Dear Dean Hazeltine,

At a time when I felt lost, you found me.

Undisciplined and unsure of how to proceed, I arrived at Brown in no shape to shepherd my own education. In fact, I outright hid from that responsibility—shopping too many courses, skipping too many lectures and requesting too many Incompletes.

While this won me invitations to many of our deans' offices in University Hall, it wasn't until junior year that I arrived at yours. That's when you took my coat and hung it on the hook of a wooden coat stand. I can still picture it; next to your desk, I believe. Young, nervous and a bit obsessive, I found enormous reassurance in that gesture. I truly was a guest in your office.

Though I don't remember exactly what was decided in our first meeting, I soon enrolled in EN 9—attending every class and reading every assignment. One time. I remember how redeeming it felt to look up from the final exam and see—for the first time at Brown—an auditorium of my fellow students taking the same exam, at the same time.

Surely, it was to be closer to you that I applied to be an EN 9 TA. I threw myself into it—filling my section's meetings (Tuesday nights, in my living room) with extra material I'd find during the week, and filling the margins of my students' papers with minutely scribbled commentary. For better rather than worse, I hope, my students paid a price for my own sins, "I've given professors every excuse there is. I know them all. In this section, only one supposed 'death in the family' will get you out of a deadline—yours."

In their formal evaluations of our section, my students chose to be kind. Apparently, I'd managed to bring out the material's relevance to the world beyond "profit and nonprofit organizations." And I managed to keep them entertained. Or so they claimed.

Reviewing those evaluations with me, Dean, you seemed pleased, perhaps even proud. No less so given the fact that they were hardly blemish-free. Each one, without exception, went on to suggest I try to temper my—as one put it—"enthusiastic, obsessive style." Your exact words were, "I think they got that just about right, don't you?"

That's when I realized that you knew a part of me, truly—some faults, strengths and even some bits that were both. You had found me.

More than 20 years later, in my career and personal life, I'm bolstered by those words, "I think they got that just about right, don't you?" I'm reassured by your having hung my coat on that hook.

Happy, happy birthday, Dean! As always, I'm wishing you and Mrs. Hazeltine the very best. And I'm promising to write something funnier for your 100th.


Seth Greene
Class of 1980
New York, NY

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