Editor’s note: Gordon Cadwgan ’63 presented the following remarks on June 8, 2013 at Williston Northampton School’s Reunion.
I remember reading that President Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of a piece of scrap paper on his way to Gettysburg on the train. Other speakers at that memorial service rambled on for hours saying little. Then last to talk Lincoln delivered one of America’s greatest speeches in 10 or 12 minutes. When he finished the crowd was silent. He thought the speech was a bust. We all know it was so powerful everyone was speechless. So I have attempted to do the same. I wrote these remarks on the plane coming from West Palm Beach—on a scrap of iPad.
Why would I want to give one million dollars to Williston Northampton to build a bigger, better science building? Heck, I could buy a big house, a boat, and a fancy car—and have enough left over to hire someone to take care of them for me! Let me tell you why I chose the former.
Number 1. I love science. I grew up during the Sputnik space race era. As kids in Rhode Island, we were experimenting with homemade rockets, fabricating the aluminum body tubes, fins, and nose cones in high school metal shop—and ordering chemicals for propellants that would put us all in jail today. We launched them in local playgrounds—hiding in the concrete block bathroom when we pushed the launch button. This hobby led to an interest in all science. I went from Williston’s Doc Phillips’ chemistry classes in this very building, to UNC Chapel Hill—graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. After a short stint in the army, I returned to Massachusetts and got a PhD in analytical chemistry from UMass Amherst. I did my work career at Union Carbide and DuPont. I never made any great discoveries, but I had a great time working along with the scientists who did.
Number 2. Generosity, sharing one’s good fortune with others, has been instilled in me by my father and mother. My father started from nothing, but became a highly successful investment banker working in that capacity for almost 70 years. Ruth and I say he gave away more money than he earned. Think about that! My mother—when I was at UNC and in the service— would give to Williston’s annual fund in my name because she knew at some point a continuous or almost continuous giving record would be something I would be proud of. And on this topic of giving, my Dad always said “why wait until you are dead to give your money away? Give it away to good people, good causes, so that you and your family can help others and enjoy doing it while you are still alive!” Lots of common sense in that statement.
Number 3. I love Williston. It set me on the road to college and graduate school. It nurtured my creativities and honed my abilities. It kept a tight rein on a kid who had too much energy, and channeled that energy away from non-productive escapades to productive endeavors. Study, sports, activities…. all here for the taking. But wait…can you love a school? A school is a thing. Love is reserved for family, friends, and close acquaintances. Yes, you can love a school because Williston, and now Williston Northampton, is a family. Nowhere else will you find more dedicated, caring teachers and staff than at Williston. They care about their students. They want them to learn the 3R’s of course, but more importantly they want them to learn how to be good citizens in an increasing complicated and challenging world. They see in their students’ successes their own successes.
Finally, I have great confidence in—and admiration for—Bob Hill, Eric Yates, Jeff Pilgrim, and Bill Berghoff and their staff. Eric and Bob visited Ruth and me in Florida a number of times, and did a great salesmanship job. Not because they want a new science building, but because Williston wants and needs a new science building—and I can tell they love Williston too.
So that’s it. Why did we give a million dollars to Williston to build a new science building? Sounds like a perfect fit to me. I see only great things in the future for Williston Northampton. And hopefully in the future more of it will be in Science.