Over the summer, Colgate opened its newest facility, Benton Hall, as a home for programs to aid students in preparing for their futures. What influence has your academic experience at Colgate had on your career trajectory, or career plans?Back to Your Stories
As a Student of Color, A Black Cuban-American alumnus, Colgate’s influence on me has been quite different than those of the alumni whom I have recently read. While at 'Gate, I experienced moments of both personal and academic fear – fear of failure, fear of loss of self, and at one time during the campus upheaval between 1968 and 1969 as a member of the Association of Black Collegians (ABC), a fear for my life. But Colgate’s lesson to me was one of survival - how to survive, overcome, and succeed personally - academically. These became life lessons to me to the point where I have experienced as rich and fertile an environment in both my post-academic, scientific career and personal life. Had it not been for those hard years at Colgate, or if I had matriculated elsewhere, I believe that I would have withered and crumbled under the pressure placed on a person of color not just to survive in the world at large, but to succeed in it. I eventually came to understand, appreciate and love my four years at Colgate because of the life lessons learned there. For me, that was my way through. It prepared me for all of my experiences through this life. That’s not what you wanted to hear, I’m sure. But that was what Colgate did for me.
The Benton Scholars Program has paved the way in innumerable ways for my professional life. Through the personal connections with my peers and professors, the grant opportunities, and the educational experiences, I have a much clearer image of what I want to do with my life.
After our spring break trip to start up companies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during my first year, I felt inspired by the scene and all of the innovation that was happening. It was then because of that experience, and the help of lovely Colgate Parent Dan Rosensweig that I found myself commuting to a start up each day by bike between Ipanema and Copacabana the following summer. I learned so much about building a company, marketing, and business ethics.
The grant opportunities have also enriched my experience as I did research about community development and radio in Mexico City that I will use for my thesis and about cross cultural chess playing in Peru that I am working into a Fellowship Application at the moment.
Not to mention all of the connections that I've made, including meeting my Vice President through the program. I am so appreciative of all these unique opportunities.
Three years after graduation, in 1973, I sought out help from Stan Kinney, longtime Director of Career Services, concerning law school applications. His help led me to admission at Cornell Law School, followed by a legal career at Nixon Peabody in Rochester, NY where I still do pro bono work.
Upon graduating I reached out to an alumni member who graduated 40 years prior to my graduation date. As a result of that outreach, I was hired by his company and enjoyed a career at an airline that spanned 4 decades and had a life-long mentor. That Colgate connection influenced my life in countless ways and it all started in the career office and one letter to a very busy executive who made the time to guide me and became a life long mentor and friend. Had it not been for Colgate my life would have been significantly different.
From Tony Aveni to Marietta Cheng to Margaret Maurer and the 2 legendary profs Coleman Brown and "Steve" (M. Holmes) Hartshorne, the singular teaching influence was "inquiry": the openness to ask questions, encouragement to engage in respectful dialogue across differences, and ample space given for 'not knowing' but sharing the journey of self-reflection and self-knowledge acquisition. This has enhanced my public sector ability to listen deeply to constituencies from all walks of life and to create safe places to community-wide dialogue that allows 'sum greater than the parts' outcomes. Profoundly satisfying lessons for which I thank each of my mentors and peers.