In his sophomore year at Hamilton, Richard failed calculus and lost his scholarship. He was summoned to Dean Wertimer’s office for a serious talk. Given the Class of 66’s alarming freshman and sophomore attrition rate, the future looked bleak.
Sid Wertimer said, “You were never cut out to be an engineer. From now on, be an economics major. I teach it. It’s easy. I’ll get you a campus job to make up for the scholarship.” A boyhood career illusion was shattered and a life crisis was solved with a sweet deal. And it all happened in five minutes.
Right after graduation, Richard’s draft notice arrived in the mail. It should not have come as a shock, but it did. He convinced his local draft board to hold off for 30 days if he could wangle an appointment to an officer’s candidate school. It worked, and a four-year commitment gave him time to maneuver through a career change from combat air controller to computer programmer, avoiding his former unit’s orders to Da Nang by a matter of weeks. A few nasty U.S. reassignments followed at stations in the Nevada desert and North Dakota as the war dragged on.
After his hitch, Richard returned to the NY Daily News, where he’d taken a job just months before receiving his draft notice. The News had been the only Hamilton campus visitor to come up with a job offer for him in 1966. Again, in 1971, it was one of the only New York City employers to embrace returning service members. At The News, he earned a 1980 Pulitzer Prize nomination for a team written series on the sorry state of America’s post-Vietnam military readiness. The series portrayed a highly motivated, all-volunteer military hobbled by a lack of budgetary and political support, legacies of Vietnam. Times had changed.
Afterwards, Richard worked at New York City Hall with the Koch Administration, directing public relations for New York City’s economic development agencies. In 1985, he entered the world of business public relations, where you can still find him today. Or, visit him and his wife Cynthia on the Jersey Shore, where they live just five minutes from the beach.