Gene Sperling: Class of 1982
I entered the University of Minnesota needing what might now be called an â€śextreme makeoverâ€? in terms of study habits. In high school I prided myself on my ability to survive without regular studying or even regular note-taking. In the fall of 1977, however, as panic over my first midterm exam propelled me to spend grueling nights in the basement of Wilson Library, it hit me: If I were going to compete all four years on the menâ€™s tennis team and attend a top law school for three years after that, I was going to have to find a way to make long hours of study not only less painful, but downright tolerable.
So while I coaxed myself every night after tennis practice and rushed dinners at Centennial Hall to trudge to the basement of Wilson Library, I also took ice cream breaks in the underground cafeterias, had rendezvous with tennis teammates over fries at Annieâ€™s Parlor, made late-night long distance calls to high school buddies, and, of course, wandered in search of the sports action. Friends pointed out that if I skipped these diversions, I might avoid closing down Wilson at 2:00 a.m. so often. Perhaps, yet finding those moments of pure relief in every eveningâ€”pure joy, in the case of the ice creamâ€”helped give me the confidence that I could sustain my commitment to studying without hating it or burning out. Many years later, even as I found myself in jobs of high responsibility, with days so jam-packed I could barely catch my breath, that Wilson Library lessonâ€”balancing hours of dedication with laughter and friendshipâ€”sustained me well even during the most stressful of times.
Mr. Sperling works for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (â€™82) from the U of M.