Tamsin Smith ’84

Tamsin Smith, and alum of Williston Northampton School in MA, poet, philanthropist, and artist.

Founder and President, Slipstream Strategy

What advice would you give to a girl graduating from Williston today?   

I’ve always loved May Sarton’s advice to a young woman seeking feedback on her poetry: Do not mistake a poem’s “signposts” for its destination. Sarton’s point was that an initial draft may contain the twinkling of brilliance and can indicate a path forward, but to most honestly connect with one’s inner voice—as well to make a lasting impact on others—you need to be prepared to challenge, to rework, and even to scrap your first foray and begin again. The instant gratification of an easy accolade can’t hold a candle to the joy of relentless questioning and discovery. It’s about stoking a drive to hold yourself accountable to the greatness that defines you. Your achievements don’t need to be fancy or visible or fit into anyone else map of success, but you should test and stretch your heroic spirit to really spread its wings. Don’t settle for the first draft version of your life. Stride into the journey, learn something from every twist and turn and make it epic.

Tell us about a woman who is your hero and why?

My daughter Tabitha (class of 2022) is my hero. She inspires me with her courage and capacity to step up and face the moment—any moment—with grace and command. Whether it’s giving a birthday toast to her grandmother when other adults were too shy to step forward or answering a host’s request that she help compose a song on-the-spot, she can set shyness aside with a sense of how important simple gestures are to the creation of lasting memories. These are just anecdotes, but they are emblematic of how she rolls. I admire her strength, her empathy, and her fearlessness.

What motivates you in your work and life?

I love building things, whether it’s a company, a social movement, a community of like-minded individuals, or lifelong friendships. All these things depend upon connections and a common desire to feel more a part of the world around us. It’s sometimes hard not to dwell on all that is wrong, but the only way we can maintain enough energy and grit to fight for a better future is to recognize how vitally important it is to find a cause for celebration in even the smallest, most accessible marvels. Laughter and birdsong are two of the greatest prompts ever.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who want to leave it with more and those who want to leave it better. Be the latter kind.