I recently attended my college reunion at Amherst. Among the events was an invitation for alumni to speak about something related to the college that they were particularly grateful for––an event, a relationship, a learning that has been a big part of their life since––and (at a school where, customarily, brevity is not a virtue) to do so in one minute.
Here’s what I said:
September 1971. The president’s reception for incoming freshman. I was 27, the oldest freshman Amherst had ever admitted, I was told. And, very likely, the only freshman to have graduated next-to-last in his high school class.
While I evidently did enough interesting stuff in my life to get admitted, apprehension remained. Could I actually thrive here?
When I introduced myself to president Bill Ward, he said, “Oh, you’re the old guy.” And then he said the most beautiful thing: “Welcome. You’re where you belong. Enjoy yourself.”
Today, I help people play with provocative questions. For instance: What should the sign say that hangs over the entrance to your organization, the sign you want every colleague to see every day?
If I were asked to answer that question for Amherst, I’d bow to Bill Ward and say: “Welcome. You’re where you belong. Enjoy yourself.”