Morris is fond of quoting John Lennon: Life is what happens when youre busy making other plans. She is a planner all right, but no one will ever accuse her of just letting life happen in the meantime. She also says, Rewards go to the risk-takers. That sounds more like it.
A native of Schuylerville, N.Y., Morris enrolled at Skidmore after two years at Cazenovia College. She had always earned her waypaper route, babysitting, waiting tablesand her business major was a natural choice. After graduation, she opened an antique business in her hometown, and soon she and husband Jim began looking for a bed-and-breakfast opportunity, well ahead of the curve in what is now a thriving industry. But what they found was a restaurant. The couple sold their house in 1984 in order to buy Cest Cheese in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Cest Cheese soon metamorphosed into Scallions, on the energy and sheer hard work of the plucky young owners. In the first five years, says Morris, we worked day in, day out. I did just about all the cooking and baking. Over the years, Morris implemented a series of innovations: a childrens menu (the Morrises by then had two kids of their own), patio dining, box lunches for bus tours. I remembered Professor Elwood Stitzels class, doing those business plans, she says with a laugh. Now I got it.
Scallions, still a fixture on Broadway, is something we created from scratch, says Morris fondly. But by 1999, she reports, I had decided to go into teaching. I wanted a career change.
Just a few years later, Morris reminisces while seated at a tiny table in her first-grade classroom at Greenfield Elementary School. Construction-paper penguins hang from one part of the ceiling; in another, green streamers, snakes, and birds constitute a rainforest. Tomorrows lesson plan is ready and Morris is eager for her students to return.
Like many successful career changes, this one dovetails with major life objectives. My goal was always to be a good mom, says Morris unapologetically. Being with my kids for their first five years fulfilled me in every way. When they started grade school, I really felt the empty nest! Some of her friends were looking forward to having more time for themselves, to shop and clean out closets. Not her. She gathered up her transcripts, sought out a New York State teacher certification officer, and said, I want to be a teacher. Where do I go?
Morris started by taking prerequisites in math, language, and literature at Adirondack Community College. Then she applied to the College of St. Rose, where she was met by a dismissive professor who sniffed, Career change, huh? Undauntedin fact, energized by his remarkshe forged ahead, studying part-time and ultimately full-time. St. Rose worked us hard, she recalls with gratitude. She worked herself hard, graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. Its easy if youre motivated. Thats what I think about all the time while Im teaching: how to motivate the kids.
Morris did some practice-teaching and substituting in nearby Greenfield and soon interviewed for a permanent position. Now in her second year, she has a first-grade classroom. This age group is adorable, she says. Theyre assertive, sweet, and loyal.
She clearly loves teaching, but shes already thinking about a school administration certificate, which she sees as an excellent fit with her business background. I still love the focus of business, making the hard decisions, she says. All the books on my nightstand are business books. Ive always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
No one knows better than Morris how challenging it is to go to school while working and parenting. But her family is supportive, and she can always start small, maybe with one course. Thats what Id like to tell people, especially other women: If I could do it, you could. One step at a time. Just try it.
Something I actually enjoy doing every day
After graduation, George Goslee 93 worked on petroleum-spill cleanups in Oklahoma. His job at Groundwater Technologies Inc. took him to contaminated gas stations and underground pipelines to sample water, air, and soil and supervise the drilling of monitoring wells. Back in the office, he wrote up reports to state agencies and clients. It was a good first work experience, says Goslee, but I was never interested in making a career of it.
He figured hed work in environmental cleanup for a few years and then return to school for a career in teaching and research, much like the Skidmore geology professors he admired as a student. It was a career plan he thought carefully about, but, he says, I didnt agonize over it.
But by the time he left Groundwater Technologies, Goslee was having doubts about his next steps. In the time-honored tradition of those with more career questions than answers, he took a year off to travel. He then took a laboratory job in Cleveland just to buy some time. Two years, in fact. And this time, he admits, I did agonize over what my career would be.
Finally he decided to pursue a masters in business administration. I believed it would open up the most options, says Goslee. Friends and family were supportive, though somewhat surprised, since he had been so focused on geology. For himself, says Goslee, he had to get over an antibusiness attitude he had nurtured as a student. He did that, and completed the M.B.A. at Ohio State in 1999.
Goslee now works in financial planning and analysis at Silicon Graphics Inc., the computer giant best known for creating thrilling special effects in the movies. He oversees financial forecasting and reporting for SGI executives, explaining in sophisticated technical detail just how well the business is doing.
Today Goslee looks back on his career transition as a fairly natural process. My goal was to find something that I actually enjoyed doing every day, he says. And he has. Oh, he can envision migrating from corporate finance to areas such as marketing or operations or investing. And perhaps some day hell start a business of his own. But, he says, I doubt that I will ever shift completely out of business.
Opportunity fell in my lap
Susan Leferson 67 always knew she would be a nurse when she grew up. What she didnt know was how many other things she would be.
The daughter of a volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver, Leferson came to Skidmore for its fantastic nursing program. She didnt waste one college minute worrying about other career choices.
She served in the Navy nursing corps after graduation and then took a job at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, where she became head nurse in pediatrics. After several years, says the soft-hearted Leferson, Id get attached to many of the kids with chronic diseases, who eventually died. We also saw a lot of battered children. It was becoming more and more difficult.
She enjoyed regular scuba-diving vacations in Tobago, and knew the head of the Canadian Marine Biology School on the island of Carriacou. I asked him if Carriacou was a good place to vacation, she recalls, and as a P.S., if anyone was looking for a dive instructor in the Caribbean. He cabled her to come immediately, and soon she resigned from Hahnemann and let go of her New Jersey apartment. I never gave it a second thought, says Leferson.