Alumnus of the Issue

12342_Clarida_MatthewWhen I was asked to write this, I might have said ‘yes’ a bit too quickly.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the invitation: I absolutely do. But, for a few reasons, I feel a little uncomfortable writing this.

First, I don’t exactly feel that I’m qualified.

The “Alumni of the Issue” feature has long been a friend to Circle Voice editors, and having written a few of these stories as a reporter and read a great many more as an editor and as a reader, I’d argue that the subjects are usually older, wiser, and more impressive than me (if perhaps not as self-deprecating.) When I was at Groton, I wrote an Alumni of the Issue feature about an Olympic athlete (Isabelle Kinsolving-Farrar) and read about innovators in technology and pioneers in service and business.

Second-and this is a big one-I feel out of my element.

Right now as I write, I wish I had the talent that some of Groton’s great editorial writers – James Lee ‘12, Winston Shi ‘12 and Harsh Govil ‘11 come to mind – possessed at sharing their perspective in the first person. While I wrote my fair share of stories about new professors and old alumni, James, Winston, and Harsh perfected the art of writing as themselves. These three in particular were appointment reading when I was at Groton to students and faculty alike, and each had a different flavor. James’s goal always seemed to be to make you think, not necessarily to tell you what he thought. He did this well, with his trademark length (James rarely wrote anything – a sentence, a poem, a paragraph, a story – that was brief) and conscience. Harsh enjoyed going after the administration, despite the difficulties this sometimes presented in Groton’s intimate community. And Winston delighted us all with his talent and his thinking and his ability to make any event-sometimes it was a Lakers game, sometimes it was a particularly close fantasy baseball matchup, sometimes it was a Roll Call announcement – seem relevant to the world.

When I edited the CV as a Sixth Former, the first thing I would do upon opening the newspaper’s network drive was read their unedited copy. More often than not, the relevance of their topics and their talent with words made it seem like they were speaking directly to me. Perhaps you feel the same way right now, but you’re completely free to feel as if I’m simply writing at you.

My third reason for feeling uncomfortable (and don’t worry, I’ll stop before I get to 10): I fear that my opening sentences weren’t quite dynamic enough to keep a large percentage of you from turning to the back page (if that’s not the first place you went anyway).

The funniest humor writer I ever read at Groton was undoubtedly Nat Cutler ‘09, who wrote the section during my third form year, and whose articles we reran frequently after he graduated. Angus West ‘09 was also a funny writer, as was Ian Anderson ‘10. Carrie Coughlin ‘12 wrote some of the funniest stuff of our sixth form year. An added bonus to Carrie’s content was that I never worried that she would get me into trouble.

Editing the humor page is every CV editor’s biggest challenge, primarily because it takes a number of reads to understand all the jokes, and to determine if/how many people are going to be offended. When I edited the CV, I had the welcome assistance of Carly Margolis ‘12, whose job was to look at the humor section, honestly, and tell me just how out of bounds some of the stuff was and what we had to remove. I trusted Carly with this job more than I trusted myself, and when she read the sections, people went home happy and not offended.

Carly and I had the pleasure of working with the boldest humor writer in my memory, William A. Holley ‘12, and his three replacements, the unforgettable trio of Hugh McGlade ‘13, Nick Funnell ‘13, and George Buckawyn ‘13. These four guided the section to some close calls with content. There were papers where we had to fill the page with old cartoons and articles by Nat Cutler ‘07. A number of humor sections from my senior year were omitted from the editions posted on the school’s website.

Finally, I feel somewhat uncomfortable writing this because, aside from my consecutive $25 pledges to the annual fund, I haven’t been diligent enough about staying in touch with Groton. Distance is not an excuse for me, nor is “needing space.” Although this piece is a onetime deal, I hope to be in touch with many of you in the near future.

What was your experience at Groton like?

I loved Groton, certainly not because it was always fun, but because I always felt cared for, and I left the school truly confident in myself and in what I had learned.

What is your favorite Groton memory?

There was a certain JV Baseball game during my junior year when I slid head-first under a tag during a St. Mark’s game to score the leading run. The Lions never were able to come back from that big inning. Also, the Lessons and Carols services were always among the most special moments of my year for me.

What was your transition from Groton to Harvard like?

Groton certainly left me prepared for college academically, and, almost as importantly, I think, it left me prepared for extracurricular life at college. Particularly at Harvard, extracurriculars can become a huge part of your life. This is certainly true for me with the Harvard Crimson, where I probably spend two to three time more hours a week than I do in class.

How is Harvard similar to and different than Groton?

Groton and Harvard are really quite different. Harvard is a decentralized university that, even on the college level, lacks a unified community. This is part of the reason that I’ve sought to find a smaller community here through the newspaper and also through the sailing team. Still, I miss the things that Groton did to foster togetherness – morning chapel, roll call, advising, etc.

What is the Harvard Crimson like?

The Crimson is the organization that it is because, much like the CV, any student can walk in the door and really find a home, if that’s what he desires. Indeed, there are a lot of organizations, particularly at Harvard, that aren’t like this at all.

How did you get your job at the Crimson?

When I visited Harvard during my Sixth Form year, I knocked on the door of the Crimson expecting either that nobody would answer or that I would be politely shoed away by whoever did. Instead, I was welcomed in and given a long tour of the newsroom, the presses, the business offices, etc. I was so impressed at how welcoming the paper was to me that day.

I got my job on the Crimson through a process called “comping,” which essentially means completing a certain number of news articles and editing shifts. After you finish your “comp,” you are selected and then apply to cover a certain area of reporting. In the winter and spring of my freshman year, I worked on the elections beat and covered the race to replace John Kerry in the Senate. I was also the crime reporter last year, and missed a full week of school after the Boston Marathon Bombings (don’t tell my parents…) to attend the FBI press briefings in Boston and run around with a large pack of journalists trying to find the next big break in the case. Working the crime and elections beats, I covered President Obama twice when he came to Massachusetts, first in the aftermath of the Marathon Bombings and second when the President came to stump for Ed Markey.

What advice do you have for the seniors and the student body as a whole?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Groton has a tremendous faculty made up of people who care about students.

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