Life Lessons from the Game


This week, Dartmouth Now is featuring stories published in the spring 2011 issue of Dartmouth Life, which is focused on athletics. To see all the stories posted from this “Sports Special” issue, click the Dartmouth Life Sports Special tag at the end of this article.

Champion football quarterback and Trustee Emeritus Bill King ’63 brought the lessons he learned on the gridiron into the courtroom. For Trustee-elect Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82, teamwork skills honed on the basketball court and a desire to compete have served her well as a health care CEO. And Trustee Peggy Epstein Tanner ’79 found a lifelong passion for hockey after lacing up skates for the first time at Dartmouth.


Peggy Epstein Tanner ’79 (left), Bill King ’63 (center), and Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82, in their playing days on the ice, field, and court, respectively. (photos courtesy of Dartmouth College Library)

Past, present, and soon-to-be Dartmouth trustees say their other education—the one they received on their alma mater’s playing fields—has helped them find success in many aspects of their lives.

“In my company today, I try to make people understand teamwork. Not a week goes by that I don’t use a football analogy,” says Trustee T.J. Rodgers ’70, a Silicon Valley CEO who played on the gridiron at Dartmouth. “I transfer the straightforward honesty that is required for a football team to succeed into the corporate environment.”

But not all life lessons were learned while actually playing a sport. For Trustee Emeritus Ann Fritz Hackett ’76, who played field hockey and was the number one tennis singles player as a first-year student, a career-ending injury a year later robbed her of her identity as an athlete.

Hackett decided to channel her energy into different activities. She began tutoring others in math, did research with a professor in economics, and spent more time on dorm activities.

“I realized that life doesn’t always turn out the way you want at the time, but how we react to it makes all the difference. That lesson has turned out to be one of the most important in my life,” says Hackett, who is president of a consulting company. “I found ‘teams’ and the reward of being part of a team everywhere, not just in sports.”

A tennis player who took up squash at Dartmouth, Steve Mandel Jr. ’78, chair of the Board of Trustees, says the sport has become a way to stay connected with his family and to form lifelong friendships. “Squash has been an important part of my life,” says Mandel, a hedge fund manager.

Athletics added a new dimension to life for Trustee Emeritus Norman “Sandy” McCulloch Jr. ’50, who as a high school student was too small to compete as an athlete. But when he arrived at Dartmouth after a stint in the Navy—during which he added 4 inches and 40 pounds—McCulloch got pulled onto the soccer team, which he had planned to manage from the sidelines. McCulloch, who ran his family’s textile business, also earned a letter in lacrosse.

“In my company today, I try to make people understand teamwork. Not a week goes by that I don’t use a football analogy.”


Playing sports gave McCulloch newfound confidence, what he calls “that particular brand of going up against obstacles you had thought were insurmountable.”

King, who earned All-Ivy and All-America honors and went on to a career as a commercial litigator, says he honed the ability to concentrate and plan as a quarterback and a lacrosse player.

“You had to be able to wipe everything else out,” he says, “and develop the ability to deeply act inside yourself.”

In addition, trustees say sports taught them to be nimble and flexible, able to respond quickly to change.

“Each person has a position, but sometimes you have to change roles on a team,” says Boudreaux, an Ivy Player of the Year for three years in basketball and four in track. She also won All-America honors in both sports and was an Academic All-American in track.

Bill Burgess ’81 learned adaptability while playing rugby. Burgess, who like Boudreaux is a trustee-elect and will be seated on the Board in June, says learning to adjust to his sport’s “rapidly changing scenarios … gave me confidence to try new things, which might on the surface appear daunting or downright frightening.”

Basketball and football taught Trustee Emeritus Ronald Schram ’64 about teamwork. “I drew on those lessons my entire professional career as I molded a group of diverse attorneys into a nationally recognized health-care team,” he says.

Tanner, who works with a number of nonprofits and at Dartmouth was a two-time ice hockey letter winner, says the lessons learned while on a team are “the most important life skill that you can get. When you get into the corporate world, if you don’t use that, you’re not going to go anywhere.”

She’s played on the same hockey team for 19 years, driving more than an hour to get to practices. “It’s where I’m happiest,” she says.

The ability to set aside individuality for the greater good was the lesson Trustee Emeritus Richard Page ’54 took from his days on the heavyweight crew and as coach, in 1954, of the freshman boat.

“There are no stars in an eight-oared shell,” he says. “What a wonderful lesson to learn at an early age.”

Susan J. Boutwell