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Famous: The Extraordinary Career of
David L. Cohen L’81
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For his Master’s thesis, STEPHEN D. SCHUTT L’83 examined a series of writings by Samuel Beckett, the 20th Century Irish playwright and author who portrayed the absurdities of life, love and death in numerous published and produced works. As Schutt recalls it, the residua series “packed all the world’s experience into minimalist works.”
Schutt’s career seems to have been plotted on the straight and narrow path. But one could imagine the daily absurdities he experiences that derive from heading up an undergraduate liberal arts college, or being the “go to” person at a major research university with enormous ambitions, or staffing a U.S. Senator.
He is the son of a lawyer in his sixth decade of practice in a Southern Ohio town. Schutt studied English Literature at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and at the University of London. But the pull of practicality brought him to Law School.
“Law school offered a breadth of training that I found appealing,” he says. “It really did help me become a more rigorous and strategic thinker, better able to separate wheat from chaff, and the work I did in legal writing certainly helped tone down my English student’s tendency toward purple prose.”
Schutt is credited as both the author and the architect of the University of Pennsylvania’s “Agenda for Excellence,” the five-year strategic plan that laid out the University’s ambitions for the 21st century. The plan offered, and the administrators delivered, expanded curricula, a revitalized campus, and relations with the West Philadelphia community that were better than had been seen in the previous four decades.
“In my work in politics I gained an ability to work with a number of constituencies that are working toward the same goal,” Schutt says. “People can support something, the same thing, for different reasons – they don’t all have to support a goal for the same reason.”
It was the accumulation of experience in a law firm, in state and federal politics and at Penn that prepared him for the position of 13th President of Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts college on the shore of Lake Michigan. But aside from the tangible experience he gained Schutt emphasizes the importance that mentoring played in his success.
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