More than 230 Upper Schools students came to the first Real World Wednesday on July 3 to learn how Culver can impact their lives later. Culver Summer Schools & Camps Director Andy Seddelmeyer said the voluntary attendance program is designed for summer alumni to address the students about how the Culver camp experience has impacted their lives.
The first three alumni were John Zeglis W’61, NB’64 and his two children, Mark Zeglis W’88, NB’90 and Julie Zeglis Potter W’90, SS’93.
John retired after serving as the chairman of AT&T Wireless, then became the founder and chairman of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, eventually selling the NBA development league team to the Indiana Pacers. Mark is a gastroenterologist and Julie is an attorney.
They talked about how Culver helped them in three major areas: self-reliance; learning how to try new things; and working as a team.
John told the students much of what they learn during their time at Culver will not register with them until later. “Relax,” he said. “Don’t even think about it.”
Self-reliance is simply learning how to cope in different situations. John said he didn’t know he was coming to camp until his mother told him two days before. He was suddenly thrust into a world of 1,800 boys, with terms like BRC, DRC and SRC; and rules to follows. But he learned to be resilient and that built his self-confidence.
Julie added asking a question in a college lecture hall is not a big deal after you have shouted instructions to the combined corps with parents sitting in the stands during parades. Mark added that coming up through the ranks at Culver helped him learn to be humble.
To be a good leader, you have to follow first, get in on the ground floor
“To be a good leader, you have to follow first, get in on the ground floor,” he explained, adding you will get through it when you remember that “people have been here before.” It is something that paid off when he was suddenly called “Dr. Zeglis” during his first shift as an intern at Massachuetts General.
When discussing “learning to try new things,” John said “a lot of good schools (colleges) fail a lot of good students.” That is because those students didn’t take risks. “Being comfortable doesn’t get you very far,” he said. “Volunteer for everything.”
He added that he took typing, speed reading, how to use a slide rule, and public speaking while at camp. He wasn’t the best at any of them but knowing how to do each paid dividends down the road.
Mark and Julie agreed with trying new things, even though you may not be the best at it. “Showing up” and trying does pay off, Julie added.
Learning to work as a team at Culver will help you in “practically everything you do,” John said. There are small teams, big teams like boards of directors, and volunteer groups. Making sure that your team’s “noses are pointed in the same direction” comes naturally after leading groups at Culver.
Mark added the old saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link applies to teams. Learning to help each other makes the team stronger.
Julie said being the member of team during camp teaches you that you can do more. “You don’t want to let down your team,” she said, even when giving up would make it easier on you individually.
During the question-and-answer session, John said most of what he did with AT&T Wireless “I never did before” because it was such a new technology and industry. But learning to cope with uncertainity was something he learned at Culver.
Also, rising through the ranks and dropping back down again is something you learn at Culver, and it does happen in college and in your job, he said. His one regret, though, as a summer counselor was that he didn’t spend enough time with the kids who were struggling as they rose through the ranks.
And “ennoble the cause” to get others behind it when you are a leader, he added. “Make it mean something. Find something bigger and better than the problem. That makes it fun and worthwhile.”
Mark told the students, that in medicine, it is important to remember to learn from the people who have “gone before you and build on that.”
And, John finished with try new ideas by taking “bite-sized risks” and creating a fast feedback loop. If something doesn’t work as expected on a smaller scale, it is easier to pull it back, rework it, and try it again. But you will need a good, strong action plan for your team, he added.