A Half Century of Carissima

Sean Kevin Fitzpatrick Class of 1963

Delivered: June 2013

Preamble Class of 1963
Recognize Joan Hinde Stewart, faculty and staff

Hamilton Legends
  • Mac Bristol
  • Dick Couper
  • Sidney Wertimer
  • Tom Johnston
  • Dwight Lindley
  • Lafe Todd
  • Bob Rudd
Living Legends
  • Ellie Wertimer
  • Patsy Couper
  • Joan Hinde Stewart, who was once frightened by the monster in the Chapel

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.
12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

— Paul (1 Corinthians 13:11)

We were Spartans once and young. Virtual tabula rasas upon which our mentors would inscribe literacy and civilization in relentless obsession. Looking back on my memories and relying on the courtesies of my peers who have reported in, I am reminded of what intelligence analysts learn early on. You cannot objectively see anything that you have been a part of, and what you are not part of you probably cannot see at all because of mirror imaging. So the Hamilton of yore as I relate it will be as it is in the heads of my classmates and the legends that capture us. Not necessarily the Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. Maybe a few tall tales.

But first, a personal note, a disclaimer perhaps. The past 25 years I have been a witness to — as a member of the trustees — my alma mater being transformed into a stately pleasure dome of Athenian Pollyanna. Where the cruelties of our time have been abolished and the injustices of racial and religious bigotries corrected and de-sanctioned. Where the ivy-covered stone buildings and state-of-the-art athletic fields dazzle the visitor. And diversity is celebrated and celebrated. I hope I do not sound skeptical of the litany of high hopes and numbing aspiration because most of this is good and right and something to be proud of. But something has been lost, too.

The sturdy male scholars who trekked across the frozen glen and glade of Carissima with the proverbial wolf gnawing at our innards return to find lovely sweet children immersed in luxuries we never imagined. Sweetness and light bathe these fragile egos with brilliant minds searching for the perfect world. Without the distractions of required courses. Carloads of donor money have created this 21st-century intellectual and diversity cathedral. And old Hamster Tech can hold its head high amongst its NESCAC peers like Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan. Like all strivers, Hamilton has learned one must run faster and faster in order to hold one’s place in the race. And in the infernal U.S. News and World Report, the magic scoreboard in the swamp.

First sight, February of 1958: My best friend throughout high school and college, Tom McCormack, and I were invited to visit Hamilton our junior year from St Peter’s Prep in Peekskill, N.Y., now defunct. Tom and I arrived on Winter Carnival weekend on an icy sunny day that magnified the mountains of snow that walled College Hill Road. After a meeting with Sidney Bennett, the dapper dean of admissions, we were invited to visit the party at the DKE house. That’s all it took.

We saw gigantic ice sculptures. We saw beautiful women. We saw DKEs do what DKEs do best. In those days, that was to drink beer, play football or hockey, and party like crazy, simultaneously. We had been thinking of Duke or William & Mary or some place warmer than Clinton, N.Y., but we dedicated our lives to the intellectual life of Hamilton College right then and there.

The Class of ’63 was in for a special treat. September of 1959 was marked by the grand opening of Dunham dorm. Whatever your impression, our experience was much worse, I guarantee you. The only things at the left of the road at that moment in time and at that location were ELS and the beginning of Root Glen and the forest that surrounded the stables. Directly behind Dunham was more forest. The dolomite building blocks were an orangish-red to match the slashes of clay still visible around the building. It looked like the earth had vomited up a huge stone prison. The land was soft. The rumor was Dunham was sinking back into the earth, that ace geology Professor Hawley had miscalculated and that the whole thing would disappear with a huge slurp one night, taking with it the entire freshman class, which, by the way, was composed of 244 boys. No women around, with the exception of some faculty daughters (hands off) and the occasional scullery maid smoking outside of Commons (looking better all the time).

What kind of boys were we? I am 71 years old, born in September of 1941. My peers have been described by demographers as the schizoid generation. Before 1941, the Depression haunted the land. And depression values indicated certain kinds of behavior. After 1945, the war was won, and after a brief hiccup, the boom was on. Children born after 1945 have never known the group despair of the Depression. These children became the baby boomers. Any depression the boomers felt was personal, all their own. To be born between 1941 and 1945 put your feet firmly in the Depression and the boom, figuratively speaking. The Class of ’63 came to Hamilton dragging the nagging fears of Depression values along with the optimism of the boom surging in our veins. In our later days, we were to know both fear and exhilaration, from the Viet Nam debacle to the incredible boom time of the ’90s. For four years, however, we would have time to prepare for both. And ever since, we have run around turning off the lights and buying exorbitantly priced wine.

We were preppies and high school Harries. Jocks and nerds. Students and playboys. Sincere and wiseacres. We were all male, mostly white, primarily Protestant, largely from New York and surrounding states, with a small contingent of Roman Catholics and Jews to help our diversity scorecard, if there was one then, which there was not. Our college boards put us into the top tier of entering freshmen in the USA, not high enough for Harvard perhaps, but enough to make us quite certain we were capable of handling anything.

Of course, we had yet to discover “yes” themes.

I have searched the yearbooks and my cache of memories to find the single most vivid impression from that time. It was freedom. Despite the fact that we had condemned ourselves to existence on a windswept, forlorn hillside in the great nowhere, there was an incredible amount of freedom. We were free from study halls and free from the watchful parental eye. We were free from our birthright responsibilities, and we were free to eat and sleep and drink whenever and wherever we wanted, with the limitations of no cars, no televisions, no computers, no cell phones and no women. But we felt free.

Our Pulitzer Prize winner, who prefers to be absent and unnamed, however, recalls us as everybody’s second choice. He wrote, “Midwesterners thought of Hamilton as Eastern. New Englanders thought of us as Midwestern. Those who came from New York State were less puzzled, I suspect. They had grown up in the gray Upstate where Hamilton hung onto its prestige by creating big frogs for small ponds — vice presidents of banks in Skaneateles or Olean or Glens Falls. … Gradually some of us discovered that Hamilton was a legend we had to create for ourselves like all the students before us. I expect that those who knew precisely what they wanted — admission to law school, a mastery of Milton — had an easier time of it than those who were looking for a place as wondrous as Princeton was to Fitzgerald.”

I suspect that our Hamilton has created more than a few cynics.

A different take on Hamilton — and I interrupt here to mention that among the dozens and dozens of memory writers who responded, freshman year is the dominant topic — came from Herb Kestenbaum: “I recall going down to the Methodist Church in Clinton each Friday night with a handful of Hamilton Jews (there were few of us, even fewer who bothered to attend a quiet Sabbath service in its basement). Thus did we fulfill, in the most perfunctory way, the Chapel requirement. I learned years after how deeply isolated at least some of the blacks felt on the Hill in those years.

“In those days there were but a few fraternities that took Jews or blacks or others who seemed to be misfits on the campus. As a matter of fact, I was so unhappy at being offered a bid by TKE instead of ELS where many of my friends accepted that I rejected the bid and vowed to live as an independent. My brief exposure to that status convinced me, over the summer, to write the TKE president seeking to accept the bid after all. Luckily, he said yes, and I found my fraternity experience to be a good and largely happy one. The willingness of TKE to let me in after all reflected another aspect of Hamilton that I valued: the opportunities that were there. Where else but on a small campus could that have happened? And where else could I have had the chance to become editor of the campus newspaper? That job gave me a good dose of needed self-esteem, including membership in Pentagon, and helped shape my career choice. I will always be grateful for that.”

Larry Weidemier writes from Vero Beach, “I remember the beauty and classic symmetry of the campus as it existed in 1963. From the ivy-covered Herkimer sandstone buildings to the snow-covered evergreens. The natural wonder of Root Glen, still one of the most beautiful settings I have ever experienced. The snow squeaking under our feet as we walked the campus paths. The all-out frenzy houseparty weekends. The best times I have ever had. Standing on the Hill behind left field on the baseball diamond catching Pete “Big Dog” Lindley’s 400-foot drives and listening to him scream at me for playing too far back. The camaraderie of the DU house and the lifelong friendships formed there.”

Justin Kahn remembers: “In the fall of 1959, the sophomore class accepted its obligation to haze and humiliate the freshmen in ways highly traditional but doubtless shocking to modern sensibilities. I think I still have the despised beanie stored away — if I remember, we were supposed to wear them outside all the time until Thanksgiving unless the football team beat Union.”

Justin continues, however, “Hamilton may have been among the least biased of the Eastern men’s colleges back then. Only once after I had joined Psi U did I hear about what had happened when the Psi pledged our classmate, Del Spurlock. Apparently the national was unhappy and the Psi, to its great credit, told them they could have the charter rather than reject Del.”

The sophomores had their hands and face full when they challenged the early-bird freshman football players. We always wore grey Hamilton t-shirts and shorts. And no beanies. I particularly remember Soffey twirling one sophomore around his head before depositing him in front of the Chapel.

Phil West brings us back to reality with his memory: “George Meslow and I drove for a fall weekend to Smith College in 1961. On a perfect day we drove through farmlands and forests brilliant with October color. I can’t remember whether we were oblivious when we left or news on the car radio finally sank in as we drove: President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev were facing off over an American naval blockade of Soviet missiles in Cuba.” Phil vividly relates, “Radio left our imagination to conjure up horrific visions. I remember a surreal sense that thermonuclear war might break out before we could make it back to Hamilton. The specter of mutually assured destruction overshadowed our dates.”

At the DKE house I remember smoking big cigars and watching Captain Kangaroo when Kennedy interrupted our childhood. The house voted to enlist in the Marines, but calmer heads reminded us our mamas would be down to get us out in the morning.

Walt Pritchard lovingly recalls Latin Professor John Mattingly. “We usually saw him driving to class in an old DeSoto, Plymouth or Chrysler (way before the Iacocca days) wearing a German-looking helmet that he was probably using for crash protection. The story goes that he used it for protection when he taught his daughter how to drive, and he just continued to use it as he got older. I can still see him leaning back in that front seat going down College Hill to park near Silliman Hall where the class was held. All 10-15 students of this class would watch for Professor Mattingly to reach Silliman before 10 minutes after the hour, as it was then that he had told us (or it was College policy, I am not sure which after all these years) that we didn’t have to wait any longer than 10 minutes and could leave the classroom. Of course, the key to seeing him approach was Professor Mattingly driving that DeSoto/Chrysler with that helmet on.”

Walt continues: “One of my fondest memories of Hamilton was watching the basketball skills of Warren Palmer. I particularly remember the rivalry games against the U of R in a packed gym, when Warren seemed to be at his best, and the Hamilton students were more raucous (“lock the doors, lock the doors”) than at other home games. But Warren always seemed calm and focused despite drawing the full defensive efforts of the opponents, who, no matter how hard they tried, could not stop him from scoring. We all admired his ability and shooting accuracy. Both resulted in his being a prolific scorer and all-around team player.”

One timid soul confesses but remains anonymous: “I hope somewhere you may mention the phantom of the Chapel. There was a member of our class who, during the winter months, slipped into the Chapel through an unlocked window and played the organ late at night. I know this is true, as John Baldwin asked me if I knew anything about the unauthorized, unorthodox music coming from the Chapel at ungodly hours. I said I didn’t. He drew on his pipe and let the subject drop. I also know the music stopped soon after. This is an anon tip.”

John von Bergen reveals his past misdemeanors: “Austin Briggs would always open all the windows in the classroom for our 9 a.m. English class, his first class, thinking it would help us stay awake. My classmates commissioned me to produce my wind noise, and I blew and blew until it seemed he would never notice, and a sympathetic classmate spoke up asking if Mr. Briggs didn’t think it was a bit cold in the classroom. He answered, ‘No, I just like to hear von Bergen make the wind noise.’ It turned out he’d been tipped off by fellow professor Lafe Todd!”

John continues: “I was heading into Commons one day when Colin Miller walked by just behind me. He stopped and kind of stared at me, whereupon I stopped noting his quizzical look. He then asked in his inimitable brogue, ‘Mr. von Berrrrgen, how do you keep up that intolerably good humourrrrrr?’ I answered that it was just on the surface. His eyebrows flared, and he stopped me in my tracks with, ‘Ah, then you’re seethin’ beneath!’” My memory of Colin Miller is that when I was being criticized for writing and publishing a scatological poem, this frightening-looking parson from the moors, all clothed in black and pointing a bony finger, defended me. Our Hamilton was like that.

Ken Kahn was an artist and had a great career in the arts world. He remembers, “Jim Penney’s art students climbed the stairs to the top floor of Root Hall, a spare though sky-lit studio space, to work on projects involving all media; usually a small class of 5-10 souls, we got intensive, invaluable instruction from Jim. The visual arts were not strongly promoted; limited facilities and staff ensured that Hamilton would, after all, produce proto-lawyers and doctors and bankers and brokers and teachers and administrators, so few were art majors, if any. However, there were poets among us, and some good ones. Poets required but pencil and pad and a comfy chair. We had some swell singers and our choir was top notch. As an aspiring painter, I didn’t really know how deprived we were; today’s arts studios and facilities are top notch, and no doubt the art students training in them are, too.

Carl Hayden points out that Hamilton has always been a place that values (and leverages) relationships: “For example, based upon my academic record, I had no business going to anyone’s law school, much less Cornell’s. It turns out, however, that Win Tolles was the Hamilton roommate of Ernie Warren, dean of the Cornell School of Law. Bingo. There were really two Hamiltons — the first a place of classes, professors and the like, and a second built around the people and events playing out in the various fraternities. Life was remarkably compartmentalized, and it was the exception rather than the rule for a person to have significant relationships with students outside his particular band of brothers.”

“And, speaking of Dean Tolles,” Carl adds, “Sunday night Chapel was always a bit of an adventure. Winton was known to have had a glass or two prior to the proceedings. He was always upstairs, front row on the north side. During hymns, he would commence to sway, and soon his body was in elliptical orbit. We really did fear that one of his ever-expanding arcs would take him over the side.”

Alan Turner remembers working a lot “for I had to support myself by taking numerous jobs, waiting on tables both for the College and the fraternity, shelving books and taking the tickets at chapel. The chapel tickets job was the best, as it had the added advantage of allowing me to skip chapel, an instance of who watches the watcher?”

Russ Bantham puts us in some perspective: “In 1940, when most of us were born, the average male had 60.8 years of life expectancy. None of us on average should be alive for our 50th reunion. The fact that some of us are is the first miracle of our time. In 1940, only 55% of Americans had indoor plumbing. The minimum wage was 43 cents.”

On a more personal note, George Dixon wrote: “One of my most vivid memories was of the death of Morefe Obeli, a student from Africa and mature far beyond his years. ‘Efe’ and I were both ELSers, and the night before we left for Christmas break he approached me to explain that he would be going in for surgery to fix an intestinal obstruction or ‘kink’ in his intestine. He was worried, but I reassured him that America had surgeons second to none. Nevertheless, he made me promise to contact his girlfriend in the event things didn’t go well. We all left for the Christmas break, and I arrived back at ELS one evening following New Year’s. I was out in the kitchen fixing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when Tom Stone came out and informed me that Efe hadn’t made it. I was so stunned, the sandwich felt electric in my mouth. I carried out Efe’s wishes and got word to his girlfriend, but the whole affair knocked me for a loop.” I remember that funeral. It haunted me for years. It was partly responsible for some of my more downbeat columns in the Spectator.

Bill Wilt relates a more adventurous moment: “Linus Pauling was scheduled to speak on a Tuesday or Wednesday night in the Chapel, not on vitamin C but on Vietnam. A small band of us: Lars Mazzola, Bob Wohlhueter, Jay Anderson and I were in on a plan. I think it was Jay or Lars who had the ‘let’s do something’ notion. Wohlhueter and Jay, living in the north tower of South Dorm, had the raw materials — the really long, black window shade from the tall, tall end windows looking out onto the third story of the Chapel. So we unrolled the window shade, detached it from the roller, cut off maybe nine inches of the bottom part with the batten and pull-string and stapled that back to the roller so it would look just like a rolled up window shade.”

Bill continues: “We cut it into the shape of a ye olde forked-tongued pennant and painted a big white circle with the dove’s footprint in the middle. Ye Old Peace Sign or, as I think we called it then, the Ban the Bomb symbol. I think we found wood for ladder rails in the basement of Silliman and firewood for the rungs. We nailed the rungs to one rail because otherwise we couldn’t get it up the steep steeple stairs. We have two hammers wrapped in pillowcases, and I think we all four mosey up the steeple stairs behind the organ pipes. There’s a small landing at the top, and we crack open the door (it’s rectangular on the inside, and a smaller oval, vignette-style from the outside). The air is preternaturally still; we have little moonlight; we nail the rungs to the other rail. Lars climbs out on the small ledge and finally swings a climbing rope around the base of the ball. We thread the ladder out of the oval and onto the ledge with Lars. I hold one rail and Jay the other, and Lars climbs up. I think Wohlhueter went out on the ledge to hand the pennant up to Lars, but am not sure. I’m definitely certain I wasn’t climbing out. The banner just fit between the feather (quill, I guess) and the top of the ball — about bowling-ball size. There wasn’t a puff of air, and any clunk we made echoed between Middle and South, Benedict, Soper, Buttrick, Pilkington’s ‘Lair’ and some building no longer there.

“Sunday rose sunny, mild, with just the gentlest of breezes, enough to make the pennant go ‘flut, flut, flut, flut,’ and the sound could be heard around the quad. As I recall, Jack Letzelter claimed that it was ‘commies’ from Utica who put it up there, and he couldn’t figure out how they’d gotten up without leaving cherry-picker tracks all over the lawn. But he hired a cherry picker and cut it down Monday afternoon, I think. So Pauling never saw it.”

In my personal feeble memories, the worst of times included witnessed acts of racial bias, religious intolerance and social stigmatization legitimized by the Greek system, then paramount. I am proud to say that while all human foibles cannot be corrected by fiat or litigation, Hamilton is a more welcoming and friendly place today, with more tolerance and amenities for Muslims, Jews, blacks, Hispanics, the socially challenged, sexual assignments and gender preferences. I would appreciate these courtesies to be extended to conservatives, but that, too, will come, perhaps with new people.

But what I fear is lost is the character-building if brutal introduction to the hard, cold world of academic discipline. Like the Spartan boy sent to kill the wolf, we encountered the deadly “yes” theme and the combat of unfamiliar, and sometimes unwanted, disciplines of public speaking and mathematics and science and language and even gym. To return to our world is a return to no women, no television, no phones, no computers and no cars — and did I say this, no women. But what we did have was the myth.

The myth that we were singularly endowed with the skills to survive in any world, persevere in any discipline, that what we did not know we could find out, and that when we ventured out into what the martyrs call the world, we would be recognized as special. Oh, you are from Hamilton. You know how to listen, to think, to speak, to write coherent and pithy English. The sharp point of our spear was that in a universe of vague mumblers, the Hamilton man would stand out, a leader in thought, word and deed. And while the outside world might mistake our own sweet world to be somewhere in Ohio, the intelli­gentsia would know this is Hamilton, where you grow from a dopey child with some smarts into a towering master of all that you encounter.

We walked into Dunham with different backgrounds and different goals. We shared a rude and noisy dormitory. We shared miserable meals in Commons. We shared the isolation and loneliness that accompanied attending an all-male liberal arts institution in the boondocks with no televisions, no cars and damn few telephones. We shared overwhelming terror in realizing that we would have to stretch to just pass our courses. We shared all the weaknesses and malevolencies that humankind is heir to: the pettiness, the exclusiveness, the jealousies and the snobbery. And we shared a community, imperfect but real.

But somehow, in 1959, on a hilltop without communications or outside influences, we became a community. We learned we were not alone on that hilltop. Professors were there not only to instruct us, but to mentor us and guide us. They became friends and associates. The steely-eyed Mr. Wertimer became our protector as much as he was our enforcer. We were a Hamilton community. We were the Hamilton Continentals, every bit as sturdy as the lone Continental sentry that stands in the snow day and night, protecting our campus from ignorance and insensitivity.

Second semester introduced us to our first real intellectual challenges. We may have taken different classes leading to different majors, but we all took English Comp and Public Speaking. These two challenges unified our class and linked us with past Hamilton classes more than anything else. Public speaking provided an opportunity to make a fool of ourselves in public without benefit of party favors. English Comp provided true terror in the form of the “yes” theme.

The “yes” theme was simple. You had to write three in-class “yes” themes and two out-of-class “yes” themes. A “yes” theme has zero mistakes. No spelling mistakes. No grammatical mistakes. No logic mistakes. It is perfect. It is a “yes.” Anything else is a “no.”

“Yes” themes became the most political event on this campus in the ’70s. They were eventually eliminated. Some called it curriculum reform. Some called it a cop-out because a wealthy alumnus’ son left school after not being able to accomplish a sufficient number of “yes” themes. This may have cost the school some donations. Either way, Hamsters have been deprived of a wonderful experience. The sheer terror of knowing that this one has to be perfect. It has to be a “yes.”

Throughout the years, I have faced high-pressure deadlines in the news business, the movie business and the advertising business. I have never worried about them. I have faced the monster and I have conquered the “yes” theme. I am sorry if you have never confronted one. If I were king for a day, I would reintroduce the “yes” theme requirement. In my mind, it was the defining experience at Hamilton College. Once upon a time, a prospective employer could hire a Hamilton graduate and know that this person can handle deadline pressure and create a perfect piece of communication.

If you are a student, I do not think that is true anymore. I am sorry for you. Thomas Lipscomb, a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and the founder and CEO of two public companies, recently wrote to William & Mary about the liberalization of curriculum: “My company doesn’t hire recent college graduates anymore. As a CEO and corporate executive, I’ve watched their basic skill sets decline so seriously over the past 20 years that I’d rather someone else hire them first. I’ll take the survivors. And that’s a shame. A lot of these kids are assuming crushing debt loads for sky-rocketing prices for what was supposed to be an enabling college education that would help their marketability.”

My “yes” theme came to me in the person of Dr. John Crossett. He may have been the ugliest man I had ever seen. I know that his fellow faculty did not like him. Even today, when his name is mentioned, professors who knew him look left and then right before answering a question.

When I met him, he was a tall skinny man in a cheap blue suit with huge crooked green teeth, bad breath and outrageous ego. He looked down upon our class with a gleam in his eyes, which were shielded by finger-smudged thick lenses. He announced that Socrates was the smartest man who ever lived. He then said that he, John Crossett, was the closest thing to Socrates we would ever meet.

When we came face to face with John Crossett and the “yes” themes, I learned to respect pure terror and what it could motivate in me. I not only got my “yes” themes, but Dr. Crossett worked with me on a poem I had written. He made me write it repeatedly until it was perfect. Then he published it on his own press. I still have a copy to this day that I keep in a special place. Perhaps no one else will ever treasure this poem, but I will, because I know what produced it. Some years later, Dr. Crossett successfully committed suicide. But then again, so did Socrates.

The next big thing was fraternity rush. Looking back, live-in fraternities seem like a stupid idea. But we had no cars, no computers, no personal television and very few phones. There were no members of the opposite sex. The only possible social life seemed to be in a fraternity. I came to Hamilton believing the only possible life was to be a DKE. Ed, Tag and I went DKE. Ed and I were English lit majors. Tag was a government major. While the DKEs were known as hell-raisers and athletes, they were also leaders in honor societies, the literary magazine and a variety of campus activities. Throughout my three years of fraternity life, the DKEs were either on, going on or coming off social probation. Perhaps a study can be funded to understand why so many DKEs end up as CEOs of major corporations and even presidents of the United States. Our trustee board is even infested with the annoying varmints.

You may remember the year of the great Hamilton social experiment when the administration decided every student should be allowed to join a fraternity. Carl Hayden identified it as Total Opportunity. Therefore, after rush, all those students not chosen were assigned to a fraternity. Naturally, this group was known as the turkey pool. The DKEs received two from the turkey pool.

It was a horrifying experience for the two young men. The DKEs were not abusive to them. They were not bad people. They just did not fit in. I suspect they realized we were idiots. They left of their own accord and became independents. I had been oblivious to their feelings until it was too late. They were gone, and I was caught up in academic and fraternity life. It was not until later that the sick feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.

As a senior, I wrote in my Spectator column, “The Horse’s Mouth,” a harsh criticism of the spectacle of sorting through humankind, rejecting the “unfit.” It was too late by then to make any meaningful changes. I suspect that many of my fellow trustees who much later voted on the residential life changes at Hamilton gained similar insights along the way. While they were not ready to denounce their own past or abolish fraternities, they were determined that no more turkey pools or human sorting should ever bring grief to a Hamilton student, at least not in an official capacity.

Truth is: I love old Hamster Tech. Hamilton made me anything good I am. And she is not to blame for my failures. I love my old roomies: the late Ed Kenney, the late Bruce Gregory Temple, the irascible John Soffey, the mysterious Thomas Matthew McCormack, King Martin, Hugh Leach Fitzgerald and even Judge Tag Adams. I love my old professors and especially Ed Barrett, John Crossett and Lafe Todd. I love Sidney and Ellie. I even love you old bastards — the Class of 1963 — and all that we shared from 1959 to 1963.

As the years rolled on, we had mandatory chapel appearances on Tuesdays and Sundays. Although there were no real religious harangues, we mostly acquiesced by keeping quiet for the hour. It was in chapel that I encountered another defining Hamilton experience. The first time I heard it, I thought the room had filled with locusts. It was finger-snapping. WE did not applaud at OUR HAMILTON. We finger-snapped. You try it. Please. Do it for an old man.


Sean Kevin Fitzpatrick, Class of 1963

Sean Fitzpatrick put his Hamilton degree in English literature/history to use as a highly successful writer, editor, producer, teacher and branding consultant. He has served as chief creative officer for the world’s largest and most successful advertising agency, brand champion for the world’s largest automotive companies and creative director for Bing Crosby Productions and Columbia Pictures.

In 2000, Sean retired from the advertising industry as executive vice president and vice chairman of the board of McCann-Erickson World Group after earning more than 300 international creative awards for advertising campaigns, including Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America.” Today, he is a lecturer on persuasive communications at the College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and a consultant to industry and government through seandotcom LLC. He also serves as creative director of the Center for Unconventional Thought at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Sean has served as a member of Hamilton’s board of trustees for more than three decades. Other volunteer activities have included work as a creative director for the Partnership for a Drug Free America. He is a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Creative Legends Series and has judged at the Cannes International Advertising Film Festival.

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