This Slacker Seized the Day

As the father of a prospective Colby ’15, I (perhaps on our visit to your campus last summer) came into possession of your summer 2010 issue. One of your articles stunned me and took me back to a time in New Hampshire many years ago, when the magazine of which I was editor-in-chief created a new assistant-editor position. We advertised nationwide and garnered 100 or so résumés, half of which we discarded because of some typographical or grammatical slip. Disqualifying others for various reasons, we whittled the field to about 20.

To these 20, we administered our Killer Editorial Test—scores of technical questions about English, brain teasers, questions in doublespeak, multiple choice questions with no correct answer, and so forth. We interviewed the top 10 test takers and combined their scores.

The top two candidates were separated by just three hundredths of a point. My managing editor and I decided late that Friday afternoon that numbers were numbers, so it was decided that I would call up “John” and make him the offer. I made the call: “John, congratulations, I am pleased to offer you the position.” He responded: “How long do I have to make my decision?” Now, this was not what I had expected—or wanted—to hear. We needed an infusion of energy and excitement, not hesitation or tentativeness. Taken aback, I said: “How about until Monday?”

But I started thinking about it and it really bothered me. I called up my managing editor, who shared my concern. So I called John and explained that I was withdrawing the offer because we needed someone who was more eager. With his girlfriend screaming invective in the background, John tried to make a case for himself, but the deal was done.

It was well after 6 p.m. when I reached Mary. I offered her the position, and she responded: “How long do I have to make my decision?” Not a little aghast, yet somewhat teachable, I replied: “We really need someone who enthusiastically wants to fill it, so I am afraid I am forced to renege on the offer.”

Number 3 was a sleeper. He had finished almost two points behind the first two, but everyone liked him and his can-do attitude. Though less than a year removed from what appeared to have been a rather lackluster college stint, he had pretty good technical skills. A check of his résumé showed that he was working for a suburban shopper weekly outside Boston. Apparently he and his dog were living with his parents or out of the back of his car as he stayed with friends.

Somewhat miraculously (I thought), I was able to reach him at about 7:30 p.m. and offer him the job. “Wow,” he said. “I can be there in two hours.” “That’s not necessary,” I started to say. “I’ll be there first thing tomorrow,” he interrupted. “I can put my dog and everything I own in the back of my car — what time should I be there?”

After I finally got him calmed down and focused on showing up the following Monday, I called my managing editor and told her that number 3 was on board. He went on to spend a number of valuable years with us, valuable not just for him as learning opportunities, but especially for us.

This person was Chris Schmidt ’83, author of your Last Page column, “For This Slacker, Lessons Learned” in the summer 2010 issue. I am nominally the editor-in-chief who “taught me the hard lessons deflected at Colby,” although I am sure Chris was referring to our managing editor, Susan Philbrick, who really ran the show.

Chris has produced some “Lessons Taught,” too, as I have told his story many times, particularly to young people about to launch their careers. How it’s crucial to jump in with both feet and then some. How extra energy can be the differentiating advantage.

Some folks might say that Chris was lucky—and there is no doubt that Colby prepared him exceedingly well, too—but in reality he made his own luck by following what I always refer to as “The Laws of Chris”: 1. Carpe diem. 2: Show some enthusiasm!!! 3. If possible, bring your dog.

Jack Burnett
Peterborough, N.H.


Spread the Hardy Girls Message

Regarding “The Girls Are Alright,” (winter 2011 Colby) the message that girls and women are capable, strong, and complete by themselves—not just the sum of their eyeliner, lip gloss, and attractiveness to boys and men— needs to be brought to young girls of all races and economic classes, and to young men, too.

As a teacher in a private co-ed middle school, I see many young girls who have a strong sense of themselves in the younger grades but who start to see themselves much differently by sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. Many lose interest in their studies and hobbies and acquiesce to their male classmates. We need the Hardy Girls Healthy Women curriculum in all schools. I also hope your organization can groom some very strong lobbyists to scream in Washington’s ear.

Mary Duffy
Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J.

A hardy thank you to Colby staff writer Laura Meader and editor Gerry Boyle for a fantastic article about Hardy Girls Healthy Women in the winter issue of Colby magazine.

The impact that Colby faculty, staff, and students have had on Hardy Girls’ success cannot be overstated. Hardy Girls Healthy Women is an organization committed to empowering girls with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and a platform to drive social change with an ultimate vision of a world that values girls for their diversity of contributions and accomplishments. We could not have had the depth and breadth of impact we’ve had locally and globally without the hundreds of Colby volunteers, generous financial support of the College and alumni, and the visibility that a partnership with such an esteemed institution as Colby College has given us.

To all the Colbians, on behalf of all the girls who’ve had a chance find their voice and embrace their power and potential, we say thanks.

Megan Williams ’04
Executive Director
Hardy Girls Healthy Women
Waterville, Maine

President Strider Revisited

In June 2010, while at my 40th reunion, I walked into the foyer of Dana Hall to find several of my classmates huddled together, talking excitedly. The buzz was that President Robert E. Lee Strider was in the building, having brunch. To my classmates’ amazement, I rushed to join him.

My class and even I myself had misgivings about the man who was president when we were in college. It was a time of student protests over the Vietnam War, when I, along with some other rabble rousers, “seized” Lorimer Chapel. President Strider strode into the chapel after the occupation began and I, among others, locked horns with him. But I now had the chance, some 40 years on, to address the issues in a different setting with the man who back then seemed so aloof and dispassionate.

I began by re-introducing myself to him as Barrett Hurwitz, Class of 1970, and asked if he’d mind me asking him a question. “No, Barry,” he replied, clearly remembering me. And so we chatted about the chapel occupation, which he described as “not one of my better days.” Asked whether his views had changed, in the light of history, he replied, “I was not unsympathetic to your cause, but I found the process quite disruptive.” And when I said that I never knew that, he smiled. In his deep, mellifluous voice, he said, “I could never have told that to anyone then, and if I had, no one would have believed me.”

And so I thank the College for reunions and thank the late President Robert E. Lee Strider for the conversation that I believe put to rest what, until that day in June 2010, had festered in both of our minds. May he rest in peace.

Barrett A. Hurwitz ’70
Dartmouth, Mass.

The Strider Baritone

Thank you for the tribute to former President Strider (winter 2011 Colby) and the chance to revisit many important aspects of his tenure at Colby. I did miss, however, a mention of his wonderful baritone voice, which the College community heard on a number of occasions.

One particular musical memory: his fine performance of the powerful baritone solos in Brahms’s A German Requiem (with the Waterville Symphony, May 1964). It was recorded and, as a freshman in the considerable choral forces, I was able to get a copy. Listening to it again this week, I was impressed anew not only by the richness but also the expressiveness of President Strider’s singing. How lucky we were that he shared it with us!

Carl R. Faust ’67
West Milford, N.J.