of going to college in the first place!
I entered as an insecure, latchkey kid with a deep-seated worry that I was in way over my head. But after learning to competitively fence, DJ-ing on WDCV, spending a year in Central America, and meeting the requirements to earn my degree, I left with the confidence that I could find a way to handle whatever challenges and opportunities came my way.
What is your favorite memory of your time at Dickinson?
When I think back to my time at Dickinson, I nearly always reminisce about walking somewhere in those magical tree-lined spaces within the limestone walls. There is something about passing between all the buildings—be they academic, residential or social—that seems so poignant. Even on a bad day, a walk from one building to another helped to clear my head. There were always familiar people out and about, and the beauty of the campus helped to instill a sense of calm and optimism. My favorite part of returning to campus is literally just walking between the buildings!
How did Dickinson’s liberal-arts education help you?
We now have one son halfway through college and the other just starting his college search, so the value of a liberal-arts education has been thoroughly considered and discussed in our household. Both Rebecca and I believe that our degrees in the liberal arts taught us how to learn with humanistic inquiry, rather than how to work with rote capability.
I’ve had a career path that seems highly improbable. My first job was as a computer programmer, despite the fact that I had never once learned how to write a line of code before I started at my job. It allowed me to grow into a management-consulting job across three separate industries (finance, retail and entertainment), despite the fact that I never attained an MBA nor worked in any of those fields. By connecting diverse ideas and themes across academic disciplines, the Dickinson liberal-arts experience prepared me to take over a family business and grow it from a single mom-and-pop store to four businesses that provide a secure and meaningful living to more than 100 people.
What inspired your gift to Dickinson?
I was lucky to find Dickinson, and even luckier they let me in! It wasn’t a school that was on anyone’s radar in Minnesota in the 1980s, and I certainly wasn’t a kid with a great GPA and test scores or a compelling life story. But through some miracle we found each other, and what a difference it has made to my life.
Regrettably, upon graduation, I really didn’t stay very connected. It’s hard to see how valuable your college experience was until you have the perspective of time. But when I reconnected, some 25 years after graduation, I was astonished to see just how little had changed in terms of what really mattered: the culture of the school. Dickinson's key tenets are a respect for the individual, an emphasis on personal responsibility to contribute to the community (be it hyperlocal or fully global) and an ethos of advancing the cause of human progress by seeking to understand diverse viewpoints. This sort of place deserves support!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Rebecca and I love to travel, and we have been very lucky to see so many different places and get to know many different people. We also enjoy cooking, dining out and reading. Finally, we find an increasingly large part of our energy is directed at contributing to our community. It has given us great joy to watch our sons bolster their growing interests and philanthropic lenses.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Have faith in the future; keep your mind open to possibilities, even uncomfortable ones; and always assume the best of intentions in the people you most disagree with. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” —Marcus Aurelius
Published July 23, 2021