Freshman Blues: Trying Not to Flunk Out of Yale, 1965

 

What was it like for a public-school kid from nowhere to go to an Ivy League school during the heyday? Sure, you got to wear cool clothes (once you figured out what they were), but even that was fraught with anxiety. At least it was for Timothy Thompson, whose first semester at Yale was full of loneliness, awkwardness, and rigorous academics requiring 18-hour days just to keep from flunking out.

Tim has appeared in a post entitled “Blue Man Group.” Now here’s his story: a lengthy LIFE magazine feature on what happens when a “rough country boy” from Oregon gets into Yale, only to endure a “painful struggle trying to fit in.” In addition to brain-twisting homework and the challenge of making friends, Tim also had to learn strange new words like “avant-garde,” buy new clothes in order to “keep up with his classmates,” sit through French courses conducted in French, and uphold his clean-living Baptist values in the wake of the Sexual Revolution.

But Tim had pluck: “I want to be myself,” he told the magazine. “I don’t want to be classified as a sophisticate, a playboy, a screwball, or anything.”

But didn’t LIFE do him a disservice by profiling him in a high-circulating periodical? Talk about piling on the pressure: Now it wasn’t just his parents and campus advisor waiting to see his math grade, but the entire United States of America. — CC

18 Comments on "Freshman Blues: Trying Not to Flunk Out of Yale, 1965"

  1. Found him. http://www.indexuniverse.com/publications/journalofindexes/joi-contributors/1894.html

    Timothy Thompson founded Value-Added Research & Management in 2003 as an independent investment advisor dedicated to researching and managing exchange-traded funds. Tim has more than sixteen years of asset allocation management experience with PIMCO/Oppenheimer Capital and Frank Russell Trust Company. He earned a B.A. degree from Yale College and an M.B.A. in finance from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

    He’s definitely the same guy as in this photo. http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/53379577/Time-Life-Pictures

  2. Bravo, Nate! And in less than 30 minutes after the post went up.

    E-mail me your address.

    Give us all some googling tips: I tried all sorts of combinations of his name, plus Yale, Ashland, Oregon, and that particular issue of LIFE.

  3. Here’s what I did:

    Search 1: yale “Timothy Thompson”
    Scrolled through results until I saw http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Thompson_Timothy_557855306.aspx . Someone who had gone to Yale undergrad and had a long work history and is now at the stage in his career appropriate for having graduated nearly 40 years ago.

    Search 2: “Value-Added Research & Management”
    Only three results came up, went to the only one I hadn’t seen before, and so I scrolled to where I found the name. The picture was the next clue. Thus, I tried to find another matching photo of this person while at Yale as I assumed the Yale Life magazine story had more pictures.

    Repeated Search 1.
    Scrolled until I saw the Life magazine hits and saw the picture on the gettyimages page. Compared the two, saw that I had a match, and submitted my answer.

    Total time: less than 2 minutes 🙂

  4. I just poured a drink, and then a reader sent Tim Thompson’s obituary:

    http://www.nyjnews.com/obituary/obit.php3?id=1609883

    Gentlemen, let us raise our glasses.

  5. That’s why Nate goes to Cornell and I went to Cal State Totally Undisciplined.

    It only took him two minutes, but I quit after 20 seconds.

    Now just imagine me trying to solve a trigonometry problem.

  6. Old Curmudgeon | October 13, 2009 at 9:38 am |

    Two observations:

    1. Mean lookin’ dude

    2. His working life (1979-2004) was a mere 25 years. What a waste of education, energy.

  7. I am not sure what you mean by wasted. It seems like he had a very productive and interesting life.

  8. Probably the saddest thing I’ve read in a while. In about five minutes I saw Tim’s youth, his life post-Yale (which took “less than two minutes” to sum up), and his obituary. Talk about life flashing before your eyes. I hope he had a good life. I suppose it’s all the more rattling being in Tim’s shoes now…

    Dale
    thesmokingpipe.blogspot.com

  9. Paul Stillman | October 13, 2009 at 9:32 pm |

    Old Curmudgeon,

    That assumes that the purpose of a liberal arts education from Yale is only about the career one pursues upon graduation. That type of an education is pursued, I would imagine, for the sheer joy of learning and to become a renaissance man of sorts.

  10. “His working life (1979-2004) was a mere 25 years. What a waste of education, energy”

    Old Curmudgeon certainly lives up to his moniker.

    First, what makes OC think that “a mere 25 years” is so short a time? Many of the most accomplished people in history have had relatively short lives and vice versa.

    Second, why discount his years between Yale and finishing his MBA. We don’t know anything about what he experienced or accomplished in that interim. Those may, in some sense, have been his best years.

  11. David Fuller | October 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm |

    Wow, I just finished reading the Life article courtesy of Google Books, then wondered what had become of Timothy. I found this page courtesy of Google Search…this post just went up two days ago…freaky.

  12. There are more strange coincidences. Tim’s sister, mentioned in the obituary, lives in the next town over from me. We spoke the other night and she may provide us with some comments about how her brother was selected for the story, and what it was like for him when it came out.

  13. He was in the army from 1968-1971 according to the obit. He was in the war 1970 and 1971.

  14. So did anyone find out what happened to Richard Loomis? His grades weren’t anything to write home about if the story is correct. I am worried about that kid.

  15. Ed,
    Who is Richard Loomis?

  16. Chas Humphries | May 18, 2019 at 10:26 am |

    C. Sharp,
    You call this productive and interesting?

    “Timothy Thompson founded Value-Added Research & Management in 2003 as an independent investment advisor dedicated to researching and managing exchange-traded funds. Tim has more than sixteen years of asset allocation management experience with PIMCO/Oppenheimer Capital and Frank Russell Trust Company. He earned a B.A. degree from Yale College and an M.B.A. in finance from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.”

    May he rest in peace.

  17. Much in this article sounds very familiar when it comes to what I read on the multitude of academic and social challenges facing first generation and/or minority undergrads (as well as the more coddled Generation Z students) during the first few semesters on campus in the second decade of the 21st century. Even a less selective state school (in the U.S. sense) can be a real bucket of ice-cold water to the face for a lot of young people who might not have a clear picture of why they are in college to begin with and the time/focus/effort required to graduate on time. It can be a real period of (at times entirely necessary) adjustment, something that much of the scholarship on the issue does not seem to mention. We don’t hear the term ‘sink or swim’ anymore, but that is still very much the case. Even with the various offices, programs, and organizations that have been put into place to assist struggling students and provide them with a sense of community and/or belonging. If we cut through all of the touchy-feely language on college or university websites and in the print materials, students must still (learn to) manage their time more effectively, prioritize, buckle down for those subjects that come less easily, hit the books, and seek help themselves BEFORE a low or failing grade happens. Attending classes routinely also helps quite a bit when it comes to gaining a more complete grasp of course material.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  18. whiskeydent | May 18, 2019 at 5:40 pm |

    I went from a town of 3,782 people to a UT-Austin campus with 50,000 students and thousands more faculty and staff. The first day I started to cross The Drag to the West Mall and encountered what appeared to be more people than in my hometown. I somehow found my way to my first class and discovered, much to my horror, that my introductory biology course had turned into a genetics course. There were pre-med juniors in there. Yeah, you could say I was a bit intimidated.

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