Words of Wisdom

Eighteen alums offer new graduates advice to live by.

Don’t wait. This is your life. And your 20s is the best time to try. Fail. Experience. Live. That doesn’t mean don’t plan. But find the balance. And make memories.

Todd Piro ’00
Reporter, Fox News
New York City
Government major

 

Robert Frost is not remembered as a farmer. But that’s what he did while writing poetry late at night. Your legacy might not be tied to your vocation. Your destiny might be a quality of “being” you bring to the world, so keep your career choices in perspective. Don’t worry if your “road less taken” is unremarkable on paper. Your legacy doesn’t require it to be. Perhaps you have a quality-of-being destiny, which is career-agnostic. Know your values. Make choices consistent with them. Values, when practiced, become virtues, and your virtues become your legacy.

Mary Flounders Green ’88, Tu’95
Asset management and communications executive
Stamford, Connecticut
Chinese Language and Asian Studies

 

Practice pragmatic idealism. Have an open mind to opportunities that will inevitably occur. Develop a sense of perspective. Although I was simply idealistic for perhaps too long, I now accept that people’s appetites for power, for pleasure, for resources, et cetera, have not changed in thousands of years. And I think that among our biggest challenges as a species are to educate more women and to civilize more men. Why? To quote astronaut John Young, “Single-planet species do not survive.” We need to become a space-faring species to ensure our survival. Earth will always be a special place, but if it remains our only place, we have no long-term future. Please help us to have a future.

James Newman ’78
NASA astronaut and educator, Naval Postgraduate School
Pacific Grove, California
Physics

 

Prestige and money are never going to be sustainable sources of motivation. To build a long and fulfilling career, strive for something more—a grand mission, a profound impact—so that you can bring both your brains and your heart to work.

Qian Zhang ’13
M.B.A. student
Boston
Mathematics and Economics

 

Don’t be too eager to put down roots in a city or at a job. When exciting opportunities come your way—and they will—you won’t want to be encumbered with more than a carful of belongings, an expensive lease you can’t get out of, or a promise you made to stay somewhere. Be ready to move, and move as often as opportunities arise, because otherwise you won’t know where you truly want to be. 

Svati Narula ’13
Associate social media editor, Outside magazine
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Government

 

Think how you can serve Dartmouth from day one. Volunteering to serve the College is rewarding. I serve in my class’ compassion committee. We help classmates as they experience difficulties, helping them find employment or work through an addiction, financial difficulty, severe illness, or the loss of child, parent, or loved one. Giving money to the College is one thing. Reaching out to give a hand is another. Dartmouth is family for life.

Mabelle Drake Hueston ’86
Homemaker
Corona Del Mar, California
History

 

My advice comes straight from our own Dr. Seuss: “Don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along you’ll start happening too!” This is the best moment in your lives to take some time for adventure and experimentation. And I promise—when you return to the race, the risk-takers and story-tellers will stand out in the crowd.

Mariya Rosberg ’96
Partner, financial services, Oliver Wyman
Pound Ridge, New York
History

 

Don’t be afraid to fail. I learned the most about myself in times of struggle—you will emerge stronger and smarter. 

Gillian Apps ’06, Tu’19
Olympic gold medalist
Hanover
Psychology and Brain Sciences

 

I’ve spent more than 60 years developing new ideas, many of which have succeeded. To be creative in whatever you do, here are thoughts that have worked for me. You probably won’t be successful creating new ideas on your own. Start or be a part of teams of five or fewer people. To make teams’ efforts more effective, have their members start each sentence with the words, “What happens if…?” When the team seems to have landed on a new idea, don’t chat about it, start to immediately make a model.

Reyn Guyer ’57
Inventor of NERF ball and Twister
Boca Grande, Florida
English

 

Immediately after graduation I went to medical school and married. As physician training takes so long, immediate matriculation to medical school is appropriate, but if you’re interested in other graduate degrees, I recommend working at something else before postgraduate studies. Because premarital pregnancy in the 1950s was frowned upon and contraception was inadequate, my wife and I delayed intercourse as part of our sexual repertoire, but that delay was a motivator for early marriage. It worked for us—we are together now more than 63 years. These restrictions do not affect current graduates, so it may be appropriate to delay marriage.

Sam Smith ’58
Physician
Sun City Center, Florida
English

 

When I was graduating, I wish someone had given me the instructions in Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese”: “You do not have to be good./You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert repenting./You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.” You don’t have to do everything well. You don’t even have to be happy. You are already enough, just as you are. Now you need only ask yourself: What would be fun for me to do next? What would be meaningful? What am I still curious about? “The world offers itself to your imagination,/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”

Christine Carter ’94
Author of Raising Happiness and The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less
Marin County, California
Senior Fellow

 

You are already on the ascending path to personal success. The key to reaching your ultimate goal will ultimately be determined by the way you recover from life’s unavoidable stumbles on the way to reaching that goal.

Lewis M. Eisenberg ’64
U.S. ambassador to Italy
Rome
Sociology

 

Congratulations on making it through the highs and lows of undergraduate life! Now for the first time, you have no clear path. You could continue to a graduate program, enter the workforce, or volunteer abroad. Whichever path you select, commit to reflection. Journal when you have a chance. Consider the shape of your story: Where you have been, where you are, where you aspire to go. Ask yourself questions that are challenging and perhaps unanswerable. Consider who you are becoming. What does a purposeful life look life? What do you hope to contribute? Pursue inner peace, genuine love, and continual growth.

Tyné Freeman ’17, Adv’19
Hanover
Senior Fellow in Music

 

Upon graduating from a great institution such as Dartmouth, one might be tempted to think of oneself as great, somehow elevated and superior to the rest of humanity. My own life teaches me that if I’ve gained anything from my education on the Hanover Plain, it’s how to be plain myself. There is tremendous freedom and joy in claiming one’s own mere adequacy in many things, inadequacy in many more. If you learn to say, with integrity, the sentences of Armand Gamache of Louise Penny’s novels, “I was wrong. I am sorry. I don’t know. I need help,” you will be forever truly green; that is, fully alive. 

Rob Hirschfeld ’83
Bishop, Episcopal Church of New Hampshire
Concord, New Hampshire
English

 

When I was a boy, my brothers and I had a faded print of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” taped to our bathroom mirror. Reading it every day deeply influenced me. I chose a path different from most classmates by joining the Air Force and had a fulfilling career flying fighters for more than 20 years. Find something that inspires you. Keep it in sight. Never feel you have to follow the same path as others or the path others expect you to follow. And if you join the Air Force, don’t think you’ll get a cool call sign such as “Ice Man” or “Maverick.” I earned mine due to prodigious amounts of body hair.

Tim “Llama” Stretch ’88
Colonel, U.S. Air Force, retired
San Mateo, California
English

 

When I graduated, no one told me how to navigate the entertainment industry. Here are some basics. Make friends: You never know who’ll give you your next opportunity. It’s often someone you least expect. Don’t waste people’s time: Be punctual, be gracious, and plan for traffic. Be reliable: Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver within two weeks. Be chill: There’s no timeline in entertainment, so don’t spiral when you’re driving Uber at 35 while your friend is signing six-figure deals. Just move forward, keep your eyes on the prize, and please don’t embarrass yourself on social media.

Ben Mandelker ’01
Cohost, Watch What Crappens podcast
Los Angeles
History

 

There may be times you have to slog through work that doesn’t speak to you in order to serve long-term objectives. But that’s no way to spend many years or, even worse, decades. Life is way too short for that. It’s great to have goals, but you have to enjoy and be fulfilled by how you live your life along the way. Your ultimate aims may change, and in the meantime, the best path from here to your aspirations does not necessarily follow a straight line.

Beth Robinson ’86
Associate justice, Vermont Supreme Court
Ferrisburgh, Vermont
Philosophy and Government

 

My advice to the class of 2019 is the same as the advice my father shared with me when I left home to go to Dartmouth. “Learn from the mistakes of others, because you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself,” he said. Oh, and love humanity in all of its many manifestations.

Reggie Williams ’76
Former linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
Sarasota, Florida
Psychology

Illustration by Tim Boelaars

Portfolio

Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (May/June 2019)
Kitchen Table Diplomat
Entrée entrepreneur Steph Lawrence ’06 makes the world smaller, one meal at a time.
The Reluctant Luddite

Pulitzer-nominated author Nicholas Carr ’81 is a Net user of the first order. But is his brain paying for it?

Sharon Washington ’81
On acting and stagecraft

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