I think it helped influence me to become a social worker, a clinical social worker, instead of going into investment banking or becoming a physician or that kind of thing. How it changed me was one of my proudest moments with Gaudino actually.

I think one of the tenets that he had about any of this experiential programs was that he wanted it to change people. He wanted it to be uncomfortable learning that you learned something about yourself and the world that would be significant to you. So for me, one of the stories that was very painful was when I was in Iowa, my Iowa stay on the pig farm. So I got into conflict with them over little things like typical adolescent things, “I don’t like these people.” “I can’t stand these people…” When it was all done, he got all the Williams-at-Home students together in his home in Williamstown. At some point he said, “John you learned that you have the capacity to hate.”

Williams-at-Home was the first time that I became excited about ideas because of the route of it being through experience that I had had. At Exeter and Williams, before Williams-at-Home, it was all just kind of something I did because that was something you did. You jumped through those hoops in the classroom. But I never was passionate about history or political science or that kind of thing. So Williams-at-Home was the first time I was ever passionate about some ideas because I had experienced those concepts first-hand. I remember I was having a discussion about police and we all — well, most of us had some experience with policemen during Williams-at-Home, most of which were challenging. So the conversations about public authority meant something to me for the first time.

Williams-at-Home also made me realize that I was ultimately more interested in people. Gaudino was a man who was interested in ideas. But he was able to bridge that gap for me. My education at Exeter and Williams never did that for me until he did.

John Neikirk '73, lives in Glenville, N.Y.