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perserverance and honesty

Paul Angotti '67

Paul Angotti with his wife BonniePaul Angotti is dyslexic. That is not something one brags about. Normally. But this single fact is a reflection of this man’s perseverance, his honesty, and Norwich’s effect on his life. And it became apparent right away as a rook. We all know that it is the academic work that usually defeats Corps students. Most can handle either a Corps experience or academics, but sometimes not both. Rarely do they get tossed out of school for disobeying Corps policies or failing Corps training (but I do have a few stories of such). But they do get tossed out of school for bad grades. Paul understood the importance of his academics. He was prepared to study hard, and he did. 

He faithfully followed the formula of the 0-credit Study Skills course that all freshmen had to take. But despite his best efforts, Paul had achieved a 1.0 GPA at the end of his freshman year. Paul’s academic advisor was a young mechanical engineering professor named Don Wallace. Don, who is now a rock star in the eyes of thousands of alumni (as much as mechanical engineers can be rock stars), had his hands full with this advisee. And Don’s prescription for dealing with such cases was some hope baptized in a heavy dose of realism, and Paul recounts that Professor Wallace administered the medication directly. That summer Professor Wallace went on sabbatical to Colombia for three years to finish his education, and Paul would not see him until many years later.

Paul returned to school for his sophomore year, motivated to study harder than ever. And he did, but to no avail. Paul was failing four classes, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he would be out of school altogether. He had to pass something to stay in school. His new academic advisor advised him to forget about studying for the classes with the worst grades, particularly Metallurgy, and concentrate his efforts on those in which he had a fighting chance to pass. But Paul didn’t like this advice, as he knew that sooner or later the Metallurgy would reappear, so he either had to face the dragon now or face it later. And, by the way, Professor Luce’s Metallurgy class was a dragon that definitely reappears in future articles. It is a Norwich institution in and of itself. Dejected, Paul went back to his room. He went down the hall to a senior he knew and asked him for help. The senior replied “Your kidding? I get up in the morning, your light is on studying. Every day before mess and after mess you are here studying. I go out at night, and your light is on studying. I come back to the barracks at night, and your light is on studying. You study more than anyone on this campus. Show me what you are doing.” 

Paul went over the materials with the upperclassman, and the upperclassman told him he was going about it all wrong. You don’t study for engineering like you study for Government. Engineering is cumulative and not easy to memorize. So he spent time with Paul and reprogrammed his approach.  

Paul needed a 93 on the final Metallurgy exam to just pass the course. He got a 95. Most students would be satisfied with such a feat. But something was bothering Paul, so he took it to the next step. He went to Professor Luce and asked him “You think I cheated, don’t you?” The professor was not prepared to answer the question. Paul took it further. “I am going to stay in school, and every time that I pass you in the hallway for the next three years, I don’t want to see anything in your eyes that doubts me. So, please, quiz me now.” The professor quizzed Paul on the spot, and after the short quizzing simply responded “You really do know the material.” Paul knew that achieving the goal was not good enough unless he was perceived to have done so in an honest fashion.

Paul finished on the Dean’s List every semester thereafter. He enjoyed a terrific career, has a beautiful family, has a lovely home that overlooks one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole world, and has supported his alma-mater beyond the call of duty. When Paul was 35, he was diagnosed as dyslexic. It didn’t surprise him. It didn’t bother him either. It was just one of many challenges that he overcame on his road to happiness.  

Paul returned to Norwich five or six years after he graduated. He had the distinct honor of being the guest speaker for the School of Engineering’s annual Convocation. You can imagine Don Wallace’s surprise to see Paul in such a role, not to mention the mere surprise of him having graduated.  

But such turnarounds are not as surprising as one might think. Young people with a penchant for persevering find Norwich, and Norwich weaves and stimulates their hidden talents into productive, happy, and successful people. 

Paul has richly supported Norwich over the years with his financial gifts, annually hosting the freshman sendoff, and hosting alumni events throughout the Colorado region. It is this kind of support that does not go unnoticed by those back on campus. Paul, thanks for your efforts, your perseverance, your honesty, and your great support of Norwich.

Gallery of Photos:
Paul and Bonnie hosting the annual freshman sendoff in Colorado
Angotti - Student Sendoff

Paul standing beside his Norwich Wall
Angotti - Norwich Wall

Mechanical Engineering Project - Paul's train set in mid-build, Note the vintage of that train!
Angotti - Train Set