Jeff’s Parting Words To The Middlebury Community

31 Jul

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Notes from the desk: Defining ‘productive’ more productively

30 April 2009

Author: Jeff Klein

It’s hard to believe that my time at Middlebury is almost over. I know that it is an extremely hackneyed expression but I feel like the four years have come and gone in the blink of an eye. I can vividly remember driving up with my parents for first-year orientation while my two younger brothers stayed behind, knowing that their oldest brother would no longer be home to hang out with and help (OK, and annoy) them on a regular basis. I remember driving up through the rural Vermont roads that smelled of manure while my mom teasingly reminded me that “You know, Jeff, you could have been on your way to Georgetown right now.” I remember finally reaching the school, seeing that first blue and white “MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE: Founded in 1800″ sign as well as all the beautiful athletic facilities on the right. I remember finding a space in the crowded parking lot and approaching Kenyon Arena to pick up my orientation materials. I remember walking up to my first-year residence hall and meeting my roommate and suitemates for the first time, all the while thinking, “Damn, I’m finally a college student.” And finally, I remember my parents leaving with proud expressions on their faces as they told me to be good and that they knew I’d do well.       

Less than a month away from graduation, I can say with complete honesty that I feel fortunate and blessed to have been a part of this institution for the past four years. I think the College – even more so than many other top-caliber schools – really attracts a diverse group of people with a wide range of passions and goals.

Among other things, I admire the typical Middlebury student’s “can-do” attitude, uncanny ability to multitask and continual drive to achieve. I think a good amount of Midd-kids get a true sense of fulfillment from succeeding, especially in the classroom – and are willing to push themselves to the limit in order to ensure that success. All of these attributes are undoubtedly positive and create a vibrant student body that is constantly looking to break new ground in various disciplines.

But for all those positives, I can’t help but offer up some criticism of the prevailing attitude concerning “productivity” on campus. Simply put, I feel as if too many students view productivity only through the lens of academics. Countless times I’ve overheard people lamenting how “unproductive” they were – and in nearly all of those cases, their self-perceived lack of productivity stemmed from failing to finish enough schoolwork in an allotted period of time. Never have I heard anyone say something to the effect of, “I was so unproductive today – I didn’t socialize with anybody.” Or, “I was so unproductive today – I didn’t go for a jog outside in this beautiful weather” (and thus nourish the body). Do we really have such a singular view of what constitutes productivity and success?

While I can completely understand the argument that furthering our education is a central reason  as to why we are all here, I also know that so many other factors exist that contribute to a healthy, successful lifestyle that stretch beyond academia. Believe it or not, relaxing can be extremely productive, in so far as it reduces stress and gets you into a positive state of mind. Yes, it is definitely important to get that 15-page political philosophy paper done, but don’t discount the benefit of kicking back and watching a ballgame with a few friends.

So what exactly am I trying to say? Come on, I don’t really know – after all, this is “Notes from the Desk,” and I’m entitled to ramble a little bit. But I guess if I were to identify the central idea that I’m trying to impart, it’s to keep everything in perspective and recognize that life is multidimensional.

Now that’s a productive mindset.


From Rich Klein:  I have posted the preceding article, from the April 30, 2009 Opinions Page of  The Middlebury Campus, because I believe that it clearly articulates Jeff’s philosophy of life in his own words.  When I first read this the day it was published, I remember feeling happy that my son was graduating from college with what I considered to be such a healthy outlook on life. 

Jeff enjoyed writing this provocative piece and looked forward to students’ reaction to it.  I recently found an email he sent me at 4am on the day this edition of the paper was to come out.  He wrote: “I’m so excited for the paper to come out tomorrow.  Apparently, the editor-in-chief and managing editor love my piece.  I think it will engender a lively debate and I am so prepared to defend my position.”

How tragic that it was Jeff’s inability to achieve the very work/life balance that he describes in the article while working in the grueling pressure cooker environment at Weil, Gotschall that led to his tragic decision.   Jeff didn’t paricularly want the Weil job, but after seeking employment for six months in the teeth of the 2009 recession, he felt he had to take it when he received the offer.  His ridiculously long hours and the extreme pressure placed upon him by attorneys were brutal for Jeff last August.  The simple answer would have been to find a job that was a better fit.  The terrible reality is that misprescribed medication apparently prevented him from embracing that common sense approach.   The article above, however, reinforces again just how special his time spent with friends was to him.  You provided the comfort and joy in his life, and I am extremely grateful to all of you for that.

One Response to “Jeff’s Parting Words To The Middlebury Community”

  1. Andrew Becker August 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    What an awesome, profound, intelligent guy!!!!!

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