Editor’s Column: Stay Curious Colgate

Mike McMaster

“All right let’s get this started, I haven’t even started studying yet,” a second-year med school student groaned.

Huddled around a long, but still crowded bar room table, 13 Colgate alumni wasted a beautiful August Sunday afternoon for an annual gathering.

“If you guys rig this, I swear I’m not paying you anything,” a 14th voice threatened through a hollow, but still clearly audible Skype connection.

Although an aspiring lawyer, the last friend was also a reluctant student, who was more than willing to neglect seemingly endless pages of, in his words, “books with no pictures,” for a chance at gridiron glory. Yes, it was the all-important fantasy football draft, a staple of the “Colgate con-nection,” that gives this group a chance to renew old rivalries and claim bragging rights for a full year. The pressure that results from the anticipation of predictably crippling trash talk is enough to drive some players to far corners of the bar, punching through spreadsheets and furiously scrib-bling notes in solitude, even though this eclectic group of professionals and students will rarely be in the same room again until next year. Others, however, prepare for Sunday the same way they prepared for Sundays at Colgate in years past.

“Beer? Eh. Could we get a pot of coffee? I’m still kind of feeling it from last night,” whined a work-hard, play-very-hard Wall Street analyst.

After graduation, Colgate students inevitably get dragged in different directions. Though it was hardly the focus of the day, the subtle beauty of a Colgate education was on display at that bar in midtown Manhattan. Looking around the room, those 14 men, only a few short years after graduation, had little in common other than their connection to Colgate.

Sitting at that table were future doctors and lawyers mixed with professionals in finance, adver-tising, engineering, insurance underwriting, international sales, professional baseball operations and even one guy who started his own company.

If there is a reason that I wrote this article, it’s not to boast that a Colgate education will get you a job wherever you want. That’s hardly the case. Unfortunately, leaving school is hard right now and it has been for several years.

Instead, I was struck by the conversation at that table, some time after the ninth round of the draft when kickers were coming off of the board and someone asked the classic “what was your favorite class at Colgate” question. Seniors, take notes – you’ll probably get asked this ques-tion in interviews a couple of times. It’s something that I have really only come to appreciate since leaving Colgate, that how much success you have in the ever-dreaded “real world” isn’t measured in how many economics classes you took or how many 300-levels you conquered.

“Definitely History of Rock.”

“Logic.”

“European History of Intellectual Thought.”

“Volcanology.”

“Basic Music and Song Writing.”

And maybe the most interesting part of all of those answers is that not a single person around the table mentioned a class that helped them in their vocational pursuits. Most of these classes put one of these guys out of their comfort zone and challenged them to think. I vividly remember a conversation I had with a friend on campus junior year that was having trouble finding a summer internship and was convinced if he didn’t secure that all-important (it’s not, by the way) junior year internship, his life would be over.

“You know, I think I should have gone to the University of Vermont,” he said. “You know they’ve got like a ski medicine major there?” (Side: I have no idea if that’s true or not.)

“Seems like a pretty clear path to me,” he said. “Ski medicine, then ski instructor or ski patrol or whatever. Pretty easy. Makes sense, right?”

The opposite is true. And the further that I get from Colgate the more I think the best gift a Colgate education gives its students is a chance to think and the opportunity to explore intellectual curiosities.

If you stay curious, you don’t have to have a ski major to be a ski instructor. That, and it gives me a hallowed opportunity to sit around, drink beer and cross my fingers that I get the first pick for Arian Foster once a year.