In It For the Long Run
Ask Dick Goss ’70 about his longstanding support for Williston—gifts to the Williston Northampton Fund for the past 27 years, membership in the Elm Tree Society—and by way of an explanation, he cites Chariots of Fire. The 1981 British film about Olympic hopefuls at Cambridge University in the 1920s came out more than decade after Dick ran for Williston’s undefeated 1970 track team and sang with the Caterwaulers, but the parallels to his own story are striking, in particular “the sense that those young men had around their school, their classmates, their peers, their music, and their track—that was the feel-good message for a kid who was an outsider, to feel like he was part of a group.”
Before Williston, Dick had not felt that connection to school. As a kid in West Springfield, Massachusetts, he says, “I probably spent more time at the principal’s office than he did. Not being an evil or nasty kid, but just being disruptive.” In the public high school, where his father was a longtime math teacher, Dick would get As or Cs depending on the teacher and his interest in the class. Only decades later would he understand why his mind so easily drifted from his studies: he has Attention Deficit Disorder, a condition he now treats with medication.
But back then, his family’s solution was enrolling him at Williston, where the structure, smaller classes, and understanding teachers soon turned him around. “I needed someone to identify that there’s a little soul in there that will respond if I push his right button,” he says. “It was drudgery when I first got there, honestly, because they made you work, and I couldn’t coast. But it helped me.”
After college at Ithaca, Dick went on to launch his own tax and investment planning company, Anchor Payroll Services, in Conway, New Hampshire. And with his success came appreciation for all that Williston had done for him. “Because I came from a public-school background, and my dad was a public-school teacher, they gave me a scholarship of roughly a third of the cost,” he says. “And I feel a great sense of duty to pay it back.”
As for his membership this year in the Elm Tree Society, Dick notes that as an investment professional he helps others in legacy planning, and so including Williston in his own estate just seemed right. “I feel so strongly about the impact Williston had on my life,” he explains. “It took a flawed young man—flawed in terms of attention deficit—and really got him to focus through the school years, with enough tools on how to study, and get ahead, and do reasonably well, without feeling like a total outcast. And I just loved the whole thing.”
As in Chariots of Fire, where the characters discover their inner strength (to the tune of Vangelis’s soaring score), Dick had found his passion, and now wants to make sure others have that opportunity as well. “I feel so strongly about how the school made me fit in to that kind of group—where I was one of the ones paying attention—that I want that to continue.”