Chapter Three: Colgate University & Colgate University’s Washington Study Group:
I graduated Valedictorian, first in my class in academic standing, from Lawrence High School on Long Island, and had a list of other activities, including working on the school newspaper, a variety of clubs, and being a member of the golf team. I applied to, and was accepted at: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth. I also took the New York State Regents Scholarship test (a two day event I spend less than a day on) and won one of these scholarships that were not based on need if I attended a college in New York State. (They provided $350 a semester).
My guidance counselor at Lawrence thought I should go to a smaller school as I was not a very outgoing young man. My parents had no advice. I initially had looked to go to Dartmouth and pursue an engineering career. I have no recollection of why that was my agenda – perhaps because I was good at math. Anyway, after visiting Colgate (whose campus was, and still is, a most beautiful one) and thinking that I would help out Mom and Dad financially with the NYS scholarship, I chose Colgate as my college. I never heard from them that they would support my decision from an economic standpoint if I wanted to go elsewhere. I note that any place I had applied to were then solely schools for men. Why recommending sending a shy guy who was naïve with women to an all-male school . . . to this day doesn’t make sense to me.
Insofar as my parents supporting my educational expenses . . . yes, they did contribute to my first year’s college tuition and helped with my costs of room, board, books, and transportation. I did earn a fair amount of money working at various jobs at Colgate. That reduced much of the need for them to send on a check. And, after that first year, they had no need to help with any tuition expenses as I received full tuition waiver from Colgate as they had a scholarship program based on merit (top grades). My law school tuition, plus room, board and spending money was covered by my Root-Tilden Scholarship (and in my third year when that was reduced because I got married, I worked as manager of the swimming pool in Hayden Hall where we lived. My Master’s Year at NYU Law was paid for from a scholarship I received from the Ford Foundation. My year in Spain was covered by the Fulbright Scholarship I received. I was very chary and nervous whenever I had to ask my father for anything. I do remember ‘making my case’ when I needed money for a down payment to buy my first house (I was 40 at the time) in Woodstock, N.Y. . . . and I did get a ‘loan’ of $10,000 that was never called in. I really had no idea or guidance in what course of study to pursue at Colgate. The first year there was mostly involved with “Core” courses that all students took. I remember having a hard time with philosophy and religion – I still do in some ways. It is valuable to know what different philosophies were held and shared throughout history. And, not having had any religious bringing up (except for being a ‘dietary jew’), I had no grounding in any traditional belief system. I have pursued an understanding of this most important aspect of life and have come up with a personal philosophy that I am comfortable with at this moment called ‘time.” My reaction to much of what is shared ends up with the question: “So What?” I still ponder “Who are we?” and “Why are we here? And I also feel and believe that often “religion” has compromised spirituality with its “my way or the highway” operation that uses fear and/or perhaps false “rewards” to profit and control their members. And, finally, (and on this more later) I have had past lives experiences and have visited the place I call Elysia, where souls reside between lives. That is certainly material for another book . . . which curiously I plan to write after this one. I got two B grades that first year at Colgate. I got another B from my Russian professor Albert Parry who owned the house next to the TKE fraternity house where I was the President. Parry didn’t appreciate the activities going on there (boys will be boys) and hassled me after each class. Otherwise, I knew how to get A’s and I got them. Somehow I chose a dual concentration to pursue (besides golf) – that was political science and international relations. I was enamored of the possibilities of cooperation among countries and peoples around the world and curious as to the workings and underpinnings of how things get and got done – more in the macro-sense than in personal and business dealings and relations. I still have my transcript of the courses and grades I got for the four years at Colgate – and I remember very little, very little of the courses or their content. One incident still stands out: in the Core Course of public speaking (first year) I remember getting up to give my first talk, and getting laughed at: laughed at because I still had my Brooklyn/Long Island accent. Somehow within a couple of months that accent was gone and has remained so with only once in a long while some little slip. I remember fondly the model UN sessions some of us attended and the fun we had being the Soviet Union. And definitely a highlight was the semester I got to spend in Washington, D.C. as a member of Colgate’s Washington Study Group. The second semester of my junior year at Colgate, I got to be one of ten (five juniors and five seniors) selected to go to Washington, D.C. as part of Colgate’s Washington Study Group. Begun in 1935, the Washington Study Group is the oldest of Colgate's study groups and was the first program of its kind in Washington, D.C. A number of its graduates have established life-long connections in Washington and returned to build successful careers in national government and politics. According to its website, “Colgate University's Washington Study Group combines rigorous academic analysis with a total immersion in Washington political life. During the semester, students take senior seminars on various aspects of the American political system and choose an internship in congressional offices, agencies, or think-tanks. They also meet national leaders in politics, journalism, business, the military, and the arts and will visit the great historical and cultural sites of the city.” My experience in D.C. gave me a good case of “Potomac Fever” and that fever has stayed in my bloodstream ever since, involving me in and out of a myriad of political situations and opportunities. There were two ‘newsletters’ that were done about some of the things we noted/did. I was editor of the first one and – retrived from the bowels of the Colgate Library - here is my ‘editorial:’ Washington Study Group Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 1. Editorial “The most important commodity . . . Washington, D. C. – There’s a certain magic in that dateline. It conjours up pictures of impressive sights, of important people, of the very essence of an American ideal. The most important commodity exported from the awesome structures that make up the core of Washington (besides those green-faced oblong portraits of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Grant, Hamilton, etc.) is policy. Policy is a rather general term for what to do, how to do it, where it’s to be done, by whom, and even sometimes that very evasive “Why?” Take these ingredients, mix well, season to taste, and add tem Colgate students, (and one rather patriarchal professor), and presto, the Colgate Washington Study Group. We’ve described Washington as our “Classroom,” its inhabitants as our “Professors,” and its jobs as our “Assignments.” This is true. Of course, our texts at Colgate don’t head up a chapter describing the functions and operations of such a body as the Operations Coordinating Board, and then follow it with blank pages followed by a note explaining that this is “CLASSIFIED.” But this just adds to the flavor and challenge of the work. “Reliable sources” among Study Group members have it that a week or two of actual participation in one of the “shops” is often worth almost a whole semester of Dimock and Dimock or George Galloway. At least it is the clincher that brings all the facts and processes sharply into focus. From the outside, Washington is big and impressive and a bit frightening. The jobs done here are even bigger, more impressive and quite frightening. Yet, in each of these buildings are lots of people, many much the same as you and I. Because of the Study Group’s long and impressive history, we who follow in the footsteps of many of Colgate’s most illustrious names get the “frosting” from the cake. After a month of Washington, we’ve come to regard the City and what it stands for as a little part of us; yet, every day some startling new treasure is unearthed. The process of obtaining an education may be a long and tedious one, yet an experience like the Colgate – Washington Study Group is a giant step forward to what may be the goal of our individual desires.” That semester in the Winter/Spring of 1957 was a memorable one for me. We were housed at the YMCA near the White House on G Street. At that time, it was a “hang-out” for homosexuals – who, it turned out, were pretty aggressive. Our study group members ended up creating a buddy system when we would go to the shared bathroom. There were no doors for the toilet stalls, nor doors or curtains for the showers. Not having ever been exposed to gay guys, this was a different and somewhat traumatic experience. It took some years and some quite pleasant experiences with gay guys (and lesbian women) for me to realize that being different and loving whomever you want was an important part of being alive and not missing out on some wonderful people . As our professor was quite busy working on a book, we were pretty much on our own most of the time. We got to meet pretty much all the leaders in Washington as well as a number of those who worked behind the scenes or who affected policy or communicated about it. Perhaps the person I was most impressed with in the seemingly hundreds of interviews and meetings with so many of Washington’s top people and power brokers was James “Scotty” Reston of the N.Y. Times who we met on several occasions and whose column I religiously read to get a good “take” on what was going on in D.C. and around the world. I admired the wide scope of Reston’s knowledge, contacts, and his views and perspective. To sit around a table with him and talk about what was going on in Washington, around the U.S. and throughout the world, and realize this guy was so plugged in and could interpret these goings on to make sense out of it all (at least to my star-struck eyes and ears) was like being a true ‘insider.’ During his lifetime, Reston was admired for his insight, fair-mindedness, balance, and wit, as well as his extensive contacts in the very highest echelons of power. Burt Barnes, writing in The Washington Post shortly after his death, observed that "Mr. Reston's work was required reading for top government officials, with whom he sometimes cultivated a professional symbiosis; he would be their sounding board and they would be his news sources." But former Times editor R.W. Apple noted in Reston's obituary that he "was forgiving of the frailties of soldiers, statesmen and party hacks—too forgiving, some of his critics said, because he was too close to them. Reston's intimacy with those in power was seen to cloud his judgment and make him overly beholden to his sources. Reston knew everyone who mattered in the world. What he did with this knowledge was extraordinary. His column, in the world's most influential newspaper, was used by Americans (to give them insights into the world America was making) and by national leaders (to plant a thought or float a proposal). "He was a reporter of amazing skill, able to relieve powerful men of their most important secrets," Stacks writes. "He was a writer of easy, graceful prose who revolutionized the style in which American newspapers are written." Reston was, in truth, a revolutionary. Unwilling to accept the conventions of journalism, he gave shape to a new convention--the news analysis--and in the process extended not only his own reach but that of the entire genre of newswriting. In the news analysis, Reston told not only what happened, but why, and what it meant. Today this is so much a part of newspaper journalism that it is hardly remarkable. But the art form itself bears the fingerprints of James Reston. "At the middle of the twentieth century, Reston was the model of what a young journalist wanted to become: wise, fair, able to speak in his own voice, and most of all, so well respected by those in power that he could find out and tell his readers what was really going on in the world he covered," writes Stacks. "He had access to the corridors of power because he was trusted to report and write with a sense of balance and humanity; he was often critical of policies and policy makers but rarely harsh in these judgments." I don’t really remember all the interviews we had during that semester in Washington. Who stands out from that time? Although I was of a strong liberal bent (“progressive” today), I was taken by Barry Goldwater who, in my estimation, didn’t pull any punches and called things as he saw them. That straight-forwardness and honesty was very impressive to me. Apparently it also strikes a chord with many potential voters in the run up to the 2016 Presidential Election. The strangest “interview” we had was with J. Edgar Hoover. It was like going through sanctum, to inner sanctum, to the inner-most sanctum to get to see him. I still see it like going to see the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt – with a little fear that we’d get entombed somewhere on the way. I remember being very unimpressed with Vice President Nixon. My longest internship (perhaps something over two months) was with the Legislative Reference Service of the Congress that was located in the Library of Congress. The work done there was most impressive. They got, and answered inquiries about pretty much everything from members of Congress and sometimes from inquiries by their constituents that were forward on. The brain power and research abilities of those staffing this service was – to me – amazing. I got to spend hours and hours (time just disappeared) in the stacks of the Library. What an absolute treat! To wander the isles, be able to reach onto a shelf of books and find such thoughts, information, speculation. Yes, the internet has completely changed this experience and libraries have become somewhat obsolete. I love the internet and all the information and connections it brings. This book would not be possible without it. And that experience of being able to wander at will in the largest library in the world was a privilege few have had and one I will never forget. Papers on file at the Legislative Reference Service did serve as the underlying basis of many of the papers I and my fellow students submitted. Did that work? What I can say is that all ten of us got straight A’s for the semester. And that’s all I have to say about that. To get from the YMCA to the Library of Congress, I would take a trolley car. On the first morning I took the car, there was Senator Joe McCarthy. The seat next to him was empty. I asked if I could sit down, introduced myself, and shared that I was with Colgate’s Washington Study Group, working at the Legislative Reference Service. McCarthy at that time was a shell of who he had been. He looked horrible, and I could smell alcohol on his breath, even at that early hour. I did end up with a sympathetic vibe for someone who had fallen so far from grace. McCarthy died in May of 1957 as my semester in Washington ended. I sat next to him on perhaps a dozen occasions as we rode to the stop serving both the Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress. He was interested in what I was doing and we shared small talk and some interaction about the issues of the day. His views on libraries (see below) allowed us to discuss the values and potential dangers. I held my tongue and views for most of our time together. This Senator personified how a politician could ride a wave of extremism to popularity and personal aggrandizement, only to go too far and – by doing so – to end up harming himself and the country. My valedictory speech for Lawrence High School in June, 1954 was inspired by my revulsion for the tactics, and the philosophy of McCarthy’s committee. The speech began: “The ultimate goal of education today in America is freedom and understanding.” I wish I had kept the rest of the speech. Although those are the only words that come to mind, my political stance has held the view that all deserve opportunities and that promises made should be kept. Was it some kind of Kismet that my path crossed with Roy Cohn during the summer of 1956 when I was a lifeguard at the Patio Beach club in Atlantic Beach, L.I.? McCarthy’s fame came from his Chairmanship of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. With the beginning of his second term as senator in 1953, McCarthy was made chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. According to some reports, Republican leaders were growing wary of McCarthy's methods and gave him this relatively mundane panel rather than the Internal Security Subcommittee—the committee normally involved with investigating Communists. However, the Committee on Government Operations included the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and the mandate of this subcommittee was sufficiently flexible to allow McCarthy to use it for his own investigations of Communists in the government. McCarthy appointed Roy Cohn as chief counsel and 27-year-old Robert F. Kennedy as an assistant counsel to the subcommittee. When the records of the closed executive sessions of the subcommittee under McCarthy's chairmanship were made public in 2003–4, Senators Susan Collins and Carl Levin wrote the following in their preface to the documents: “Senator McCarthy’s zeal to uncover subversion and espionage led to disturbing excesses. His browbeating tactics destroyed careers of people who were not involved in the infiltration of our government. His freewheeling style caused both the Senate and the Subcommittee to revise the rules governing future investigations, and prompted the courts to act to protect the Constitutional rights of witnesses at Congressional hearings ... These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.” William Bennett, former Reagan AdministrationSecretary of Education, summed up this perspective in his 2007 book America: The Last Best Hope: “The cause of anti-communism, which united millions of Americans and which gained the support of Democrats, Republicans and independents, was undermined by Sen. Joe McCarthy ... McCarthy addressed a real problem: disloyal elements within the U.S. government. But his approach to this real problem was to cause untold grief to the country he claimed to love ... Worst of all, McCarthy besmirched the honorable cause of anti-communism. He discredited legitimate efforts to counter Soviet subversion of American institutions.” For more on McCarthy and the hearings click here: Senator Joseph McCarthy. Washington, D.C. in 1957 wasn’t all work. In fact, there was lots of play. I was fortunate enough to play a lot of golf when there were no interviews. There were also breaks between the sessions at the State Department that I was attending. These briefings were given to new foreign service officers before they were sent to their overseas posts. This was the other internship that I had during my Washington Study Group semester. I was, at that time and for a year after, ready to join the Foreign Service and help bring together the nations of the world for peace. In fact, during my senior year at Colgate, I took the Foreign Service Exam and passed. My Spanish was quite good. When I got my Root-Tilden scholarship to NYU Law School, I communicated with the Foreign Service that I was going to be trained as a lawyer and would then want to join up and be appropriately assigned. The powers that were turned down my offer and told me I’d have to start all over again. That took a lot of the steam out of my enthusiasm for the Foreign Service.
Among the notables I meet in Washington who were not part of the regular interview process that was a great part of Colgate’s Study Group was David Lloyd Kreeger. I got to visit him and his home several times with and through one of my classmates, Wally Kramer. Memory does not serve here as either Wally was dating a Kreeger girl or David was a relative. Kreeger was an example of a very successful business man who ventured into the arts and made major contributions, particularly to the scene in Washington, D.C. His business success was built around Geico, the most successful insurance conglomerate.
David, who became chairman of Geico, the Government Employees Insurance Company, was a true patron of the arts, involved with both music and the visual arts. His impact was very substantial and far reaching. As an art collector and patron, Kreeger was internationally known as a collector of Impressionist and modern painting and sculpture. He was president and chairman of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington for almost 20 years. The mansion on Foxhall Road in which he and his wife, Carmen, also a patron of the arts, lived since 1968 was designed by the architect Philip Johnson as a showcase for the Kreeger collection and cost $1.9 million to build. "I never bought art as an investment," Mr. Kreeger once said. "I bought it for love and was lucky. Art that embodies the creative spirit of man transcends the value of money."
Kreeger was the son of immigrants from Russia who owned a small grocery store in Highland Park, N.J. He worked his way through college and law school by playing the piano at summer resorts in the Adirondacks. He graduated with high honors from Rutgers and from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of The Law Review. After a brief time in private practice in Newark, Kreeger joined the legal staff of the Department of Agriculture in the early years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency and later transferred to the Department of the Interior. In 1941, he was appointed special assistant to the Attorney General and served in the Justice Department until 1946, when he returned to private practice in Washington.
Two years later he formed a group of investors who bought into Geico, and in 1957 he gave up his law practice to become senior vice president and general counsel of the company and its affiliates. That is when I had time with him and his family. He was named president of Geico in 1964, and six years later he became chairman and chief executive officer. He retained those titles until he retired in 1974, continuing as chairman of the executive committee until 1979, when he was named honorary chairman.
Perhaps the thing I was most impressed about in meeting and talking to Kreeger was the Stradivarius violins (I believe he had two) that Keeger owned and played. He was an accomplished amateur violinist who was often joined in playing chamber music at his home by performers including Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, the Tokyo String Quartet and the Cleveland Quartet. As president of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington from 1970 to 1978, he recruited as its concertmaster the Soviet cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who later became the orchestra's music director.
In 1980, Mr. Kreeger founded the Washington Opera, and he served as its first president and later as chairman. He also served on the boards of the Arena Stage, Dumbarton Oaks and the National Gallery. He was given the Medal of Arts Award in a ceremony at the White House. Mr. and Mrs. Kreeger devoted considerable time and money to developing artistic talent. They sponsored art competitions at several universities along with the Bach International Competitions. They donated the Kreeger Creativity awards to Catholic University. Mr. Kreeger was a trustee emeritus of American University and served on the boards of Georgetown University and the Peabody Institute of Music. He was a national vice president of the American Jewish Committee.
I would say that David Lloyd Keeger would be featured in my gallery of people who lived their lives In the Grand Manner.
Here are a few more words about Colgate and its history before we get to one of its favorite sons and my still good friend, Richard (“Dick”) Cheshire. This helps set the scene of where Dick’s life intersected with Colgate and mine as well as to explore how we worked together to create some good ideas and one or two actual accomplishments during the first decade of the 21st Century.
For more background on Colgate University click here: Colgate University
Richard “Dick” Cheshire:
One of the classmates I “knew” when I was a student at Colgate University surfaced much later to become a good friend. His life path has followed what I would certainly classify as being on “Grand Manner Way.” It was some 46 years after graduation that Dick, his wife Bobbie (Roberta) and yours truly had a reunion when I moved back to Hamilton, N.Y. -- the home of Colgate University. I returned to Hamilton from Charlottesville, Virginia to work with William “Bill” Thomas, M.D. on a project we had hatched while I was working with the Jefferson Board of Aging in Charlottesville, focusing on ways to enable elders to not only avoid long-term care, but also to make the contributions that would improve their lives and the lives of all those with whom they touched. [See Chapter ____]
Dick was among the four classmates I found who had returned to Hamilton over the years to live in an environment that was special in a variety of ways. A rather small village in a small town in a county with strong agricultural roots, Hamilton is the home of Colgate University. In many ways, the nature of the time and place of almost two hundred years since the founding of the University permeates the town and the separation of “town” and “gown” is still, in my opinion, a gulf that is quite wide. Dick is a, if not the, epitome of an alum that both returned to serve the University and also who planted roots in the Hamilton area. His home on Lake Moraine has evolved from a summer “camp” to a lovely, spacious, wonderfully decorated home that is a great pleasure to visit.
Dick and I connected in a number of ways. We co-founded the Lifelong Learning Program at Colgate and served on its Board. Dick is still active there. We gave together a number of programs for Lifelong Learning, ranging from politics (and more politics) to exploration of a variety of self-improvement topics. Much of what Dick is putting out to the world (or at least that small part that will read or listen) is first set forth in his book: Leading By Heart. Stories and formulas for successful leadership results are set forth. Dick is convinced that Einstein’s famous formula: E=MC2 (energy = mass x the speed of sound squared) can be the model and the catalyst for leadership and getting to results. The transition and understanding of most to whom he speaks comes hard, if at all. And, there are examples of leadership that have produced dramatic results. I also have been consulting with him on a new book he is trying to hatch looking at the histoy of this country and how things have disintegrated from the original concepts and intention. A brief outline of the book includes:
PREAMBLE: Why Democratic Capitalism and Republican Democracy are Two Sides of the Same Truth about Leading a Nation of People at Peace with Themselves and Their Neighbors.
"Getting to Yes" is a reconciliation of differences that always begins with knowledge and is empowered by imagination, which is what the story of life is about. Identifying the preponderant evidence from cherry-picked evidence in human relationships. Behind the story is a belief that the spirit of the law must embody the laws of the spirit. This is what the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution does. It embodies and spells out the Spirit of the Law of the Land as it embraces the Laws of the Spirit. The role of government is succinctly set forth that it is to be in the public interest. How well is this role of government understood and respected today?
When asked for some reflections on his doings and beings, Dick responded:
“Out of this history, I have evolved into one variation of a leadership thought leader from service as a practitioner and contemplations as a scholar who is unwilling to accept the status of leadership & leadership training as distinct from management and management training in America (and the world!) today.
Read more about Dick Cheshire’s views by clicking here: Dick Cheshire.
Dick Cheshire’s life has been in my judgment (and I chose to make that judgment) one lived In The Grand Manner and one that has yielded many contributions to others and to what is to be returned to The Eternal Sea.