John A. Rich

John A. Rich, Professor and Chair of Health Management and Policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health, applied to Dartmouth on a whim – at the advice of his eye doctor. When he was accepted early decision and went to visit campus with his father, Rich learned that going to Dartmouth had been his father’s hope as well. “My dad had gone to Howard undergrad, and that was really the only choice he had, being an African American man in Washington, DC,” Rich said. “He got an application to Dartmouth, but the tuition at the time was $400. It was unimaginable that his family could pay.” Rich, author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time, told us more about himself before taking to the podium to talk about the impact of violence on the lives of young African American men.

Q. What music have you listened to today?
A. I’m a fan of musical scores. I particularly like Thomas Newman, who wrote the score to The Shawshank Redemption. I usually have that as my background music.

Q. When do you feel most creative?
A. I feel most creative when I am around people who are not afraid to say what’s true.

Q. How would you describe yourself in five words or fewer?
A. Someone who cares about justice.

Q. If you could be anyone in history, who would you be?
A. This is going to sound paradoxical, but I would want to be someone in South who was marching against injustice in the 1950s and 60s. It’s easy to say that now, I know, but I’m fascinated by the costs that people have to reckon with to be courageous. I wonder where I would have stood in that fight.

Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?
A. My dad died of a type of leukemia. I was running a marathon for charity, for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was nervous about whether I would finish the race. A psychiatrist who was also running said he could help me with anxiety. He developed a mantra that got me through the race, and I just said it ontinuously to myself: “I’m running my race.”

Q. What is your fondest childhood memory?
A. Riding the sleeper train with my father from New York to Washington, DC to visit my grandmother. I remember walking into Grand Central Station at midnight, I must have been five years old and I wasn’t supposed to be up that late.

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
A. I love food.

Q. What is the last habit you tried to kick?
A. Making lists for everything. Now I have one iPhone list, so I don’t have little stickies everywhere.

Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
A. Give up the salaried job and just live the modest life.

Q. What teacher or professor changed your life?
A. Professor William Cook at Dartmouth College. He was an English professor and one of the few African American professors that I had. It was he who led me to want to major in English, and he taught me that writing was about memorable language.

Q. Who is the one person living or dead you most want to meet for dinner?
A. Nelson Mandela.

To read about Rich’s lecture, click here.

*Photo by Francisco Arcaute.


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