Mar 02, 2016

Tuck Spotlight: 10 Questions with Duncan McDougall T’87

Duncan McDougall is the founder and Executive Director of the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) which he has run for 18 years. Duncan has worked as a management consultant, freelance writer, teacher, and public radio commentator. Duncan graduated from the Tuck School of Business in 1987 where he was awarded the Arnold F. Adams prize for Entrepreneurship. He then joined Mercer Management Consulting, a Boston-based international management consulting firm, where he was a partner specializing in marketing strategy. He enjoys linguistics, speaks French and Spanish, and has taught courses in Peru, in U.S. penitentiaries, and to Vietnamese refugees in Boston. Ten years ago he started another non-profit, Waterbury LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnership) that promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and emissions reduction in central Vermont. He is active in political campaigns, and is currently serving as Treasurer for Sue Minter, candidate for Vermont Governor. Duncan lives in Waterbury Center, VT, with his wife and son.

1. What was the exact moment when you first felt like you were a part of Tuck’s community?

On my first day at Tuck I walked into the front hall and the receptionist, Karen, said "Hi Duncan, what can I do for you?" We had never met. I quickly realized two things: 1) She had made the effort to memorize the faces and names of all the incoming students from our applications; and 2) Tuck was a special place.

2. Who had a profound impact on you during your time at Tuck and why?

My favorite professor was Brian Quinn. Among other classes I had him for Business Policy and he taught me to take the broad view of how an organization operates and where it fits in a competitive environment. I also find myself using Management Communication tools all the time.

3. What’s your favorite Tuck/Dartmouth/Hanover/Upper Valley event and why?

To blow off steam I used to love playing pick-up pond hockey at Occom Pond.

4. Fill in the blank: every visitor to the Upper Valley needs to _____.

Enjoy a quiet tea and read a good book in Sanborn House.

5. What’s a challenge that you’re currently working on solving? Or perhaps a world problem you’d like to see solved?

Over the past 18 years the Children's Literacy Foundation has been striving to reach, support, and inspire low income and at-risk young readers and writers throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. We work with children in homeless shelters, low-income housing, and remote rural communities, as well as refugee children, foster kids, children of prison inmates, and others. I spend several weeks each year in prisons working with inmates and their children and helping them have books and stories be a larger part of their lives. I wish we would spend much more money addressing the root causes of drug addiction and mental illness and much less time throwing people in prison and destroying families.

6. What do you personally feel is the key to good leadership?

I believe good leadership involves hiring great people, deciding on shared goals, regularly seeking ideas and input from all directions, and always asking your employees 'What can I do to help you remove any barriers for you to achieve your goals.'

7. Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy soccer, hockey, cross country skiing, and going on adventures with my wife and son. I also like to be involved with local environmental and political initiatives.

8. What would your theme song be?

"Moon Dance" by Van Morrison.

9. What’s the best piece of advice you can offer on getting ahead? Or, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Really care about what you're doing. It will get you out of bed in the morning, and you're more likely to do it well.

10. What is one thing that people would be most surprised to learn about you?

I was once chased by pirates in the South China Sea. Seriously.