Advice From the Class of 1973 to the Class of 2023
The first co-ed class, the Class of 1973, reflects on the past 50 years since their graduation from Dartmouth.
This article is featured in the 2023 Commencement & Reunions special issue.
The Dartmouth reached out to members of the Class of 1973, Dartmouth’s first co-ed class, to ask them for advice for the graduating Class of 2023. Here is what they wrote, 50 years after their own Commencement ceremony.
Howard Reiss, former lawyer, now arbitrator, mediator and writer (Valley Cottage, NY): Your true religion should always be kindness. However old you are, it’s never too late to make a change and follow your dreams.
Jim Fleischer, lawyer (Bethesda, MD):
Sometimes, it’s important to sit and think. Sometimes, it’s important to just sit.
Reed Greene, lawyer (Boerne, TX):
My advice is, be flexible. Have a hobby to get your mind off work. Some of the best advice is what Polonius advised his son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”:
“Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage …
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
George Wolohojian, director at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Derwood, MD):
Be present, active and engaged with others. Get out into nature. Stop, be quiet, listen. Ask questions of others to affirm and learn from them. If you do, you’ll eventually share yourself, but begin by being present, face-to-face with those you meet. Appreciate all you can from the places you go. And be optimistic. My favorite old t-shirt has an image of a drinking glass that reads “half-full.”
Howard Bad Hand, education and economic development director for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spiritual and cultural coach and consultant (Taos, NM):
I’ve learned from people around the world that everyone is looking to do the right thing except those who intend evil. Keep your actions in virtue, and you’ll live a good life.
Donna Bascom, lawyer, executive and film producer, (New York, NY):
Life is not a continuous line of good things coming to good people who work hard. Stuff always happens and it blindsides us when it does. Just be resilient and roll with it; setbacks can enlighten your lives.
Try to accept doing something less than perfect; this will bring you a more balanced life.
Stay connected to the people you care about and lose the ones who don’t enhance your life.
Valerie Armento, semi-retired local government lawyer (San Mateo, CA):
Greet each day with optimism. Live with and for a purpose bigger than yourself so the world is better for you having been part of it. Engage in small acts of kindness without expectation of reward or recognition. End each day with gratitude.
When I was a student, an axiom was that at Dartmouth people “worked hard, played hard(er).” I did then and I still do (well, maybe not quite so hard!).
Jan Seidler Ramirez, curator (New York, NY):
If you are lucky enough, follow a career that lets you continue to learn, in which you can stay humble and respect the many perspectives that animate this big world. If you can’t find this through work, look for other means of life-long learning through volunteer work or education. Your Dartmouth experience has likely helped you become more compassionate and curious, a better human being. This journey is never ending. It’s a gift to get up every day and be interested in the world, listen and learn from others, love people and be loved back.
Doug Noll, former lawyer-turned-professional peacemaker (CA):
Learn how to listen to emotions, not words. This is the foundational skill of life and builds instant trust, loyalty, rapport and intimacy. You will become the leader everyone wants to follow.
Robert Haynes, construction, real estate brokerage and development, Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation (Norwich, VT):
Appreciate the great fortune of living and studying at Dartmouth. You are the beneficiaries of more than 250 years of work by those who came before you. You may never again be surrounded by such a diverse and talented group of people. Stay optimistic, committed and get to know people as you venture out; folks get to do things because they know someone.
Kate Stith-Cabranes, Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law at Yale Law School (New Haven, CT):
The country is in a very difficult state, the world is in a difficult state. Maybe it has always felt this way, but it just seems worse than before. In the rest of our lives, I want us to be strong, to stand up for what we believe in. I don’t want us to just go along with the crowd. I want us, just as I want my students, to be independent thinkers and doers. I tell my students: Get your faces out of your cell phones. You can go out and make a difference, or you can sit around and not make waves. I encourage them: You don’t have to be famous or a big shot, you just have to work to make the world a better place.
Tyrone Byrd, Texas Commerce Bank, Citibank, Texaco/Chevron, oil and gas entrepreneur (Houston, TX):
Get on the cutting edge of diversity, equity and inclusion. Help the political divide go away. We can’t depend on the President or the political parties for this; we have to do it ourselves.
Robert Rosenblum, certified public accountant, entrepreneur and business owner, (Naples, FL):
Persevere, roll up your sleeves, work passionately on anything you choose to work on. That makes a huge difference. Do the hard work. Be committed and put in the energy. Almost anything rewarding has these components. Only the individual can decide how much they will put in.
Also, be flexible with the path life takes you on. As a freshman, I had no idea what I was going to study. I became motivated when I found the woman of my dreams and needed a career to support us. We lived a lean but good life, and I had to work hard for a long time before success came at 50.
Karen Fagin White, lawyer (Atlanta, GA):
You have a long road ahead. Don’t be afraid to fail, get out of your comfort zone and pursue your passions. Now is the time; there’s no better time in your life than as you graduate.
Dan Hall, private practice lawyer, Office of U.S. Congressman Ron Mazzoli, House of Representatives Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, University of Louisville (Louisville, KY):
I attended Dartmouth during a period of growing hope, optimism and opportunity. Students of my generation benefited from the hard work and struggles of previous generations.
Sadly, we live now in a world that’s too self-serving. I don’t sense optimism. I fret over the direction the world is heading, the kind of world my grandchildren and great grandchildren will inherit. The history of human progress reminds us that each generation inherits seemingly monumental challenges. But history also tells us that, more often than not, each generation rises to meet these trials. You should know that democracy is messy, under the best of circumstances. And it is becoming even more challenging as we become an increasingly diverse and pluralistic society. Sadly, some people want democracy only on their terms, but a healthy democratic society requires give-and-take. So, appreciate the values others hold and strive for the greater good.
I encourage the Class of 2023 to give it your all to resolve today’s complex problems and make our country a more perfect union. Pursue activities with global impact, as the world’s problems are interwoven.
Stand strong, believe in yourself, don’t forsake the truth. Be the agent, the facilitator of a better future. Don’t be consumed with power. Live with integrity. Feel confident that Dartmouth has equipped you to pursue all this.
Jerry Birch, corporate positions with Standard Oil, Buckeye Health Plan, PWC, entrepreneur and business owner, pastor with Abundant Grace Fellowship, Cleveland Cavaliers Player’s chaplain (Cleveland, OH):
Remember that God is always more concerned with who you’re becoming than what you’re accomplishing.
Charles Box, lawyer, Rockford Legal director, City administrator and Mayor, Illinois Commerce Commission, American Natural Gas (Rockford, IL):
In the past few years, we’ve faced huge problems — war, recession, pandemic, political turmoil, migration and others. Dartmouth alumni and professors have played crucial roles helping resolve many of these — including alumnae Timothy Geithner and Hank Paulson, and Jason McLellan at Geisel Medical School. We expect you to use all you’ve learned at Dartmouth to help resolve future crises — local, national, international.
Michael Winn, founder of Healing Tao University and qigong and meditation teacher (Asheville, NC):
Graduates usually focus first on their career. Be aware this is only one part of life. Initial choice can easily change as you mature and deeper passions surface. What ultimately has more lasting importance is your spiritual path. This is also a process of exploration that goes beyond adopting pre-packaged religious beliefs. Those will only take you halfway. I explored over a dozen paths before I realized I was a “Free-and-Easy Wandering Taoist” in the vein of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Most don’t attain “the Great Oneness” because they don’t bother to seek it. It seems too far away, what's the practical benefit? Time is an illusion, your life will pass in what seems like the blink of an eye. Your bank account and career will turn to dust, forgotten. Only your love of life and creativity will be transferred into the Great Beyond.
Blessings on Your Creative and Loving Way.
James T. Kloppenberg, Charles Warren research professor of American history at Harvard University:
Dear Class of 2023, You face a world even worse than the world we faced in 1973. At least our elected officials in the Senate and the House had the integrity to stand up for the rule of law. You enter a world in which not even that basic principle can be taken for granted. One party places its own falsehoods, and those of a disgraced president, above the truth and above the law. The world is again at war.
The disastrous war in Ukraine is a reminder that autocrats choose their own perceived interests over everything else—no matter how many people die. Our own nation is being held hostage by a merciless gun lobby that values profits over people and has convinced much of our citizenry that their only defense is military-grade weapons that should never be used outside a battlefield. And of course there’s climate change, which threatens the survival of island nations and ocean-front communities, again because we value profit more than people.
Your generation is facing challenges even greater than those we faced. It will be up to you to stand up for the values you learned at Dartmouth and do your best to make this nation, and this world, a better place than it is now. Your graduation from Dartmouth marks you as a person whom some Americans will malign as part of an “elite” that does not share their values. Whatever your own politics, you must stand up for free inquiry, the pursuit of truth and justice, which are fundamental not only to higher education but to the future of our nation and our world. Vox Clamantis in Deserto.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.