Nearly three years ago, I was working in my office in Idaho Falls, Idaho when I came across information about the Yale School of Management’s Executive MBA program. I paid very brief attention to what I had seen and went on with my day. I had just moved from Denver to start my own business with my older brother after a successful career at a publicly traded commercial real estate brokerage firm. More school was definitely not what I had planned for my future. However, a very strong urge came to my mind, after reading a bit about Yale’s curriculum, that I should pursue this degree. I pushed that thought to the back of my head knowing it wasn’t something I had time for at this point in my career.
A few days later, when I was back at work, I noticed advertisements for the Yale program popping up in my internet searches, and thought this was something I should pursue. I went home that evening and shared my feelings with my wife, somewhat hoping that she would disagree, so that I could move on from this small distraction and focus on the monumental task that my brother and I had before us when launching our new business. When I discussed this with my wife, she quickly agreed that it was something we should pursue. I pitched the idea to my partners at work, and they also supported the idea, so I moved forward with my application and was eventually invited for an in-person interview as part of the application process.
I had never been to New Haven. I knew very little about Yale. When I first set eyes on the city and campus, that same incentive encouraged me to research my personal family history in the area. At that point in my life, I had no idea of my connection to the city or Yale. My family has lived in the West since the mid-1800s, and any connection to the East Coast goes back many generations. That night, after my interviews, I spent time on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com and discovered that I had many direct ancestors who were part of the founding families of New Haven. I was so intrigued to read their stories and learn more about the early days of New Haven.
Eventually, in November 2019, I was accepted into the Executive MBA program and was looking forward to starting the program in the summer of 2020 and then spending several days a month on campus for the next 22 months learning from new things and discover more about my connection with the territory. Sadly, just a few months later, the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I quickly learned that my plans to attend the program in person would not be possible. Zoom classes and Zoom study groups would become the norm for my 22-month experience, and my quest to learn more about the city and my family there was put on the back burner.
Eventually, we were invited back to on-campus classes, and in April 2022, on my last weekend of in-person classes, that same incentive from before returned, encouraging me to seek out Yale’s founding fathers. and my connection with them. I searched for a few names and couldn’t find any links, but came across a name I had never heard of: Abraham Pierson. A feature of these genealogy programs allows a person to see how they are related to any person in their database. When I clicked on this feature in the program, it reconnected me to every generation in direct line between me and Abraham Pierson and revealed that he was my ninth great-grandfather. A wave of emotion hit me that these feelings and thoughts I had had for over two years were real and came from a source beyond myself. They were confirmed that night when I first learned that my ninth great-grandfather was considered one of the founding fathers of the university and had been the first president of the school.
I learned a lot of amazing things at Yale. I have new friends for life. I learned things about myself that I didn’t know (credit to the entire EMBA admissions team, program administrators, professors, classmates, and especially Professor Sarah Biggerstaff, who taught the Leadership Development Practicum, where we learned a lot about our personal motivations). I am truly a different person than I was just two years ago. Along with all the great things Yale has given me, I’m so grateful to learn a little more about these great-grandparents who sacrificed and gave everything they had so that one day they could make a living for their posterity and for the society in which they would live. slightly better. Now that I am leaving Yale, I look forward to continuing the legacy of Abraham Pierson and Yale with my own family as we seek to make the world a better place for those around us and those who will come after us.