A Liberal Arts Resume: By Gerry Boyle '78, Illustrations by Leo Pando


Colby Magazine: Winter 2003

"Everybody always said it was the most useless major," said Sean Duffy '83, who double majored in English and psychology before embarking on a career in advertising. "But it teaches you how to think. And being able to think in business is the most important thing."

It has been for Duffy, who, leaving Colby with sheaves of short stories in his portfolio, landed a job as an advertising copywriter in Boston. Three years later, an extended backpacking trip in Europe prompted him to circulate his résumé in London. A U.K. agency promptly hired him--for its San Francisco office. In 1991, a Swedish girlfriend and the percolating possibilities of the European Union led him to give Europe another try, and Duffy & Co. was born.

The success of that venture led to the opening two years ago of The Duffy Agency in Mälmo, Sweden, with a second office just opened in Berlin. Duffy has worked on campaigns for Saab, Volvo, Absolut and other Swedish companies and now specializes in "global brand building" for clients on both sides of the Atlantic. "It's fascinating because you never know what your client is going to be up to," he said. "That's where the liberal arts really comes in."

Duffy's early pre-med plans gave him a biology background that has come in handy working with a client that makes electro-muscular stimulation equipment. His ability to shoulder a six-course workload at Colby prepared him well for the responsibilities of running his own business. A psychology major provided a foundation for working in a field that centers on anticipating consumers' reactions to words, images and colors.

And, of course, his love of Shakespeare is undiminished.

In only one way has Duffy's liberal arts background let him down. "I suppose if I had been a business major I wouldn't have started an agency on the eve of the biggest advertising recession in history," he said. He laughed and then noted that 10 of his agency's dozen or so competitors have closed in the past two years. The business run by the guy with the English degree is thriving. "I truly think that the education I had has had a lot to do with the way things have gone," Duffy said.

For others, the connection between education and a career in business has been more direct.






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