Gordon Cadwgan ’63 was a feisty teenager who didn’t love his high school in the south of Providence, RI. He agreed with his parents that Williston might be a better fit, and he excelled academically—though his lively nature kept his dorm parents and teachers on their toes. After Williston, he went into the sciences. He worked for five years at Union Carbide and then 16 years at DuPont as a senior scientist. He retired in 1996, and lives in West Palm Beach, FL.
How did things change for you at Williston?
Things were pretty regimented. I needed that because I wasn’t going to be able to do them myself. Very quickly, I became accustomed to doing certain things at a certain time and getting them done, as opposed to being on my own in high school. You have a book report due in two weeks? Well heck, you don’t have to do that until two days before it’s due. Whereas at Williston, I really enjoyed that regimentation.
Which teacher had a significant impact on you?
Doc Phillips. He was chemistry. I ended up doing chemistry in college. I liked all the sciences. That was that era of rockets and Sputnik. Both my brother and I were very active in science programs. We built rockets. My dad was a businessperson, and all three of his kids went into science. He always used to make the comment, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ I just enjoyed Doc’s classes and discovering things that I didn’t know.
What did you try at Williston that surprised you?
I started playing soccer right away. That was one thing that I needed the most, a daily hard physical activity to keep me more even keeled. I don’t think I would have ever played sports in high school because I was 110 pounds and wasn’t even five feet. I remember when we had Parents Day, I was on the varsity squad, and Saturday morning we woke up and there was two to three inches of snow on the ground and the mountain was covered with snow. We played the game in front of our parents anyway. If you kicked the ball to make a pass, it would take off like a rocket.
What was the food like?
At that point we were still [taking turns] waiting on tables. There was also kitchen crew—some of the guys worked in the kitchen. We always referred to them as the ‘animals’ because they could wear an old pair of jeans and T-shirts while the rest of us were in coat and tie. I remember the food being very good. We ate a lot of eggs in the country, so I missed eggs. At Williston, we’d have what was supposed to be soft-boiled eggs. So you’d get a piece of toast and open up the egg, and it would be hard boiled. So you’d eat that one and get another one. Maybe you’d find one that was soft boiled.
What did you enjoy about going to boarding school?
I didn’t have any baggage. Nobody knew what a terrible kid I was. It’s like going off to college or going off to work for the first time. You have a clean slate.