Passing the Baton: Words of Wisdom from the ’72s
Members of the Class of 1972 share advice for the graduating class, 50 years after their own Commencement ceremony.
This article is featured in the 2022 Commencement & Reunions special issue.
50 years ago, members of the Class of 1972 were preparing to embark on a new chapter of their lives, just as the Class of 2022 is now. Looking back on their time since graduating Dartmouth, members of the Class of 1972 wrote in advice to the Class of 2022.
Bill Shaffer, nonfiction writer (Boulder, Colo.):
When I graduated in 1972, the accepted roadmap was to go to graduate school immediately. Upon graduation, I applied and was accepted in the MBA program at Harvard. With a gap period before I would start there, I took an interim job at IBM. In 1972, IBM was the Apple or Google of its time, the No. 1 admired company in the world. I loved the work. It was an exciting time to be in computers. I never went to Harvard and spent a great career with Big Blue. As a footnote, I retired in 2015 and have embarked on a second career as a writer. Unsurprisingly, my current book project is a history of IBM.
Joe Davis, geologist (Dallas, Texas):
- Don’t give up your dreams or ideals. Hang in there and trust your gut, but realize it might be difficult.
- Never trust someone in a brown suit who is making you promises.
Bill Kirby, professor at Harvard Business School (Lexington, Mass.):
I recall the words told us as freshmen by College President John Sloan Dickey in 1968: “You are here to work, and your business here is learning.” College is but the beginning of your higher education. A lifetime of learning is the surest path to making a difference for yourselves and the world.
Evan Rose, physicist (Los Alamos, N.M.):
Take those forks in the road. Intriguing life paths are found in the backcountry. Opportunities pursued earlier are enjoyed longer.
Jon Einsidler, finance (Longboat Key, Fla.):
- Life will throw you curves. The difference between the majors and minors is the ability to hit a curve.
- Don’t ever get stuck driving behind a gold car.
Lawrie Lieberman, education, investments and software (retired) (Bozeman, Mont.):
The only thing predictable about the future is its unpredictability. Follow your heart on tough decisions and tune out external noise — you live with the consequences of your actions, not your hordes of advisors. Strive for balance between family, work, community and, especially, having fun and smiling!
Phillip Gioia, pediatrician (Auburn, N.Y.)
All you need to do is care for all sustainably, using your compassion, territory and humility.
Jeff Wallace, software-as-a-service entrepreneur (Boulder, Colo.):
Machiavelli was correct about the large role that Fortuna will have on your life. We now call it luck. You must be prepared to take advantage — be bold, as Machiavelli advises — of the opportunities that come your way. Yet, be wary: taking advantage of opportunities today will close off some opportunities tomorrow. When you look back at your life, you will see how your decisions progressively narrowed what you could do. Know this is just the way life works.
Always have a dog. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, your dog will remain as constant in his/her love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
Jack Anderson, trial attorney (Tucson, Ariz.):
Do what you love doing! If that’s not necessarily your occupation, find a hobby that you love. The French painter Ingres played the violin, an activity that refreshed and rejuvenated his mind and allowed him to be more creative in his painting. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about in 50 years.
Charlie Schudson, judge, professor and author (Sedona, Ariz. and Ellison Bay, Wis.):
I would share the advice I gave my sons: “Follow your heart, do your best, help others.” Now, however, I would add: Do not attempt to answer important questions in a sentence. Instead, understand the question. Ponder it thoughtfully, research it thoroughly, listen to others carefully, and then dig deep inside and answer the question — with confidence and humility, knowing that you’ve probably offered some helpful guidance, but that you may be wrong.
Peter Heed, prosecutor and trial attorney (Keene, N.H.):
From my father upon my admission to Dartmouth: “Do not let your studies limit your education.”
Mark Stitham, psychiatrist (Kailua, Hawaii):
As an adult, child and forensic psychiatrist of 47 years, all you need to know is: “don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.”
Chris Denton, attorney (Elmira, N.Y.):
Never use Google.
In all things
observe, adapt, innovate, and teach.
Quietly honor excellence in all that you do.
Give without expectation of reward
for the best success is that which goes unheralded
for it can be repeated often
without the burden of expectation.
Remember that all life is trial and error,
and therefore forgive often and quickly
both others and yourself,
so that we may progress.
Be honest to yourself, and
remember to treat others as you
would have them treat you.
Jeffrey Gilman, hydrogeologist and water resources manager (Lafayette, Calif.):
Approach each day with open eyes and an open mind and strive to learn something new. Experiential learning counts just as much, if not more, than book learning.
P. David Engle, attorney (retired) (Mass.)
The summer after my freshman year I signed up for Dartmouth Project Mexico. It began with hitchhiking from Hanover to Nuevo Laredo — plus a near-miss by a tornado in Texas. We spent the summer building a small school in a very poor village outside Mexico City. As our truly wonderful experience came to an end, I asked my workmate, John — who had just graduated — what was next for him. He said his only plan was to meet a girlfriend at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in L.A. — and, he added, she had several very attractive friends.
It was one of those watershed moments when, as Frost would say, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” The allure for an 18-year-old of a rambunctious youth and rock and roll in 1969 California was powerful, but that little birdie on my shoulder kept saying “if you blow off getting that Dartmouth education, you’re a damn fool!” That’s how I became a proud member of the Class of ’72 instead of a brain-addled, underemployed guitar player in southern California. Some adventures just aren’t worth the cost!
Stay open to opportunities for adventures that take you out of your comfort zone. At the same time use your common sense to recognize and avoid activities that are ill-conceived or unacceptably dangerous. Find excitement and fulfillment in your lives, and when making major decisions, weigh the pros and cons thoughtfully.
Patrick Mattimore, (retired) (Thailand):
Plan to spend at least part of your life living in a foreign country. I have spent the last 15 years living in France, China, Vietnam and Thailand. They have been the best years of my life and I wish I had moved overseas sooner.
Jack Manning, lawyer (retired) (Missoula, Mont.):
- Go out of your way to develop strong basic principles for yourself. When you aren’t sure what to do, go back to your principles. My law partner Walter Mondale taught me that. He told me that Hubert Humphrey had taught it to him.
- No matter how hard you are working or how bad things are, try to do at least one fun thing every day.
Chuck Leer, recovering lawyer and real estate developer (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Fifty years ago, our mantra was “don’t trust anyone over thirty” — we’re inspired that you’re asking us elders for advice. Live a life of gratitude — one day at a time. Remember your friends, too — the Dartmouth bonds are a gift lasting a lifetime. The planet desperately needs you to lead the way — go for it!
Neal Traven, epidemiologist (retired) (Seattle, Wash.)
- Life is not a zero-sum game; your success doesn’t require someone else’s failure.
- Virtual reality is not reality; similarly, watch events with your eyes, not through your phone.
- I don’t care what anyone says — the music of my youth was the best, and it’s not even close.
Alan Unis, child psychiatrist and telemedicine physician (semi-retired) (Spokane, Wash.)
When I first learned about Dartmouth College, I was struck by its motto, “Vox clamantis in deserto.” I interpreted it as the College being in the wilderness and that we would struggle, cry out, to live up to its academic expectations. It conveyed to me an intimidating and somewhat foreboding prospect. What I quickly learned was that the College was a lush oasis of intellectual pursuit, where I felt respected in spite of my relative ignorance. My motto during my undergraduate years was not the strident “vox” but rather “Manus quiete in vinea laborat,” or “hands quietly working in the vineyard,” except on select weekends.
Only after graduation did I appreciate that the “deserto” wasn't Dartmouth at all! Rather, the wilderness was the rest of the world, and our Dartmouth experience gave us vox! I cannot tell you how many times I have thanked Dartmouth College for developing in me the intellectual and moral basis for the challenges I faced. I hope your experience was like mine and that your voices will be a much needed whirlwind in our challenged world.
Wayne Scherzer, actor and talent manager (New York City, N.Y.)
Cherish these moments at Dartmouth. You will understand them to be more precious than you can now imagine as time whisks by.
Jim Borchert, sourcing manager at Dartmouth College (Cornish, N.H. )
Take your work and your responsibilities seriously, but try not to take yourself too seriously.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.