College of Social Studies - Newsletter 1998

Table of Contents:

This issue of the Newsletter is devoted to CSSers who have pursued Commerce in all its form. It consists of two parts, the first is based directly on the questionnaires--and is a bit heavy on CSS antecedents--and the second is two autobiographical pieces by individuals who have founded substantial companies.

With this issue, we welcome aboard two new editors. Jeremy Sacks, '91 practices law with the Washington firm of Frank, Fried, Shriver & Jacobson. Ruth Jaffe, '83 is a publishing consultant and copyright specialist in Caldwell NJ. In addition to their youth, energy and new ideas, the reader may expect a more timely publication date for future issues of the Newsletter!

With 'law" and "commerce" behind us, the special topic of our fifth issue will be "Teaching." Charlie Hill, '678, an Assistant School Superintendent in New York state has agreed to serve as guest editor and he invites inter alia all public and private school teachers, as well as college and university professors, to fill in the questionnaire at the back of the Newsletter. Low returns make his job difficult.

Other items in this year's Newsletter touch upon the O.J. Simpson trial and the Chrysler Motor Corporation. And as a continuation of documenting the record of CSSers' achievement, the record of graduating seniors in the area of fellowships is herein recounted with, we hope, not too much hubris.

Finally, your editors welcome suggestions for future topics. Issues 1 and 2, you may recall, dealt with the Sophomore Year and the Faculty. One possibility for the sixth issue is the changing CSS curriculum, 1959-1999. Please let us know your thoughts on this and smaller matters.

Peter Kilby, Tutor Ruth Jaffe, '83
Guy Baehr, '68 Jeremy Sacks, '91

Something To Be Proud Of
Peter Kilby

From among the 18 graduating Seniors this past May, Natasha Kogan of the College was one of only two Wesleyan students from a class of 734 to receive the school's highest accolade, "University Honors."

There were many other prizes won as well, but one national fellowship that fell to Anya Fernald (Wesleyan received a total of three) is of particular interest. The Watson Fellowship was on my list of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman and Watson fellowships for which I hoped to obtain a complete tally. Similar to the book collection penned by our sons and daughters, the purpose of this exercise was to help define who we are and what we have accomplished, to provide esprit within and reputation without. That tally is now completed.

By way of preface, it must be said that the individuals who come into the CSS are clearly not an academic elite, rather they are a near-perfect cross-section of the student body in terms of aptitude test scores and freshman year academic achievement. They are an elite group solely in terms of their pluck! Three years later this situation appears to be transformed. Our graduates typically constitute 3 percent of the Senior class, but their share of total Wesleyan awards is many times higher:

Watson 12 percent        Truman 40 percent

Marshall 38 percent       Rhodes 60 percent

The value-added the CSS imparts to its graduates is, of course, chiefly seen in their subsequent careers. Alumni have gone on to become top officials in the Sate Department, permanent Ambassador to NATO, a half-dozen Federal judges, high positions in the NAACP and Legal Services, and a multitude of attorneys in both the private and public sector. Not only teachers and administrators in public schools, CSSers have become eminent professors of Law, Economics, Anthropology, Philosophy and History--including a Pulitzer Prize winner. Our alumni have authored over 80 scholarly volumes, more than a hundred Law articles. And finally, as partially documented in the following pages, CSS graduates have excelled to an even greater degree as financiers on Wall Street, as top corporate executives, and as founders of new companies. Surely, something to be proud of. 

Profile of Alumni in Business
Guy T. Baehr

It probably shouldn't be surprising that many CSS alumni have entered the world of commerce--that is, after all, where a majority of the jobs in our economy are, including most of the best paying ones.

Nevertheless, an academic program with the title "College of Social Studies" is not on its face a likely magnet for those planning to go into business. Law, yes. Government, yes. Teaching, maybe. But not business.

Which is why it is striking to read the responses to this newsletter's latest unscientific survey, which went out to a sample of CSS alumni who are now in business.

"CSS is a microcosm"

Nearly all of those responding said their CSS education turned out to be uniquely useful in their business careers, which range from investment banking to running a one-man vending machine company.

"CSS is a microcosm of all the things you do in securities investing. You study politics, history and economics, do research on many different situations under pressure. You have to come to a decision and then sell and defend your idea to others," was the way Robert Coleman('68), vice-president of private client services at Goldman Sachs & Co., put it.

Peter Bernstein ('73), president of his own telecommunications marketing and consulting company, Infonautics Consulting Inc., expressed it another way: "The ability to analyze complex problems and then cogently and convincingly argue in favor of a recommended stance are what I learned at CSS and what I do for a living."

"Above all else"

Pat Weinstein ('67), who head's his family's soft drink distribution business in Washington State, said, "Above all else, the CSS encouraged us to relish the excitement found in learning, in exploring new ideas, and in confronting sometimes contradictory perspectives -- all within situations with very real deadlines.... Whether it's understanding the local needs of the director of the Omak Stampede, the pressure upon the employee of Pepsi-Cola to sell his product or the financial details of a tax free merger of two $100 million companies, I have fallen back upon the critical skills of the CSS education."

Pat Weinstein also provided us with the most articulate exposition of what is involved in running a sizeable company. Indeed it is so good it will most surely find its way into Peter Kilby's Entrepreneurship syllabus!

"I see my business as a series of interrelated building blocks, each of which, on the surface, is very different, requiring different decision tools, and working with different sets of people often with conflicting goals. One block is the actual manufacture of the product and its packaging. Another is the marketing and selling of the finished good through local and national systems. a third is the day to day, personal interaction with the customer. A fourth is the constantly challenging effort to mold and direct a group of people into a single, identifiable, humane company with shared goals. Fifth, the company must operate within a legal and financial framework which enhances its primary function, which in this case is the sale of soft drinks. a sixth block is the national environment of the business in general and the particular needs of those in affiliated companies. All of these blocks must be manipulated so as to succeed in an intensely competitive environment, judged not by some amorphous standard, but by the disarmingly simple standard--does it sell and does the company make a profit?

The most difficult task for a privately owned business is the constant demand and necessity to make your company an outgrowth of your goals and values. Once a company reaches a certain size and a certain complexity, the day to day details are certain to be handled outside of your direct control. Without the shared agreement of direction and purpose, the company will stagnate and lose its competitive advantage. Most importantly at that point it would lose its personal enjoyment, as planning lost its personal challenge when well researched documents collected dust and seemingly well thought-out policies failed for political or financial reasons."

"Ideal job"

Chris Mahoney ('76), a top executive with Moody's Investors Services in New York, said, "I've got the ideal job for a CSS graduate because Moody's is really an extension of CSS. I like sophisticated but disciplined intellectual discourse, which I get here."

Jan Van Meter ('63), a former CIA intelligence analyst who's now a senior partner in a public relations agency in New York, said, "Knowing how to think critically and in an integrative manner, how to write and speak about what one has previously considered, and how to learn quickly was what helped and continues to help me in business."

The grind

Jeffrey D. Frank ('76), owner and operator with his wife of Frank's Vending, said the grind of weekly tutorials provided a valuable lesson one might not get in more conventional course work. "All the written work and reading (beyond what a person can really do in a week, don't you think?) taught me to use my time to understand as much as I could and proceed forward from there."

Another Frank, Lincoln E. Frank ('79), who went to the University of Cambridge and law school at Penn and now does private equity investing, listed the aspects of his CSS education that have helped him in business as: 1.) Discipline, 2.) Stamina, 3.) Knowing that with an all-nighter, I can get almost anything done, and 4.) With interest and patience, intelligent, creative dialogue will come--from anyone."

The week-to-week tutorial routine also helped prepare Diane Hakala ('81) for her job as a money manager. She said CSS developed her ability "to critically analyze and synthesize large amounts of information quickly. Picking stocks requires taking all available information, understanding three or four key points and determining the conclusion before the rest of the investment community catches up.

CSS Failings

Almost half of the 16 people responding said they'd gone to business school after graduating from Wesleyan. The main reason seems to be to make up for the CSS's lack of emphasis on quantitative skills.

Hakala said she had to pick up "some specific skill in accounting after CSS to do the job."

Walter Niemasik, Jr. ('70), now an executive vice president at Snyder Capital Management, said he found the CSS neglected economics, math and statistics. When he decided to switch from law to business, he when back to school, picking up a masters in business from Stanford in 1982. "I definitely needed a solid MBA education to allow me to enter a quantitatively driven business," he said.

John Book ("89), an investment banker and former corporate risk analyst who just last year earned an MBA from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, said many employers demand the "quantitative analysis" skills that CSS does not focus on. "Right now, the market discounts purely generalist thinkers," was the way he put it.

Andy Seibert, '86 at Money magazine went further. He felt that "problem solving skills in the context of contemporary issues are neglected. As much as I enjoyed chairing Kilby's oil slip hypothesis, that did little to prepare me for the challenges of commerce--and yet it was probably the closet we ever got."

"What helped most?"

Nevertheless, Book said his CSS education has helped him compared to others in his field. "What helped the most? 1) Interdisciplinary thinking, the ability to look at an issue from a variety of perspectives and integrate the truths and half-truths of each; 2) Ability to "see the forest through the trees,' to see the big picture while colleagues tend to get caught up or bogged down in detail."

Interestingly, many of those who went to business school, including Harvard, said what they learned in the CSS was at least as valuable to their careers, if not more so.

Donald Zilkha ('73), who said he "buys, fixes, expands and sells businesses" for a living, went to NYU's business school, but never graduated. Instead, he depends heavily on his CSS education. "The ability to cover significant amounts of data to arrive at an understanding of an industry, to develop a theory about its direction and what constitutes a competitive edge, are all skills developed in the tutorial/ weekly paper segment of CSS. I look at a new industry each month. CSS research methods have provided the ability to form a view and make a decision," he said.

Zilkha said what he didn't learn at CSS was the discipline of real world deadlines. "Students need this to function at their peak; you don't always have time," he said.

Diana Farrell ('87), a management consultant and Harvard Business School grad, said the CSS was "overly theoretical" but "neglected very little other than business-specific knowledge."

"I remain startled"

Tom Kelly ('73), who is in the health insurance business after earning an accounting degree from NYU and spending 20 years with KPMG Peat Marwick, said, "I remain startled by the quality and breadth of my CSS experience. The experience contrasts starkly with the educational experience and its perceived value of friends and co-workers.... Business school was pedestrian in contrast."

Kelly's classmate Steven A. Torok ('73), who's been an executive with Chrysler Corp. since his graduation from Harvard Business School in 1977, put it this way: "The auto industry reflects the times--economic, political and social. CSS skills set has allowed me to be in front of most issues. It was more important to my career success than B-school, although not as marketable.'

Chris Mahoney, who earned an MBA from the University of Virginia, said he valued the CSS's "emphasis on intellect instead of 'GPA' that characterizes lesser schools."

Dick Cavanaugh ('68), who went right from Wesleyan to Harvard and is now president and CEO of The Conference Board, said it this way: "How much of my good fortune in the business world do I credit to my CSS experience? Most, and surely more than to the Harvard Business School." And that's from somebody who was a Harvard dean for eight years.

Not to bash Harvard, but we have to add this comment from another CSSer (and Harvard Law School grad) who said the least satisfying thing about his life in business is "dealing with an extremely neurotic partner who went to Harvard Business School and has confused it with Harvard Divinity School, that is, he received immutable truth."

"To write quickly & well"

A refrain heard from nearly survey respondent was that the CSS's emphasis on oral and written presentation has served them extremely well in business.

"Most important, I now realize the enormous advantage given me by the CSS's foundation in critical thinking and effective communication skills. It is amazing how far an ability to speak, write, and think got even a modest intellect like me," said Thomas Matlack ('86), who as chief financial officer for the Providence Journal Company, helped take the company public and then sell it to the A.H. Belo Corp.

Diana Farrell said one of the CSS skills that have helped her the most has been "oral argumentation(as required in seminar discussions)."

Dick Cavanaugh said the "late Thursday night poker games and early Friday morning CSS paper due dates trained us to write quickly and well. An incredible leg up for those who aspire to influence and leadership in complex organizations."

The writer's "edge"

Roger Mann ('71), who's taught in Zambia, done journalism in Kenya, England and the U.S., trained development workers in Tanzania, worked for a large hotel and restaurant company, developed property in England and tried other entrepreneurial ventures, said, "For all that I have done, the CSS's emphasis on writing skills has given me an edge for which I am ever thankful."

Nick Puner ('64), a Harvard Law School graduate now in investment management, said the CSS taught him many valuable skills. "More than all others: The ability to read and comprehend, the ability to listen and (that increasingly lost art), the ability to communicate in writing."

"Writing well is an absolutely life critical skill," said Bob Coleman.

"My personal tools"

The habits of mind encouraged by the CSS's interdisciplinary curriculum and methodology were also mentioned by several respondents as being important to their careers.

Pat Weinstein said his beverage business continually requires him to deal with "historical, economic, political or philosophical factors."

"My personal tools to understand complex situations and to arrive at pragmatic solutions derive from the course work and the methodology of the CSS. I certainly have forgotten the facts and the data over the past 30 years, but somehow the approach and the perspective remain," he said.

Roger Mann said he enjoys the broad intellectual range cultivated by the CSS. "I am often surprised by the narrowness of most people I meet in business when compared to the CSS crew I still occasionally run into," he said.

"A tolerance for ambiguity"

Dick Cavanaugh said, "The CSS taught us to think in multi-disciplined ways -- essential because real world problems don't come in neat, subject matter pure packages." He adds that, "Louis Mink's CSS admissions test -- 'A tolerance for ambiguity' -- has been the central guidepost for my career."

What have been the satisfactions and dissatisfactions that CSSers have found in their business careers?

Interestingly, the satisfaction most frequently cited was essentially intellectual: The chance to use one's abilities to analyze complicated problems and then have the soundness of one's conclusions tested in the real world of the marketplace.

"Almost anything and everything is relevant. I spend the day tracking developments in the U.S. economy, politics, international affairs, science, etc. I also have ready access to experts in all these fields. It's a little like being a student in the CSS, except now I'm the payee and at Wesleyan I was the payer," said Walter Niemasik.

"Conclusions pay off"

Zilkha said, "I find it most satisfying to make a decision to invest and find in time that one's analysis and conclusions paid off."

John Book said the "most satisfying" aspect of this work as an investment banker is "the bombardment of information which I have to turn into knowledge, largely by applying my CSS thinking skills."

Peter Bernstein said that "after over 20 years of climbing through the ranks I have reached the incredible position of being my own boss and for companies I select on problems that interest me."

Bob Coleman said he likes his job as an investment manager in San Francisco because "the harder you work, the more you earn and it is largely independent of what some larger group subjectively thinks of you; you have no superiors, only partners and colleagues. And, on the West Coast with a 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. work day, you get to coach soccer in the afternoon and have dinner with your kids. Pretty neat."

Least satisfying?

What's least satisfying? Most of the respondents skipped that question. Among those who answered it, most cited frustrations that are essentially intellectual.

"The people and the problems are fascinating; the process is, after a long period of time, not," said Jan Van Meter.

"The least satisfying part is having to be constantly selling," said Peter Bernstein.

"Administration and bureaucracy," said Diane Hakala.

"One has to search hard to find intellectual colleagues," said John Book.

"Personal note"

A personal note from the compiler of these survey results: After almost 25 years as a daily newspaper reporter covering mostly government and the public sector, I now find myself in a new assignment writing about commercial real estate and development for the business section of my newspaper.

I've been pleasantly surprised to find in my work so far what is also clear in these survey responses: That the stereotype of business people all being shallow dull materialists is far from accurate.

Money may be what makes the world go 'round, but business also has its share of people who get a good part of their satisfaction from testing their ideas against the reality of the market and using dollars rather than debaters points to measure their success.

As unscientific as this survey was, it provides a window that can give us all a little better understanding of both the CSS and the world of business. Thanks again to all those who took the time to contribute.

Generosity: Class of 1973

As reported in these pages last year, the Class of 1972 at its 25th reunion contributed more ($4.5 million) than did comparable classes at any other undergraduate institution in the U.S. Cssers--among them Paul Vidich, Tom Wu, Art Vanderbilt, Doug Thompson and Dave Nicol--played a major role in that outcome, AND they set aside $75,000 in designated support for the College

The Class of 1973 has substantially matched its older sibling in attaining an extraordinarily high level of giving. And again CSSers were among the most generous. This provides a happy boon to Wesleyan's upcoming capital campaign. But this year our alumni--led by Donald Zilkha, Steve Torok, Tom Kelly and Garry Jacobson--earmarked over $500,000 for the renewal and strengthening of faculty staffing for the College. As a great majority of CSS tutors fall in the muid-50s to mid-60s age range, this gift of stunning generosity means that the long-term survival prospects of the CSS are greatly enhanced. What the new staffing arrangements will be should be known by next year, but in the meantime those four from the Class of '73 command the gratitude of us all.

Company Founders

We have two autobiographical profiles from alumni who have founded their own companies, companies that have grown into multimillion dollar enterprises. Fran Voigt was in CSS's first graduating class. Matthew Lorentzen began his journey some 23 years later but has been very quick to seize his opportunities.

* * *

Francis Voigt '62
New England Culinary Institute

For as long as I can remember, one of my inclinations has been to find opportunities to follow through using my own visions and understandings. Yet, I also felt a strong need to conform to the social mores and community values around me. Those seeming contradictions were easily managed by trying, for the most part, to meet the expectations of family, schools and the community in which I was raised. In other words, forget about those personal inclinations to be your own master.

I never thought much about who I was, what I really was good at, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Little consideration was given to how to earn a living, and at the same time, create satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment during all of my formative years. Wesleyan became an extension of that state of mind (or lack thereof). The expectation of those around me was matriculation at a good college. I am not sure that the match between Old Wes and yours truly was really wonderful, especially at the outset. I was not prepared for the rigor of the academic program. (My longest paper in high school may have been six pages, and I bet some of them may have been plagiarized.)

Thank goodness President Butterfield and others decided to launch three special programs including the College of Social Studies during my freshman year. The CSS provided me a better opportunity, given my learning style, to wrestle with a few of the basic questions of the human condition in a context that I felt somewhat comfortable in. Just as importantly, the format of the program forced me to think a bit more clearly than before, to be accountable for my thoughts (there were some embarrassing moments) and to express myself more accurately both in writing and speaking. Near graduation the general expectations of peers, professors and others who mattered at the time influenced me enough to do what most did, namely, by taking a next step with preparation for a noble career in some recognized field. I tried several of them with no luck.

Finally, my new wife said it was time to leave graduate school and find employment. We settled in Northern New England, began work at an experimental college and quickly accepted opportunities to start programs. A little introspection made clear to me that I was becoming an educational entrepreneur. By being sensitive to one's environment and its needs, by thinking clearly about other ways to address them than were extant, by communicating clearly and persuasively about the merits of a new approach, by accepting the challenges that go with marshaling people and resources to start a new venture, I was able to combine most of my apparent skills. I also was able to derive a tremendous sense of satisfaction from this kind of work, but it took me until my mid-thirties to develop this self awareness and age forty to launch my own endeavor. (Of course I did not do it alone.)

New England Culinary Institute now is about to start its eighteenth year. There are about seven hundred students. Over the years they have come from all fifty states and close to twenty-five foreign countries. Both Bachelors and Associate of Occupational Studies degrees are awarded. Over five hundred people work for the school on two campuses which include nine major food service operations. In addition to the resident program, the school has been hired to train cooks at Harvard University and Middlebury College. In addition, key individuals from several Caribbean countries have approached the school to help them set up programs similar to one or more of those now offered at NECI. And for anyone who happens to be a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, you may be interested to know that a group of students and a chef from the school will operate their kitchen this summer. (The school manages several resorts each summer.)

Needless to say, every day is a challenge. But it also is very satisfying to think of what we have done and what we still can do if we choose wisely among our many opportunities.

* * *

Matthew B. Lorentzen '85
Northern Navigation Ship Management

It amuses me that my career has now become the material for further research in Peter Kilby's quest to discover the meaning of entrepreneurship in economic development. I am pleased I am in a position to finally contribute in an empirical way to the academic discourse. Unfortunately for the reader, unlike other CSS graduates reporting in these pages, my writing skills have been eroded by the currency of management-speak.

After a couple of years as a business analyst at McKinsey & Co. in New York and two years at Harvard Business School, I joined my cousin in 1990 to form a new company with the goal of building a business in ship operation and investment (a family legacy).

Armed with modest capital backing and the good will from our family's history in the traditional and highly competitive shipping industry we slowly built a name for ourselves in ship asset investment and ship operation, particularly in the segment of forest products (lumber, paper, etc.) transportation. Three years ago I moved from Connecticut to Seattle to start an office there dedicated to ship operation for key customers in the Northwest. Our presence in the northwest in the center of the industry and our agility as a small company put us in the right place at the right time. We were able to realize our strategy to expand our range of services to our customers through a purchase of an operating shipping company in Vancouver last year.

After a relatively slow but steady start, our business expanded tremendously over the last 18 months. The business we are now running is very different in scope, organization and complexity from the basis we began with seven years earlier. We have been opportunistic in our strategy and this has served us well. However, managing a large business is not the same as building a small business and the partnership is now debating the future direction of the business. This is the natural course of all start-up companies and ours is no exception.

In the course, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development one writer defined entrepreneurs as 'irrational economic actors,' launching new businesses despite the overwhelming odds against success. I don't know what makes an entrepreneur, but I would like to think that the success of any business is identifying and seizing opportunities before your competition. This is what it means to me to be an entrepreneur and I enjoy the challenge.

Banquet Speakers: Tales of Two Graduates
Li Yu, '99

CSS has been favored with two highly entertaining speakers this year for our bi-annual banquets, two of its own, no less. Peter Arenella, class of '69, gallantly ventured back to the wintry Connecticut to offer a timely admonition against "Amusing Ourselves to Death." Relating the views set forth by Neil Postman in his similarly named volume to his experience as a legal expert for ABC's coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, the UCLA law professor cautioned us against the harmful effects televised trials have upon the American legal system. Arenella noted that television subtly advances an epistemology of "seeing (on TV) is knowing," convincing each television viewer that s/he had the right to act as the "thirteenth juror." Yet, those viewers were not informed, Arenella pointed out, like the official twelve of the thousand intricacies of a jury system handling a murder case. Thus, what was perceived as great injustices done upon the people in the Simpson case came to little more than the reasonable outcome of a trial by jury, surmised Arenella. The talk, full of humorous anecdotal details in spite of its gravitas, ended with Arenella fielding a seemingly-endless salvo of questions from eager students and tutors alike. Even after the speaker's departure, students continued to debate those issues that were laid bare. Andrew Tipson '00 proceeded to go through the book by Postman and went on to recommended it to others for being an "excellent work, in spite of its slight unevenness near the end."

In between Connecticut's April snow storms, Steven Torok '74 came to speak on the relationship between "Public Policy and Auto Industry." As he noted at the start, this was largely a study in unintended consequences, the tale of an industry constantly scrambling to meet one ill-conceived governmental initiative after another. President Douglas Bennet and a full array of university administrators were at hand to greet the executive director at Chrysler Corporation, in addition to the students and tutors of the CSS. While some in the audience found themselves at odds with the speaker's perceived insensitivity to environmental issues, none escaped the charms of his yarns of experience at Chrysler or the incomparably hilarious Chrysler commercials from the 1980s. Although some remained unconvinced after the speech, many accepted Torok's argument that the myopic governmental regulations had been harmful to the industry and his appeal for well-considered legislation in the future.

Charles Hill, '68

We would like to let our fellow CSSers know what it has been like to work in public schools. You can help by sending in your answers to the questions below. I will collate and summarize the responses (and include excerpts from what you write) in an upcoming newsletter.

  • Name and year of graduation:
  • What is your current job in public education?
  • How did you end up there?
  • Did CSS (that is, the program, someone in the program, a particular experience related to the program) influence or help prepare you to go into public education? How?
  • Based upon your experiences at work, what really practical advice would you give a CSS student today who is considering a career in public education?
  • Private school teachers and those in higher education, please answer the questions.