My first encounter with the “to-be PhD boys” occurred when we were all working for the same company in Randolph MA. I was totally focused on becoming the next VP of something while they were bonding (at least this is what it appeared to me). I didn’t have any time for the nonsense they seemed to enjoy together: Playing cards over lunch in a cube kinda close to mine. “What a bunch of Geeks” I thought. “Card playing! Ha, they’ll see, someday my hard work and nose-to-the-grindstone behavior will vault me so far above and beyond, that I’ll never again even see people playing cards.”

Idiot! Of course I was the idiot. As the years past, with personal epiphanies and attitude adjustments part of my life history, I came to see that the important things in life are friends, family and personal health. If you become a VP of something while doing these things then great, but not at the expense of everything else.

About this time the racquetball phenomena overtook many of us. I thought “I’d like to do that”, so I bought the stuff and joined a club. I quickly realized that I was significantly out of condition. I could hardly last a complete match let alone play for the best 2 out of 3. So I took up jogging and bike riding …so I could play racquetball.
I also became active in a volunteer professional organization APICS (The Association for Operations Management) devoted to developing resources for and delivering education to the world of Operations Management, Forecasting and Inventory Control. I got to be Boston Chapter President, Co Chair of a National seminar, and a “respected” (in some circles) subject matter expert for APICS. Great for my ego. I remain an APICS Geek and love it.

My workout habits continued long after I stopped trying to become the next VP of something. This and a few significant attitude adjustments under my belt I became more approachable and, I like to think, a nicer person. I was in some stage of undress in the locker room, for reasons I can’t recall, when one of the founding members of the PhD’s invited me to join them on a White Mountain hike. Having done White Mountain hikes in the past, I knew what this was all about: closeness, hard work, dealing with my and others capabilities, possibly being humbled or compromised in some way and an opportunity to reveal your true self. A very intimate experience, not to be taken lightly. Certainly a test of physical abilities and, more importantly, a test of one’s character. Perhaps another way of looking at this invitation is that the PhDs are a group with very low standards for inclusion, and I happened to be in the general vicinity when they were planning a hike.
In debates with my wife if I should go or not, she argued for my participation. Although reluctant to join a “bunch of geeky engineers” after much debate, and her support (she probably just wanted a free weekend!) I decided yes I would go and join the geeks. Little did I know that in later years I would have the “Engineer” title behind my own name. Again: Idiot! Oh well, live and learn. By the way, despite my “Engineer” appellation, I can neither calculate thermodynamic equilibria or quadratic equations nor do I care.

I have distinguished myself as possibly the least competent cook among the PhDs, but have made up for that by being ready for almost all adventures and most notably, by providing a nearly perfect venue for our annual meetings. Joining the PhD’s was the best move I’ve ever made. In my opinion, everyone needs to have a sounding board, support and more importantly, honest feedback. At the root of the PhD psyche is reality. If one exhibits any out-of-the-norm behavior, this group sets them straight…quickly. Like a flock of chickens spending their days locked up, occasionally flying the coop. Outside they still tend to keep together while exploring their new surroundings. Food is shared, one or two might display “wimpage” but soon return for the next adventure. Occasionally one inflicts pain on another, feathers get ruffled, but not for long. In the end the group provides support and purpose.

Camaraderie, fun, purpose and reality checks. These are the things I get from being a PhD. Oh sure, the opportunity to compare receding hairlines, expanding waistlines, struggles with diets, men problems, women problems, kid problems and so on are valuable byproducts of being a PhD. But perhaps the best part is sharing life with a great bunch of guys. People you don’t mind growing old with.
A 40 year marriage, skiing, hiking & biking, boating, swimming, my work, APICS volunteering, my children, my grandchildren, my wife, my friends and relatives, the house I’m building for retirement and of course the PhD boys. My current life is full and rich.
You are judged by the company you keep. I’m lucky. I wear my PhD badge proudly. Life is good.