My View

Steve Scott headshot

Dear Professor Schlesinger:
I’m Sorry

I was just driving back from my mother’s home and realized that I have been holding on to a grudge for the past 44 years — and that I owe a professor an apology.

I graduated from UNH in 1982 and am 62 years of age, and I’m not too proud to say that I made a mistake by holding on to that grudge.

If you do the math, the grudge started my freshman year at UNH. I was a hotel admin major at WSBE (now Paul College). I was taking organizational behavior, and the professor was Phyllis Schlesinger. To be honest, I remember only one assignment that she gave us — because it shaped me. At the time that I’d completed the assignment and gotten comments back from her, my perspective was completely different, but we’ll get to that.

Professor Schlesinger asked us what we had for life goals. I remember my answer and I remember the exact wording of her comments to my assignment. My responses were:

  1. Make $100,000 in a year.
  2. Buy my parents a Mercedes-Benz.
  3. Become the president of the Hilton Hotel Chain.

Well, I went through my Social Security Earnings Record and have checked off No. 1. However, I didn’t do either of the other two and I don’t regret that. You see, my parents didn’t need a Mercedes-Benz at any point in my life. I came to realize that Mom and Dad were raised in a different time where material things weren’t that important, so it likely wouldn’t have been well received in hindsight.

And after working in the hotel field for a few years, it dawned on me that the presidency of such a chain would likely have been passed down through the Hilton family like Grandma Scott’s Lemon Sponge Pie or Uncle Herbie’s Sherbet recipes.

But despite those realizations, I’ve been grumbling about the comment that Dr. Schlesinger left on that homework assignment. Her comments were three succinct words.

They weren’t “You go, Steve!” or “Wow, that’s awesome!”

Instead, they were more blunt: “Get some realism.”

Get some realism? In an establishment where ideas and dreams should be fostered and not dashed, I was left with “Get some realism.” When I saw those words on my assignment, I was mad. Who was she to dash my dreams? After all, I was all of 18 or 19 and so certain of the path that my career would take. I was going to be successful and find my way to the top of the Hilton Hotel dynasty! Get some realism? And I’ve been holding on to those three words for all my adult life.

It took driving home from my Mom’s house to figure out that I shouldn’t have been mad at Dr. Schlesinger; I should have thanked her.

She pushed me to work hard while I was in the hotel field. She pushed me to take what I’d learned at UNH and through the experience in hospitality and take a different path. I’m now a commercial banker and help to underwrite business loans for various and sundry projects — nowadays it’s frequently a solar project or a battery storage project, but I smile whenever I get a chance to look at financing for a restaurant or hotel, thinking back to my hospitality days.

So, Phyllis Schlesinger, if you read this, I need to apologize to you. I held on to a grudge needlessly, which ultimately led me to work harder.

While I could definitely say that there were times in my career where I felt like I didn’t belong … that I could have done more or done better (aren’t we frequently too hard on ourselves?) I’ve let go of that self-doubt in order to keep myself rooted in the comment that I found on the top of that homework assignment more than four decades ago.

I don’t know what happened to that assignment. I really wish that I’d kept it. Now I would have had it framed and put it my office. It would have been a great talking point. “Get some realism” made me push myself to experience things to prove to myself that I could.

I don’t know if that was Professor Schlesinger’s motivation. But I want to assume the best. So, Dr. Schlesinger, I hope that you’ll accept my apology. It’s been a long time coming. I guess I wasn’t done learning.

Steve Scott ’82 graduated with a major in hotel administration and a minor in Spanish. He is currently senior vice president at BankProv in Portsmouth.