Unlikely? By what criteria ADG? I don’t know. In the slightly more egalitarian and meritocritized world today, is there really a “likely Ivy”? Does legacy still count as a variable? Legacy…certainly it should count for something and I’m assuming that family and close friends who’ve attended and will vouch and offer a well-placed letter and phone call might still be a tie-breaker.
I’m also of the mind that today’s Ivy admission criteria, regardless of who your mama and daddy might be, requires a stellar academic performance record. And I’m convinced that leveraging your legacy for admission through the courtesies of family and influential acquaintances may get you in—but it won’t keep you in.
Harvard didn't fill its Freshman class until 1934. Prior to then, if you had he dough and a half-decent academic record, you were in. But see the aforementioned regarding staying in. George Frazier got thrown out and had to beg his way back into Harvard. His best revenge was coming back and winning the Bowdoin Prize.
George W. Bush may go down, perhaps accurately, as one of the five worst Presidents in American history. His malaprops are legendary and his judgement suspect. One tends to question therefore, his intellect. At least I do. But of this I’m assured…his Bush and Walker antecedents might have made certain his admission to the Harvard Business School but he had to do the work once he got there.
My bias also says that unlike the male WASP ascendancy (I’m gonna ponder the idea of male WASP “ascend” versus “descend” and when the trajectory headed the other way—I feel another blog story coming on—stay tuned) of decades past, today’s Ivy credentials don’t necessarily make THAT much easier, your professional and personal post graduate journey—post graduate in the sense of striking out in the world with just an undergraduate degree. Surely an Ivy undergraduate degree with a respectable GPA makes grad school admissions at the better schools a bit less onerous, no? What I’m stumbling to say in too many words is that the Ivy ticket probably doesn't guarantee as much anymore. I can hear it now...from some haughty Ivy grad reader..."Oh, ADG, you are mistaken. The currency, the cachet...the tickets...the assurances are still guaranteed and are accepted. It's subtle don't you know. Oh no, you wouldn't know. That's right." Sure, there are subsets of Ivy minions who are palpably present...in government and Wall Street for example. And the CIA for a half century was nothing more than Saint Grottlesex--Ivy extended. Quite the Shetlanded Weejuned Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight,actually. However, my bias is that the other venues where the Ivy tickets remain currency are only places that Ivy folks would give a damn about anyway.
And does academic accomplishment at an Ivy assure good judgement and the life skills necessary for success? Of course not. I left the pharmaceutical industry in 1996 and joined a boutique consultancy founded by Dr. J. Sterling Livingston who received his Masters and Doctorate in business from Harvard. He then taught there for over thirty years so if there was anyone who was a proponent of formal education…and an Ivy one at that, it was Dr. Livingston. By the time I joined his shop, Dr. Livingston was in his eighties but was still so freakin’ smart—so lucid—so present, that he intimidated the shit out of me. Folks, I’m not bragging too much—I know that my gifts are modest. But I generally don’t cower in the presence of anyone and I’m not nervous when speaking to five hundred people. I allowed my IQ to drop by half when I had to engage with Dr. Livingston one-on-one. Why? The man was uber in every sense. Orphaned during the Depression, he was as hardscrabble--life skills wise--as he was Ivy degreed.
Ok, so where am I going with this? Hell, I don’t know. Shut up. Oh…So Dr. Livingston was a huge proponent of academic training but he was the first to espouse the lack of guarantee therein. In his legendary Harvard Business School article The Myth of the Well Educated Manager, Livingston declared that… “Formal education programs emphasize the development of problem-solving and decision-making skills, but give little attention to finding and exploiting opportunities or to dealing with potential problems. Effective managers, on the other hand, share characteristics that cannot be taught in a classroom: they need to manage, they need power, and they have the capacity for empathy. Furthermore, managers develop leadership capacities by first hand observation of their environment and by an assessment of feedback from their actions. Managerial aspirants must be taught how to learn from their own first-hand experiences.” Other academics have, from Livingston’s original work, further posited that“…the arrested career progress of MBA degree holders strongly suggests that those who get to the top in management have developed skills that are not taught in formal management education programs and may be difficult for many highly educated managers to learn exclusively on the job.” True dat.
I begged, bullshitted and cried my way into graduate school at Hopkins. And I didn't begin ‘til I was twenty-nine years old. I wouldn’t have stood a chance if I’d tried to go directly to grad school after my beer soaked seven years of undergrad at the KA house. And I’ve always said that I value the years I spent working part-time in a men’s haberdashery as well as time on my paternal grandparents’ farm as factors equal to my formal education—life skills development wise.
So the title of this drivel and any half-baked premise I could make from it are flawed from the get-go. And I won’t even try to shore it up. What I’ll say is that as I pondered who’d attended the Ivy League; I simply scratched my head and said “who’d a thunk it?” But that wouldn’t have made for a good title.
I think that the reason I kinda think these first few examples are more likely Ivy is because they’re from the era of deportment and swathing that just seems to convey more easily the aesthetic and morphological stereotypes of Ivy Style. Oh, and a lot of these folks received an undergraduate degree in English or Literature. I think the ideal “education combo” is an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in a more specialized discipline. First up… Jack Lemmon: Phillips Academy and Yale
Cole Porter: Yale, then on to Harvard Law School. Roommate of Dean Acheson. Porter dropped out. Acheson finished. Porter went on to be Secretary of State. Acheson wrote show tunes.
And on to the “who’d a thunk it?” crowd…based solely on my stereotypical biases…
And Ron Livingston of Office Space fame: Yale
Oh and here’s a non-Ivy collateral to my story…Kris Kristofferson. Not an Ivy guy but a Rhodes Scholar none the less.
And I’ll close this out with my favorite discovery. One Frederick Hubbard Gwynne. Groton--then Harvard ’51.
A member of the Fly Club and a fondly remembered bon vivant.
…and a cappella crooner with the Harvard Krokodiloes.
But I mostly remember him as the affable and anything but scary Herman Munster.
Ok, that’s it for now. I’ve gotta get the finance and transportation machine up and running pretty soon. Princess LFG is with me this weekend and she’s gonna wake at any moment. With demands. Oh, and why aren’t there any women in my story? Because all women—any women—who are Ivy spawned—are likely.
Onward. ADG II. Shrubbery League.