Inspired by the Book is a series of interviews with Connecticut College folks about their literary lives. Inspiration comes from The New York Times Book Review series called By the Book.
Reginald White is the new vice president for Human Resources at Connecticut College. He earned a bachelors of science in psychology and human development from Cornell University and an executive masters in business administration from Boston University. He held positions at Bank of Boston, Citibank and KeyBank, before moving into executive leadership roles in human resources and marketing at both Fidelity Investments and Merrill Lynch. He also founded Toran Enterprises, a consulting firm, and later returned to his alma mater as senior director of human resources for Cornell’s research division.
In this interview we go off-script and Reginald shares a story about how books changed his life. What follows is Reginald’s story:
My story begins when I was about 10 years old. My family had moved from the Bronx to Fishkill, NY in search of a better quality of life. As part of its normal practice, the elementary school conducted a series of assessments to gauge my knowledge and competence in a wide range of academic areas. It was determined that I was reading just below grade level and I was assigned a tutor. As a 10 year old in a new school, I was not happy about the situation. However, in retrospect, Mrs. Reed literally changed my life! She was the shepherd who helped me navigate the important transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
In the coming months and years, my capacity and interest in reading would take quantum leaps. This was in part due to our local librarian. Our town library was one 750 square foot room. During my very first visit, she made it clear that I was welcomed. She expressed sincere interest in me as a curious child. She asked questions about my interests and my hopes and dreams. She shared the books that were in her possession and ordered ones she thought would be of interest.
Within months I realized that books could open new worlds. I could be transported into the mind of an author in a matter of seconds. I was hooked and my life was forever changed. As a teenager you could frequently find me in a corner reading a book. Libraries and bookstores became places of promise and solace. I remain in awe of the ways in which reading allows me to be lost and found simultaneously. By the time I was 12, I realized that reading was the path to transformation. The scripture, Romans 12:2 “be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind” took on a profound meaning and became my mantra for life.
Over the years, I would have many encounters with books that would open my mind and shift my perspectives on life itself. One such experience happened when I was 17. I was working with my father after graduating from high school a year early. On one of my visits to his place, I noticed Albert Camus, The Plague. Within seconds, I was captivated. The book was required reading for a college class that my father was taking. After he finished his assignment, I borrowed it. After reading it, I was determined to go to college. Over the coming months, I would do research on schools and by the Fall, I was enrolled.
In my freshman year, I became interested in the self help genre by reading Wayne Dyer’s, Your Erroneous Zones. As a result, I decided to study psychology. I was curious about what behaviors and mindsets differentiated successful people from others.
Throughout my life, reading has nurtured me, informed my curiosity and expanded my mind. At one point, I was ordering so many books from Amazon that the UPS driver knew my name. Books speak to me. By picking one up, I can get a glimpse into the mind of an author. In that moment, time stands still and my world expands. Today, you can still find me in a corner reading a book. I suspect that will always be the case. I am forever grateful to the teachers and librarians who gave me a lifelong passport to learning!
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