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My dinner with the Maxwell MPA Class of 1962

Maxwell MPA Class of 1962 Reunion     (top, l-r) Irving & Jackie Freedman, Willis (Bill) Sargent, Linda McKay, Janet Ballantyne, Sverre Haug, Gordon McKay                                               (front, l-r) Marjorie (Margie) Kestor Smith, Bernie Forand

After 20 years at Maxwell, there are definitely some stand out memories and I happily added to them Tuesday night. On Tuesday, September 13th I had the privilege of having dinner at the home of Mr. Gordon McKay and his lovely wife, Linda. Gordon helped organize a reunion of his fellow Maxwell MPA Class of 1962 classmates. They first reunited to celebrate 50 years and wondered then what took them so long. At that meeting, they determined to meet every few years thereafter, and Tuesday was their second such get together.  They are already planning for the next go around in 2018!

I was entrusted to help update a booklet of their bios, so was able to read about all of their remarkable careers these past 50 years.  I’ll share some highlights below.. but first a story from our dinner…

At the dinner, one particularly telling story was in relation to their last get together in 2012/13.  At that gathering, each alum introduced themselves and told a little bit about their career – (sometimes not so abbreviated, I am told!) – but each recounting was more enthusiastic than the last – and all full of a sense of accomplishment, personal and professional fulfillment.  When it came to the end, one of the alums husband (Margie’s I think), who had a lifetime career as an attorney, remarked how completely different the Maxwell alumni remembrances were from those of his law school colleagues, who did not share that same sense of enthusiasm for their careers and all they had done, and would not “want to go back and do it all over again”.  I have to say, that this group of ’62 alums are not retired – even if they say they are – they are all still very active in public service in many ways, shapes and forms.  This commitment to others, a hallmark of our school, was so very present in these alums – and continues well beyond their professional careers.  All of the alumni at dinner remembered what Margie’s husband had said at this first meeting and recall that as a moment of clarity for them – and a reaffirmation of their chosen career paths in public service.  I think that is a nice story.. but let me tell you a little about some of the wonderful alumni I had the chance to dine with…

First – a short history refresher – John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960 and almost all of our alumni were part of that all important call to service from his urging.  It was a heady time in public service and there were many challenges facing our country – but much enthusiasm too….

Our host Gordon McKay was directed to Maxwell by a “savvy political science professor” which led him out of his hometown and into a “world and life he never would have had if not for his education at Maxwell“. He was married with a small baby at the time of his studies, as were some of his other classmates.  He started his career at Housing and Home Finance Agency (precursor to HUD) in San Francisco. He worked on issues of urban renewal in San Francisco and Seattle before returning to Washington, DC. He was able to be deeply involved in policy development for the new (1971) Congress-authorized Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) program and was the primary author of the new regulations. (as a Maxwell MPA student, I interned in the Community Planning & Development Office of HUD  – so I find this fascinating – as I had to research all the originating statutes of all HUD programs!!).  The McKays returned to the Bay Area in 1984 when Gordon took over as Regional Director for the CPD Regional Office where he had responsibility for CDBG, HOME and other homeless programs for CA, AZ, NV and Hawaii and a few Pacific Islands.  They returned once more to DC in 1994 where he became the Director of HOME programs in the national office. Even though he officially retired in 1997 – he continues work, consulting with state and local governments on lead-based paint issues.

Janet Ballantyne took a more international route career wise thanks to participation in a new program fostered by then Maxwell Dean, Harlan Cleveland. Dean Harlan Cleveland’s (1956-61) primary focus was to encourage the Maxwell School to bolster its international scholarship and programming – leading the school to create more opportunities for overseas training programs.  Janet’s participation in the Maxwell Overseas Training program in 1962 to India set her up for a 36 year career with the Agency for International Development.

Maxwell hosted a Conference "Americans At Work Abroad" in March 1957. Pictured, (l-r) George Cressey, professor of geography, Maxwell Dean Harlan Cleveland, Chancellor William P. Tolley, and William C. Foster, president of the Carnegie Corporation. This conference fit well with Dean Harlan Cleveland’s primary focus as dean which encouraged the Maxwell School to bolster its international scholarship and programming.

Maxwell hosted a Conference “Americans At Work Abroad” in March 1957. Pictured, (l-r) George Cressey, professor of geography, Maxwell Dean Harlan Cleveland, Chancellor William P. Tolley, and William C. Foster, president of the Carnegie Corporation. This conference fit well with Dean Harlan Cleveland’s primary focus as dean which encouraged the Maxwell School to bolster its international scholarship and programming.

In India Janet was an intern with the Ford Foundation’s premier overseas program in Calcutta – the Advisory Team to the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization. She was assigned to the public finance advisor due to the courses she took in public finance at Maxwell (a continued strength of the program from its founding!). She studied the fiscal policies of ten Indian City Governments and was given assignments well beyond what she ever thought herself capable – but learned so much – and was able to contribute well to the work – staying for 15 months after graduation.. from there, after a short time in the US working in state/local housing and urban renewal projects and contemplating an PhD in Economics, she ended up applying for and taking a paid internship program in Latin America assigned to the Peruvian Department of Urban Settlements.  After her one year program she was hired by the Central Bank of Peru and stayed there until the coup in 1965.  She ended up back in Lima, Peru on a Fulbright Hays Fellowship as part of her doctorate from Cornell – where she made her home for the next seven years, working on research, consulting, and university teaching when her grants ran out.  In 1976, she took on a three month consultancy with AID which lead to a full time direct position as a Foreign Service Officer — and she never looked back! Her amazing career took her to six countries on four continents with work in a couple dozen more countries along the way. Quoting from her bio – She played tennis against George Bush (Sr), Boris Yeltsin kissed her hand, and Sir Edmund Hilary stayed in her guest room. She met extraordinary and incredibly courageous people who cared deeply for their countries.  For several years Janet was part of the teaching faculty in our Maxwell in Washington program.

Willis (Bill) Sargent had no idea what he wanted to do when he left Yale in 1961. He had originally considered an academic career (Physics/Chemistry), but turned toward Political Science by his senior year, contemplating government, law or politics.  He decided not to attend law school, turned down opportunities with the Peace Corps and on Capitol Hill and enrolled at Maxwell in the MPA program.  This led to a fascinating job with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  As Vietnam got underway, he spent many 20 hour days each month manually updating massive spreadsheets that forecast weapons usage and inventories. Out of desperation for a better way, one weekend he read a computer language manual and found a way to program a large sets of worksheets. He found computer programming fun and he had talent for it!

Disillusioned with Vietnam, he headed to New York in 1967 and a decade later was a senior manager in corporate finance, writing computer programs on the side to forecast income and cash flows and to control corporate budgets. He eventually struck out on his own and Apple carried one of his programs which eventually evolved into a system used to analyze the risks faced by banks and credit unions because of interest rate changes.

Beyond his professional work, he always had a leaning toward public service and spent a decade on the Board of Adjustment in this local community.  He entered politics in 2009 and was re-elected to a second three year term as Commissioner of Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where he lives with his wife Bette.

Marjorie (Margie) Kester Smith, is still quite active in public life, currently serving her ninth term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and was actually missing her state’s primary election day to attend the Class of 1962 dinner. She joked that she need not sit by the polls as she was running unopposed this year anyway – but did cast her ballot before heading on down to DC for dinner!  Margie has a wonderful story in her bio about her first job after graduation. I am going to post this directly from her writing..

“By the end of the (MPA) program I had two job offers, one in Albany in the budget office and one in Washington.  I needed advice.  Earlier in the year, a Washington official whose name was Daniel Patrick Moynihan had come to Maxwell to teach a course and we became friendly, possibly because I was familiar with the all-time perfect New York balanced  ticket of Lefkowitz, Fino and Gilhooley.  Pat left Syracuse before the end of the course to go to Texas to handle the fall-out from the Billy Sol Estes scandal, but we remained in touch.   I called Pat and he made the decision for me.  I was off to Washington. 

My first job was in the Appalachian division of the Area Redevelopment Administration.  There came a time when I received a call from Pat who was still at the US Department of Labor.  The United Mine Workers had long operated the major hospital system in the coal mining areas of West Virginia and Kentucky.  As union membership declined, the UMW decided it could no longer afford to be the major health care deliverer in the area.  The Board of National Missions of the United States Presbyterian Church offered to take over the operation, but needed some financial help from the government, and the ARA had funds for such a program. 

Pat proposed that we jointly write a report justifying such a grant, which we did in a few weeks.  We then had to present the report to the Under Secretary of Commerce, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. for his approval.  A meeting was called.  I sat next to Pat and we chatted, waiting for the meeting to start.  After a while I whispered to Pat that the under-secretary was waiting for someone from ARA to arrive, having concluded that I was there as a secretary.  Pat dismissed this idea, we continued to chat, the time passed. I raised my suggestion again and Pat approached FDR, Jr. to whisper in his ear.  Pat returned to his seat, the under -secretary announced that we were ready to begin, and then spent about 20 minutes asking questions of only one person – me.  At the end of that meeting he asked me to stay behind, and asked me to come work for him.  

All of this took place in the first year after earning my MPA and set the tone for many of the subsequent 50 plus years, none of which will take as many words to describe…” 

For the next 20 years, Margie used her education in a myriad of non-traditional ways, working in state and local government, public higher education and the not-for-profit arenas. In 1990, she and her family moved to New Hampshire and for three years she served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), a national organization with goals of increasing women’s awareness of national issues and increasing women’s participation in elected office.  In 1996, she was first elected to the NH House of Representatives where she served on the Judiciary Committee for one term and the Finance Comittee for six terms (two of which she was chair).

Margie summarizes all quite nicely:  “..I believe that my Maxwell education was critical to the role that I played professionally, as a member of my community, and as a mother and a role model for a son and daughter who each work in the public sector.  That’s my personal multiplier effect”.

and finally.. a bit about Bernie Forand who considered many pathways out of Maxwell, but ended up casting his lot with the Atomic Energy Commission in New York City, where he specialized in industrial relations and contract administration. He eventually moved to the management systems division of USAID operations relocating to Arlington. VA – and that lead to work with a small agency in the US Department of Commerce that was mandated to enhance foreign travel to the US where he served as the Deputy Administrative Officer. After two years, he was transferred to the Office of Foreign Direct Investments (also within Commerce) and that is where he got his big break and was chosen to be a Congressional Fellow.  He loved being a Fellow.. and speaks of that here:

“We spent the first six weeks in intensive orientation sessions with high level government officials both elected and non-elected including Hubert Humphrey. Then we spent four months in the office of a US congressman and then transferred to a senator’s office for four additional months.  …

In the House I ended up working for Ben Rosenthal from Queens.  I had a desk in his immediate office so I got to see him in action first hand.  He was a big consumer advocate, and spent much effort attempting to establish a consumer protection agency.  … When I transferred to the Senate, I worked for Ted Kennedy who chaired the Senate health subcommittee.  During my time there, the subcommittee members and staff traveled across the country holding hearing on the health crisis in the US.”  

About two years later, through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) he was able to transfer from federal service to state government in Rhode Island to work in issues related to health care, hospital administration and insurance – an in 1976 was hired as the Executive Director of the Commission on Hospitals and Health Care for the State of CT. He then spent a decade as a medical cost containment consultant, and while this paid well, it “lacked the excitement and drama of taking on the whole industry”.  For the final ten years of his career, Bernie “the entrepreneur” became partners in TPA (Third-Party Administrator) medical claims paying service for small employers – which was eventually sold to a larger PPO from New Jersey. Since then he continues to serve on a number of Boards and spending time with his children and grandchildren.

I don’t have bios to share from all the guests at dinner. I loved meeting Irv Freedman and his wife Jackie who also recalls her time in Syracuse fondly.. and Sverre who came in all the way from Oslo, Norway, with a stop to meet up with another of their classmates, Bill Redmond in Chicago! From their recollections the Maxwell Class of 1962 had around 25-30 students, five women, and two African Americans (including Frank Morris, Sr. the one time Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation who were set to hold their annual convention a few days later), and several students from around the world, including Sverre and others from Colombia, Argentina, etc.

We had a wonderful time, and for me, personally, another great memory to add to my Maxwell career.. thank you for letting an interloper from the Class of 1996 join in the fun!

 

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