End of Week Update from Dean Slaughter



April 24, 2020

Dear Students,

Our School’s mission is to develop wise, decisive leaders who better the world through business.

Edward Vincent Winchester, Tuck’s executive director of marketing and communications who died unexpectedly of natural causes while exercising on Wednesday at the too-young age of 49, was indeed a wise and decisive leader.

Ed balanced confidence and humility with grace.  He was a world-renowned Olympic rower and a gifted and accomplished writer, full of skills and expertise, but he moved through his days without a trace of hubris or swagger.  Ed listened with great empathy.  In meetings with our School’s Board of Advisors and other key settings, he could process the many moving pieces to identify unifying themes and directions.  Ed moved with purpose.  He and his team regularly worked on high-stakes outputs under firm deadlines; he would calmly set the course and inspire high productivity to deliver great content.

The truest testament to leadership is the praise of those you are leading.  Here is what our colleague Justine Kohr posted about Ed.

“As a boss, he was the best.  He empowered his entire team to take on new challenges, to stretch in new directions, to lead.  He trusted us all to do our best work—and we do.  What some of us didn’t say was that we did our best work to make him (and Tuck) proud. I am a magazine editor—a lifelong goal—because of Ed.  He challenged and fostered my writing abilities from my early days at Tuck.  He took a chance on me, and in so doing, changed my entire life for the better.”

As many of you students will recall from our discussions in Tuck Launch, Tuck Recharge, and Leadership in the Global Economy, great leaders are great teachers.  In turn, great teachers are great learners, and great learners are constantly finding ways to reflect: to absorb information; to connect ideas; to articulate visions and plans for how high-performing teams will realize those visions.

Ed’s reflection time was early in the morning, and while rowing: either on the waters of the Connecticut River, or on his ergometer at home.  Some of Ed’s best writing, he said, came to him while rowing.  I took up rowing two years ago, and seeing Ed on the river was seeing poetry in motion.  When I would glimpse Ed fast approaching my wobbly scull, I would pause everything so I could watch and listen.  Incongruously elegant given his speed, his boat was silent except for his oars settling into the oarlocks at the start of each stroke.  Later those mornings, Ed would usually apologize for not seeing me, or not replying to my shouted-out greeting.  “My rowing time is my reflection time,” he would smile.  Mornings when the weather kept him off the river, on his erg he would log 20 kilometers.  Earlier this week, he shared with colleagues at the Rowing News, for which he had served as editor, that on his current ergometer he had logged … 26 million meters.

Finally, leaders have the ability to craft a vision for the future that is compelling through its optimism – its sense that tomorrow can be better than today.  In his last column for Rowing News, published posthumously on Wednesday on the topic of how the rowing world can adjust to the tragedies and uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, Ed wrote the following.

“Training is an optimistic act. Implicit in every erg workout and weight session is the idea that you can always get better—that who you are today doesn’t have to be who you are tomorrow … More uncertainty surely lies ahead. But if I’m certain of one thing, it’s that we’ll keep moving forward, one optimistic stroke at a time.”

Tragically, Ed’s passing underscores that time is fleeting.  But great leaders like Ed continue to teach even after they have departed.

I share this with you about Ed because this week at Tuck marked the halfway point of our spring quarter.  Four short weeks from today, spring-term classes will have ended.  This coming weekend, I encourage each of you to learn from Ed, and find the time to reflect on the first half of your spring term, and on the second half now underway.  How have you been engaging with your classes, your classmates, and your faculty?  Are you clear in your learning and growth goals, curricular and co-curricular, and how you might achieve them?  What fresh resolve might you summon to make new investments in yourself and in our overall community, to reach for Ed’s goal of always getting better?

The pain of the loss of Ed will never fully go away.  But as part of our healing, all of us at Tuck can honor Ed and his inspiring leadership by finding ways to keep moving forward together, one optimistic stroke at a time.

Please take good care this weekend.

Matthew J. Slaughter
Dean of the Tuck School of Business


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