Wednesday, October 9, 2013

There and Back Again: The Homecoming of Three Gordon Alumni

By John Buckley ’15

“If you could give some advice on how to maximize the Gordon experience, what counsel would you give?”


Saturday morning of Homecoming weekend, questions like these were asked to a forum of alumni featuring Abigail Baird ’03, Christian Smith ’83, and Rich Malloch ’74. The event offered a unique perspective into the alumni’s experiences during their time at Gordon, and the different careers they have come to pursue (quite successfully).

Light poured through Phillips Recital Hall’s windowed walls overlooking Coy pond as students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered to hear from these prominent graduates the panel discussion moderated by President Lindsay.

It was quite intriguing to hear the panelists’ varied responses to the president’s questions—case-in-point was the first question about what each alum’s “expected life story,” the sense of calling inherited during growing up years, was like. Malloch, now President of Hearst Media Corporation, explained how his “sense of purpose from a young age” drove him toward leadership; whereas Smith commented that he really hadn’t had much sense of calling until his junior year at Gordon; and Baird recalled how her parents pushed her to delve into many areas that interested her. Each answer gave a unique story.

“On the journey to success there is often failure, would you be able to share one of your most spectacular failures?”

“My biggest failure was getting fired at Morgan Stanley,” Rich Malloch responded. He described how he eventually lost his job, “When the market started going through a rough time, I was asked to fire a number of people in my group at Morgan Stanley, but I didn’t see the need. So, it was either their way or mine, and it was theirs.” Thanks to the graciousness of his manager, he was given a severance package that led him to Hearst Corporation. Malloch’s current company is now the second largest monthly magazine publisher in the world, ABC’s largest TV affiliate, and the owner of 125 companies with 30,000 total employees. As he recalled, “I probably would never have gotten to Hearst if it weren’t for being fired.” This year, Malloch was named distinguished alumnus of the year. While at Gordon, he majored in economics and was an avid pick-up basketball player. After graduating from Gordon in 1974, Malloch earned a master’s degree in econometrics and quantitative methods at King's College at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He and his wife, Suzi, have three kids, and live in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Was there a professor here that made a difference in how you thought about faith and vocation?”

“For me it was a combination of Dr. Sheratt and Dr. Harper,” Abby Baird recalled. “The senior seminar course especially was helpful, where I learned about Christian political thought and how we should order our world.” Abby is an 8th year associate at Ropes and Gray, a large law firm of more than a thousand attorneys worldwide. While at Gordon, Abby majored in political science, was active on the Judiciary Board and in intramural athletics. Abby was a devoted student; when asked what two words describe her time at Gordon, she was ready to say “too serious.” But her serious approach to her coursework paid off: after Gordon Abby graduated from Boston College School of law, and while there had the opportunity to work in the US Supreme Court. Abby currently lives in Beverly; she serves on Gordon’s Career Services Advisory Board and is active at Grace Chapel in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

“Looking back at your own experience and where you are now, do you think the liberal arts is still a viable approach in higher education?"

“The liberal arts are so crucial, and it’s a dying reality in modern education,” Christian Smith asserted. “I think it’s one of the important things I got at Gordon, the idea that I’m not being educated to get a first job, or some narrow or technical position. I’m being broadly educated as a person.” A prolific author on American religion and emerging adulthood, Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame. He is also Director of the University’s Center for Study of Religion and Society. Years ago, Smith transferred abruptly to Gordon from another Christian college just before his junior year. Smith described to President Lindsay and the Gordon community assembled how he had chosen to come to Gordon last minute, “I decided totally on a gut feeling, no reason whatsoever, but it was the best decision I ever made.” During his time at Gordon studying under Dr. Stan Gaede (now the College’s scholar in residence and president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), Smith’s interest in sociology took root. After graduating from Gordon, he earned his MA and Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard, then serving as a faculty member at Gordon and later at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving into his position at Notre Dame. He is author of scores of books including Souls in Transition, Passing the Plate, Moral Believing Animals, The Secular Revolution, and American Evangelicalism.


As the forum concluded, President Lindsay thanked the guests for visiting the campus and sharing their stories with their fellow alumni. During this weekend of reconnection and collective reflection, the forum provided fascinating look at the three very different paths these alumni have followed since graduating; and the lessons, memories and milestones that continue to draw them back to the Gordon experience. 

Photo: President D. Michael Lindsay interviews three visiting Gordon alumni about their experiences. From left: D. Michael Lindsay, Abigail Baird ’03, Christian Smith ’83, and Rich Malloch ’74. 


John Buckley ’15 is a junior business administration and communication arts double major at Gordon College and the Presidential Fellow for Rick Sweeney, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. Depending on the weather, his interests are western history, theology, photography, collective media, or a good read of Sherlock Holmes

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