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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Words from Alum and Author

<ring term coming to an end and graduation quickly approaching, The Carletonian thought it would be interesting to interview a past alumni. We chose to interview author and teacher William Buffet, and since he graduated from Carleton in 1955, to see how Carleton has changed. Through this interview however, I learned that what ties Carls together throughout the generations is our need to create a spark. We have this need to not just learn, but to create something entirely our own. When William Buffett told me he was “passionate about several things: The Boston Red Sox, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, opera, Charles Darwin, and Carleton,” I felt like this beautiful jumble of passions somehow made perfect sense, and made me feel more assured in a world that tends to overthink itself.

AS: I think our readers would appreciate a bit of background knowledge, so what do you do for a living and how did you get there?

WB: I decided late in my senior year to become a teacher, and with the help of the Dean of the Faculty I got a Rockefeller Scholarship to Yale’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program. In the fall of 1956 I joined the faculty of New Trier Township High school in Illinois, and over eleven years taught World History, Ancient History, Medieval History and Modern European History. I gathered a few bachelors and we rented a house vacated for a year while the family was in Europe.  When they came home I didn’t have a place to go and asked if I could stay on.  I fell in love with Mary, one of their daughters, and we married in 1961.  Mary and I had two children, Wendy and Tom.  In 1968, thinking I’d become a Principal or Superintendent I entered Harvard’s Administrative Careers Program, and received my EdD in 1972, the same year I got divorced.  I was a lost soul and lived in the woods for a year, then drove a taxi in Boston for a year until my life turned around. I met my present wife, Susan. We’ve been married for thirty-five years and have a son, Noah. Susan and I were introduced by our psychiatrist who knew us both very well and decided it would be wrong not to introduce us to each other. I got a Master’s in Social Work, and shortly after Noah was born, became the first director of a newly created unit within the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.  The job was perfect and I loved it. I was there for sixteen years until I retired in 1996.  In 1970 I published my first book and will soon publish my fifth, “An Old Man’s ABC Book,” which will be dedicated to Carleton and my Class of 1955.

AS: How did Carleton help you with your career path? What was your major?

WB: The Dean of the Faculty helped me get the scholarship to Yale, but I did many extra-curricular activities at Carleton that helped me grow. I was CSA President and the proctor on a floor of freshmen men in Davis. I often think that the main thing I got out of Carleton was me, and the second was my classmates. A few weeks ago we had a mini-reunion in Montgomery, Alabama.  Eighteen of us were there.  I majored in Philosophy, and sometimes my family will say, “That’s a Bill Buffett question.” Asking unusual questions is one possible benefit I got from my major.

AS: What is your craziest memory from your time at Carleton?

WB: My craziest memory was when one of the freshmen on my floor knocked on the door one Saturday afternoon.  He said that in the Twin Cities he’d come upon an animal show that was closing and that he’d bought a wolf.  I won’t go into the aftermath, but everything worked out just fine.

AS: Was Carleton known for being quirky when you attended?

WB: Quirky?  I wouldn’t use that word to describe Carleton in the 50’s.  We are known as the Silent Generation, deservedly so. I don’t know if you remember an item that made the news several months ago.  A group near Philadelphia broke into the local FBI office and revealed some of Hoover’s dirty tricks.  One of those who broke in was a classmate, John Raines. Our generation was pretty quiet, but a few of us got louder later.

AS: Are there any opportunities you wish you would have taken advantage of at Carleton?

WB: No.  I put much into Carleton and got even more back.  Especially influential courses were ones in Geology and Art History. I was far from an “A” student.  I had plenty of fun at Carleton, but primarily my four years were rich, meaningful, and formative.

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