Passing the Baton: Words of Wisdom from the 72s


Members of the Class of 1972 share advice for the class, 50 years after their own graduation ceremony.

by Thomas Lane | 50 minutes ago

Source: Photo courtesy of Rauner Special Collections Archive

This article is featured in the Special issue Commencement & Meetings 2022.

50 years ago, members of the Class of 1972 were preparing to begin a new chapter in their lives, just as the Class of 2022 is now. Looking back on their time since graduating from Dartmouth, members of the Class of 1972 wrote advice to the Class of 2022.

Bill Shaffer, non-fiction writer (Boulder, Colorado):

When I graduated in 1972, the accepted roadmap was to go straight to graduate school. After graduating, I applied and was accepted into the MBA program at Harvard. With a break before starting there, I took a temp 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 job. It was an exciting time to be in computers. I never went to Harvard and had a great career with Big Blue. By the way, I retired in 2015 and embarked on a second career as a writer. Unsurprisingly, my current book project is an IBM story.

Joe Davis, geologist (Dallas, Texas):

  1. Don’t give up on your dreams or your ideals. Hang in there and trust your instincts, but know that it might be difficult.
  2. Never trust someone in a brown suit who makes you promises.

Bill Kirby, professor at Harvard Business School (Lexington, Mass.):

I remember the words of first-year College President John Sloan Dickey to us in 1968: “You are here to work, and your business here is learning. College is only the beginning of your higher education. A lifetime of learning is the surest path to making a difference for yourself and for the world.

Evan Rose, physicist (Los Alamos, New Mexico):

Take these forks to the road. Intriguing life paths lie in the hinterland. Opportunities seized earlier are enjoyed longer.

Jon Einsidler, finance (Longboat Key, Florida):

  1. Life will throw you curveballs. The difference between majors and minors is the ability to hit a curve.
  2. Never get stuck behind a golden car.

Lawrie Lieberman, education, investments and software (retired) (Bozeman, Mont.):

The only predictable thing about the future is its unpredictability. Follow your heart in difficult decisions and eliminate outside noise – you live with the consequences of your actions, not with your hordes of advisors. Seek a balance between family, work, community and, above all, have fun and smile!

Phillip Gioia, pediatrician (Auburn, NY)

All you have to do is take care of all in a sustainable way, using your compassion, your territory and your humility.

Jeff Wallace, Software-as-a-Service Entrepreneur (Boulder, Colorado):

Machiavelli was right about the important role Fortuna will have in your life. We now call it luck. You have to be ready to take advantage – be bold, as Machiavelli advises – of the opportunities that come your way. However, beware: taking advantage of opportunities today will close some tomorrow. When you look back on your life, you will see how your decisions gradually reduced what you could do. Know that this is how life works.


Always have a dog. When wealth takes flight and reputation crumbles, your dog will remain as constant in love as the sun on its journey through the heavens.

Jack Anderson, General Counsel (Tucson, Arizona):

Do what you love to do! If that’s not necessarily your job, find a hobby that you enjoy. The French painter Ingres played the violin, an activity that refreshed and rejuvenated his mind and enabled him to be more creative in his painting. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about 50 years from now.

Charlie Schudson, judge, teacher and author (Sedona, Arizona and Ellison Bay, Wisconsin):

I would share the advice I gave my sons: “Follow your heart, do your best, help others.” Now, however, I would add: don’t try to answer important questions in one sentence. Instead, understand the question. Think it through carefully, research it thoroughly, listen carefully to others, then dig deep and answer the question – with confidence and humility, knowing that you’ve probably offered helpful advice, but you may be wrong.

Peter Heed, Attorney and General Counsel (Keene, NH):

From my father upon my admission to Dartmouth: “Don’t let your studies limit your education.

Mark Stitham, psychiatrist (Kailua, Hawaii):

As a 47-year-old adult, pediatric, and forensic psychiatrist, all you need to know is, “don’t worry about the little things…and they’re just the little things.”

Chris Denton, attorney (Elmira, NY):

Never use Google.

life skills

in all things

observe, adapt, innovate and teach.

Quietly honor excellence in all that you do.

Give without expectation of reward

because the best success is the one that is not announced

because it can happen often

without the burden of waiting.

Remember that all life is trial and error,

and therefore forgive often and quickly

others and yourself,

so that we can progress.

Be honest with yourself and

remember to treat others like you

would like them to treat you.

Jeffrey Gilman, hydrogeologist and water resources manager (Lafayette, CA):

Approach each day with open eyes and an open mind and strive to learn something new. Learning from experience matters as much, if not more, than learning from books.

P. David Engle, Barrister (retired) (Mass.)

The summer after my freshman year, I signed up for Dartmouth Project Mexico. It all started 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 of Mexico City. As our truly wonderful experience was coming to an end, I asked my co-worker, John, who had just graduated, what was next for him. He said his only plan was to meet a girlfriend at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles – 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 pull for an 18-year-old boy of exuberant youth and rock and roll in 1969 California was powerful, but that little bird on my shoulder kept saying “if you fail to get that education in Dartmouth, you’re one hell of a fool!” That’s how I became a proud member of the Class of ’72 instead of an underemployed, foggy guitarist in Southern California. Some adventures just aren’t worth the cost!

Stay open to adventurous opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. At the same time, use common sense to recognize and avoid activities that are poorly designed or of unacceptable danger. Find excitement and fulfillment in your lives, and when making important 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. Those were the best years of my life and I wish I had moved abroad sooner.

Jack Manning, lawyer (retired) (Missoula, Montana):

  1. Do all you can to develop strong basics for yourself. When you don’t know what to do, come back to your principles. I learned that from my law partner, Walter Mondale. He told me Hubert Humphrey taught him.
  2. No matter how hard you work or how bad things go, try to do at least one fun thing every day.

Chuck Leer, recovery attorney and real estate developer (Minneapolis, Minn.)

Fifty years ago, our mantra was “don’t trust anyone over thirty” — we are inspired that you ask us, the elders, for advice. Live a life of gratitude – one day at a time. Don’t forget your friends either – Dartmouth Bonds are a gift that lasts a lifetime. The planet desperately needs you to lead the way – go for it!

Neal Traven, epidemiologist (retired) (Seattle, Washington)

  1. Life is not a zero-sum game; your success doesn’t require someone else’s failure.
  2. Virtual reality is not reality; likewise, watch events with your eyes, not through your phone.
  3. I don’t care what they say – the music of my youth was the best, and it’s not even close.

Alan Unis, child psychiatrist and telemedicine physician (semi-retired) (Spokane, Washington)

When I first heard of Dartmouth College, I was struck by its motto, “Vox clamantis in deserto”. I interpreted it as the College being in the desert and we would struggle, scream, to live up to its academic expectations. It gave me a daunting and somewhat ominous perspective. What I soon learned was that the College was a lush oasis of intellectual pursuit, where I felt respected despite my relative ignorance. My motto during my undergraduate years was not the strident “vox” but rather “Manus quiete in vinea laborat”, or “hands working quietly in the vineyard”, except on certain weekends.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I realized the ‘desert’ wasn’t Dartmouth at all! Rather, the wilderness was the rest of the world, and our experience in Dartmouth 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 struggling world.

Wayne Scherzer, actor and talent manager (New York City, NY)

Cherish those moments at Dartmouth. You will come to realize that they are more valuable than you can imagine as time goes by.

Jim Borchert, procurement manager at Dartmouth College (Cornish, NH)

Take your job and your responsibilities seriously, but try not to take yourself too seriously.

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.


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