Year of Graduation: 1987
Current Position: Rancher
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
My wife and I manage our family ranch in central Colorado, on Sweetwater Creek, at the base of the Flattops Wilderness Area. I irrigate, fix fence, manage the hay cutting, oversee lease agreements for cattle and hunting, feed horses, plow snow and otherwise keep the place up.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
It was a pretty unusual path. I was a history major at St. John's. After school I taught literature at La Salle Academy in the East Village of New York. Then I worked for the Office of Religious and Cultural Affairs of H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. Upon my return from India, I worked as an editor at Atlantic Monthly Press in New York. After which I returned to school for a brief time before moving out to Montana where I managed a bookstore, worked as a freelance editor and started writing a novel. After a handful of years in Montana I was offered a job running a bookstore in Telluride, Colorado. I moved to Telluride where I met my wife, Hope. I also finished my novel and tried unsuccessfully to sell it. My wife's family owned a ranch in central Colorado that she and her mother were managing. I spent all my vacation time on the place learning the ropes. I had done some ranch work in Colorado during college so I felt fairly comfortable in the role. Now I'm a full time laborer--"rancher" is too romantic a title for what I really do.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
My career path is so unique. The advice I have is that you better be ready to work, and to manage your time. In a way my life as a writer and editor, not to mention manager, helped prepare me for my life on the ranch. You have to be a self-motivator, good at time management and prioritizing your work load. There's always something to do, but you can't do it all.
What skills are important in your field?
Self-motivation and management. But you also have to be willing to work and get dirty. You better like being outdoors and enjoy all sorts of weather. There are days on the tractor plowing snow when I feel almost ridiculous; it's blowing so hard you can't see and it's so cold you can't feel your fingers. My iPod can be a real comfort on days like these.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
It might seem odd, and actually it surprises even myself to say this, but I really think my experiences during J-term really helped me get where I am today. My first J-term I had a class on Gandhi. This really got me interested in India, without which I probably wouldn't have worked for the Tibetan Government-In-Exile in India, one of the great experiences of my life. I also spent a January dog-sledding and cross country skiing in the BWCA with Paul Schurke. That really taught me a lot about self-motivation/reliance and helped form a life-long interest in the natural world, essential in my work today. In my junior year I spent J-term traveling through Spain and Morocco which made me want to see and experience as much as possible. Thus the career path that's, well, all over the map, so to speak.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
By far the most satisfying part of my job is being outdoors. Sometimes it can be hard to kick my butt outside, but once I'm out there I just revel in it. In
all of it: the mud and dirt of irrigating, the hard slog of fixing fence in the mountains, the peace in feeding horses, and, yes, the discomfort of working in the rain and the snow. Also, being a rural family, we spend a lot of time together. That is a rarity in today's world, and something I am truly thankful for.
Interested in connecting with alums to tap into their expertise and learn about career opportunities?
Participate in the “Take a Bennie/Johnnie to Lunch” program. To learn more, check out: