Navigating a Post-College Life

by Skip Kotkins '70

As a decidedly liberal-arts guy who wanted to stay as far away as possible from math and science, I entered Williams with a good degree of concern about the science requirement. However, even though I am convinced to this day that I was a “10 percenter,” I was smart enough to know that geology was at the very civil hour of 11 a.m., and that was good enough for me. Sophomore year, I took astronomy because, well, it wasn’t physics, chemistry or biology. Like “Rocks,” “Stars” was pretty interesting and included a unit on celestial navigation. 

Little did I know that serendipitously in the summer of 1968, I would sail with four others on a 44-foot ketch from South Carolina to Gibraltar. In those pre-GPS days, at sea far beyond the reach of the shore-side RDF stations, we actually had to navigate by the sun and the stars and with a sextant. The owner of the boat and my watchmate, both Harvard men, were duly impressed that somehow the Williams guy had learned how to find Bermuda and the Azores. (OK, finding Europe was a little easier. It’s pretty big and if you head East, sooner or later…). 

Back shoreside, my career in business associated me with a number of folks who asked, “Is that Williams and Mary?” when they heard where I had gone to college. I suspect all of us had that happen more than a few times. But fast forward 40-plus years, and I find myself in a second career as a consultant, working with independent schools. Aside from the bragging rights of having been a classmate of Pat Bassett '70 (who ruled the independent school world as president of the National Association of Independent Schools), suddenly everyone knew what Williams was. It gave me a great deal of cred that I probably would never have earned from spending 40 years in the wholesale luggage business. Along with Pat, Rob Hershey '70, Chris Williamson '70, Peter Thorp '70 and others brought great credit to themselves and our class of 1970, with careers of distinguished service to independent education. There is no question in my mind that my hitchhiking on the good name they gave Williams '70 continues to open doors for me to this day. 

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