Archive for February, 2014

Semester break 1999-2000, and Bill Tickner was living the 19-year-old guy’s dream. Fraternity, season pass to Stowe, tons of free time, girlfriend, snowboard—sort of a Mountain Dew commercial come to life.

“I was seemingly having a great time,” he recalls. “But I realized this was as happy as I would ever be living the way I was. The time had come to redirect my life.” 

Bill Tickner during his student days when he was Student Government Association president in 2002-03.

Bill Tickner during his student days when he was Student Government Association president during his senior year in 2002-03.

The fact that the trappings of the undergraduate good life didn’t bring a deeper happiness, Tickner says, was because he was harboring an internal conflict, the rift in identity faced by a gay person living a closeted existence.

“Nothing bothers me more than someone putting a limit on me,” Tickner says. In fact, the UVM sophomore was putting serious limits on who he was, a realization that convinced him that it was time to come out.

Evidence of Tickner’s energy and force of will is clear from the flurry of activity that led up to and immediately followed his decision to come out. Within the space of a week, he helped lead the final steps of a UVM Student Government Association drive to deliver a unanimous resolution to Vermont legislators in support of the then-under-consideration civil union laws. He came out to his student government friends and colleagues, his fraternity brothers, and his family in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Then Tickner withdrew from school, loaded his snow and surf boards into his Honda Accord, and set-off on a cross-country trip to spread the word about gay rights by delivering speeches and talking with student groups at other colleges and universities.

It would be easy to see hitting the road as a quick escape from turmoil brought about by his revelation. Talk to Tickner a while, and it becomes clear that it was more an embrace of a new identity than escape from an old one. Friends and family were accepting and supportive. In particular, Tickner was astounded and touched, by the reaction of his Fiji brothers. “You’re not leaving,” one brother told him. “You’re still a member of this fraternity.”

Tickner would spend the next three months on the road, logging 24,000 miles and visiting some forty colleges and universities with his gay rights message. Determined to be self-sufficient, the trusty Accord was his home on the road. Back seats folded down, he slept with his feet in the trunk. “It was warm. I had a stereo. What more do you need?” he says with a smile.

This year back at UVM, Tickner balances coursework in sociology (business minor), serving on the executive committee of his fraternity, working as a teaching assistant in Sociology I, and leading the Student Government Association as president. Building campus diversity and creating a safe climate for all remains a key concern for Tickner. He notes that it bothers him when friends tell him that with his Joe College pursuits he’s such a “normal” gay person and therefore acceptable.

“Difference makes us stronger as a community,” he says. “This would be a real boring campus if everyone was the same. I think we’re doing well at UVM, but I prefer not to compare us to other places. Zero discrimination should be the standard at the University of Vermont. We’re moving forward on that, but we’re not there and until we are, I’m not going to rest.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2002 edition of Vermont Quarterly. On the occasion of Bill’s visit to UVM’s Career + Experience Hub on February 25, 2014, to talk with current students about his career at Google and the corporation’s commitment to social responsibility, we wanted to share it again. 


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Writing a magazine article or editing an issue, leaving a fair bit of material on that proverbial “cutting room floor” is just a standard part of the process. Sometimes leaving stuff out hurts. Other times, not so much. In the case of Seth Moeller, a Class of 1989 alumnus I interviewed for an article on career services initiatives that will appear in the forthcoming issue of the magazine, it hurt.

Seth, who is president of KGA, a Framingham, Massachusetts based firm in the human resources business, has a long career in the field and a good deal of wisdom to share with current students and new grads as they enter the job market. He’s shared that wisdom with UVM classes and at career services events, and we also tried to pass along some of the same in the article for the next Quarterly.

Seth Moeller ’89

Seth Moeller ’89

One thing I didn’t have space for in the print version of the magazine, though, was Seth’s response to how a new grad should tackle that sometimes scary word “networking.” Here, with a little editing and, unfortunately, without Seth’s impassioned delivery over the phone, is what he had to say:

The seniors I meet with are interested in doing what I’m talking about. They understand the need to—they just don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to make an approach. Getting them over that hump is ridiculously easy. There’s nothing complicated about this other than putting it in motion.

They need to have some targets, career targets of interest. ‘I think I want to go into healthcare. I think I want to be in finance.’ Whatever it is. Career targets of interest with the understanding that those will evolve, they will be refined, there will be learning and those will dramatically change. But to enter the discussion you need to have some basic career targets of interest and you don’t need to be worried about whether or not they are the absolutely best target for you. That will evolve.

The next step is doing the basic homework around who is available to talk to. Reaching out to an alumni network, asking that that be made available, going back to the alumni you already know, or talk to the friends of family that you have in your life. The supporters are out there. It is about taking the initiative and identifying who you’ll talk to.

Third, it is about having a very simple story and a very simple request. The very simple story is saying ‘this is what I’m interested in and this is what I’m trying to learn.’ Elevator pitch—I hate those words. People try to pack too much into it, and it becomes too complicated for people. You don’t need to be in a time box to do it. It’s a couple of sentences, and then a request. Can I meet and talk with you about this because you’re in a career that’s relevant? Who do you know that perhaps I should speak with? Can you make an introduction?

That alone cracks open 80 percent of the networking process. Having a little bit of a story, identifying people, and then introducing yourself with a bit of a mission and then making clear requests. Everybody wants to help, but you can’t assume that they know how to help you. You have to help them do that.

There is networking within a nutshell.

Read more about Seth, multiple young alumni who have recently cracked a tough job market, and the new face of career services at UVM in the spring 2014 Vermont Quarterly, in the mail March 1.

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Larry Damon training in Italy before his first Olympics in 1956.

Larry Damon training in Italy before his first Olympics in 1956.

As Larry Damon ’55 points out his head (third from the wall) among many heads in a photo clipping of the opening ceremonies for the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, he reveals the true test of Olympic competition. “Standing there for hours and hours was the hardest, most disagreeable part,” he says.
As for the race, Damon flashes something between a smile and a wince, “I remember having a lot of butterflies. I went out like a terror, way too fast, even started to catch the Finnish guy who went before me…” In the end, it wouldn’t be the Burlington native’s best race, but it was a milestone for the University of Vermont, the first time an alumnus competed in the Winter Olympic Games. An NCAA champion skier during his college years, Damon competed in four Olympics as a skier or biathlete and his impressive running career included a tenth place finish in the Boston Marathon.
A veteran instructor at the Trapp Family Lodge Cross Country Ski Center (and a jazz trumpeter on the side), Damon is a modest, patient teacher for many clicking into skinny skis for the first time, unaware they’re about to learn the sport from a four-time Olympian.

This piece originally appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Vermont Quarterly. Read the entire article on UVM’s proud history in the Winter Olympics. 

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In first place after the first slalom run at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Barbara Ann Cochran ’78 knew she needed to calm down. Her lead over the next skier was a slim .03 seconds, and, as heavy snow fell on the course, the second run of the day loomed ahead.

She gave herself a pep talk. “No matter what happens, you won the first run at the Olympics and not many people can say that. If the French girls can win, you can win.” Then she thought of what her father, Mickey ’48, had said to her a year before between runs in a similar situation at the world championships.

“He had a nice grin, a little twinkle in his eye,” Barbara Ann recalls. “He said, ‘I always thought that you were the cool cucumber in the family.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess I am.’”

She skied to the Olympic gold medal that afternoon, February 12, 1972. Mickey was half-a-world away, watching the games on TV with wife Ginny ’50 in the Richmond farmhouse where they had raised four kids who would all hone their skiing on the hill out back and go on to the Olympics. Marilyn ’76 and Bobby ’76 MD ’81 were on the 1972 team with Barbara Ann. Lindy ’82 would compete for the U.S. team at the 1976 Innsbruck Games.

The Cochran family’s ski glory includes the Olympics and then some — world cups, national championships. The old family homestead is packed with trophies, plaques, mugs, cowbells, and keys to cities (New York and Richmond) with the Cochran name etched into them.  Standing in the midst of it all, Barbara Ann reflects, “I don’t think my dad had any idea that we’d all turn out to be Olympic skiers. He just wanted us to learn the lesson that to do well in something you had to train at it.”

Pictured: The skiing Cochrans back in the day: Dad Mickey, Bobby, Marilyn, Mom Ginny, Lindy, and Barbara Ann.

This piece was originally printed in the Winter 2006 edition of Vermont Quarterly. Read the whole story on UVM Olympians. 

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