Thrive Global – JULY 28, 2021 BY STEPHEN BITTEL I still remember vividly the day in August of 1974 that I stepped off a shuttle van in the small town of Brunswick, Maine where I would be attending Bowdoin College. Having attended public school for my entire education prior to being accepted to the small private college (which I still maintain was probably a far reach beyond my academic record at that point, but good outside activities and SAT scores got me through the admissions gauntlet), I was woefully unprepared for the academic rigor that lay ahead. However, Bowdoin College is staunch in its commitment to the common good, as Bowdoin President Joseph McKeen charged it to be in his inaugural address.
“It ought always to be remembered, that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be enabled to pass through life in an easy or reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society.”
From the very beginning of my time at the college, I became aware that this was a charge every single student, professor, and faculty member held themselves accountable to. My very first night as I was unpacking, Stan Druckenmiller, today a legendary investor, visited me in my room and strongly urged to take a course in Southern literature taught by Franklin Burroughs. My freshman economics course taught by Myrick Freeman hooked me on business for a lifetime –– I had always believed that like my father and grandfather before me I would return to Miami and become a lawyer, and while I did end up earning my law degree I never used it, choosing instead to start my own business. Bill Geoghegan’s world religion survey course stretched my mind around the world –– it is thanks to him and President Roger Howell that I applied and was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, allowing me to spend a year after graduating college travelling Europe and forming the connections that would eventually help build my life and business.
I know that I would not have achieved the success I have today without those more knowledgeable and experienced than me lighting the path. I now try to pay that forward, serving my community by mentoring those who seek to learn from my career and life experiences. While it is easy to see the benefits gained by the mentee, mentoring others is not only richly fulfilling, but also has many practical benefits as well. Below, I outline some of those I have experienced first hand.