Laffoon calls the plays, plays the hits on 99 Rock

by Sarah Rubenstein | 11/4/97 6:00am

During his freshman year, Brent Laffoon '98 played a sport he did not enjoy, came down with mononucleosis and struggled with a 1.7 grade point average. And to top it all off, the Miami native found New Hampshire a bit too cold for his taste.

But, he said, "You have to lose yourself before you can find yourself."

Laffoon, the general manager of Dartmouth Broadcasting, presently has a positive outlook on almost all the goings on around campus, and in fact, on life in general.

On a typical weekday, Laffoon attends classes in the morning starting with drill for French 1, which he "love[s]." He also takes English 41 -- "a phenomenal class" -- and Government 30, which he also enjoys.

He next spends about six hours working at the radio station, does homework for a few hours after dinner, and either socializes or returns to the radio station afterward.

Thanks to his busy schedule, the senior rarely sleeps for more than five hours per night.

But he does not complain.

Laffoon said, "There's a Chinese proverb that says if you enjoy what you do, you never work a day of your life. It shouldn't even have to be work to make things fit together, and for me it isn't."

As general manager, he oversees all departments at the station, including the FM and AM channels, advertising sales, news, finance and production.

"I have to take situations, assess them and figure out what to do," Laffoon said.

"It's always a challenge, but it's fun to be the one who gets to make the call."

Rick Adams, a member of the Board of Overseers of Dartmouth Broadcasting, said Laffoon's "style is very low key.

"He's willing to listen to all sides of an issue, and he's very thoughtful about making a decision," Adams said.

"Low key" is a prominent aspect of Laffoon's personality.

He speaks slowly and calmly, as if nothing could upset him.

To those who are, as Dartmouth Broadcasting Program Director Kendra Kosko '99 described herself, "high strung," he can seem like a whole different species.

Kosko said, "That's the beauty of Brent. He could be having the worst day in the world, but you would never know it, because he's always there for other people. It's good -- we balance each other out."

Before becoming general manager, Laffoon worked as a deejay and technical director at the station.

His on-air radio name is Coco Jones, but the story behind it remains "confidential. I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you," he said with a laugh.

"It's all part of this crazy business called radio," Laffoon joked.

Besides working for the radio (and also, by the way, working in the woodshop and taking the meditation Miniversity course), one of Laffoon's strongest interests is Spanish.

He attended a high school where about 85 percent of the students were Hispanic, so he picked up the language from classes and his peers.

"At Dartmouth, Spanish is a sort of private world for me. It reminds me of home," he said.

Laffoon has pursued his interest in Spanish by traveling. During his sophomore winter, he worked for Operation Ocotal -- a Tucker Foundation Program in Nicaragua aimed at learning about developmental issues in Third World countries.

"That was my first time out of the US, and it just blew my mind," he said. "They know they're poor, but they don't see themselves as poor. They're happy."

He traveled to Argentina on the Spanish Foreign Study Program during the spring of his junior year, and he worked over the summer at a hotel in Costa Rica.

During his time away from the hotel, he hitchhiked in Costa Rica and Panama.

"It's really interesting to see how people who come from so many different backgrounds and places come together and get along," he said. "The icebergs, waterfalls, mountains -- they're just pieces of a whole."

But there has to be something that he doesn't like, right? Well, about the only thing Laffoon could come up with was "snow, but that's actually starting to grow on me."

After some more thought, he acknowledged that there is something about Dartmouth that bothers him.

"It's [many of the students'] feeling that, we're Ivy League students, and we have to get good jobs when we get out of here. I think that goes in the way of what I consider more important," he said.

Laffoon emphasizes living, in all senses of the word. He enjoys his school work and was proud to say he has vastly improved his grade point average since his freshman year, but he cringed at the idea of spending excessive hours in the library.

"One of the greatest things about Dartmouth is the people here," he said. He makes a "conscious effort" to meet many of his peers.

According to Laffoon, too many students here focus on their books and future occupations, rather than appreciating what they have here.

"You gotta go the way Mark Twain said -- don't let school get in the way of your education," he said.

He has not decided what he will pursue after graduation, but he may join the Peace Corps.