Audacity, Resilience
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Surviving Yale’s Maelstrom

Father drove me to New Haven with all my clothes and possessions, except my books, fitting in one large and one small suitcase. Had never been away from home for any extended period of time. Father still had strong reservations about my college choice. He said the only person he ever knew to go to Yale, the smartest person he knew, flunked out his freshman year. Told me not to be afraid to come home when I inevitably flunked out. He shook my hand and headed home. Determined then and there to graduate from Yale, or die trying, or else move to another part of the country. Was completely alone for the first time in my life. Was thrilled. Was terrified. Perhaps my Dad was right, with no idea what lay ahead of me, the next five years would shape me in ways the University of Rhode Island never could have. Would never return to Tiverton, RI again except for infrequent visits.

In high school I had won the WALE Radio Outstanding English Student prize, the Brown University prize for ability in English expression both written and oral, and the Clayborn Pell American History medal. At Yale, following my freshman adviser’s reasonable suggestion, took an advanced English class: From Chaucer to Eliot. I bombed. The prep school kids were well versed in forms of literary theory which I’d never heard of. They knew how to study and when to speak up in class. Found myself drowning in the Literature of Greece and Rome since these were not topics taught at Tiverton High School. Didn’t know how to study them, what the professor wanted, or even how to ask for help. Was thick headed enough to try and figure it out entirely on my own. Too ashamed to seek help.

Yale became a contest to see what I was made of. Did well in my history and political science classes, so chose them as my double major, and given my high school success had six credits of advanced placement in English. By living in the library for the next several months, attending all my classes, and avoiding any social life, eked out a C or better in each of my classes that first semester. After many adventures and failures, I would eventually go on to graduate from Yale by the skin of my teeth, but in learning to survive the maelstrom prepared to tackle even bigger mountains. Went on to Harvard Business School, working at Bain, then Genzyme, and finally taking TSI Corporation public. But it all began by learning how to survive and then thrive in the overwhelming maelstrom that was Yale.

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