Prescott College Trustee, Richard Ach Reflects on a Life Worth Living.
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"The Window I Flew Out Of"
Cincinnati, Ohio is a long way from the pinnacle of Mount Baldy for Richard Ach ’73, where a weekend trip during his first year at the College opened a realization of freedom – and a love of nature – that has carried through a lifetime. “I arrived back from Orientation and was only on campus for a couple of months when a bunch of people – Randy Udall, Nancy Whiteman, others - and I headed to the White Mountains for the weekend. It was a very PC thing to do, all piled into somebody’s truck, but to me, it was all very new. It’s not what people in Ohio did on a weekend.”
During their ascent of the mountain it started to snow, and the group spent the night outside in a three-sided shelter, also a first for Richard. “When we finally got to the top, after spending a cold and wet night, the summit was socked with in 20-foot visibility. In spite of the fog, it really introduced me to my new world. “I felt freedom of a quality I have never experienced before, and realized that Prescott College framed that new freedom for me. ” The experience of the College created lasting kinships, he said, noting, “All the people I was on the trip with are people who became important people in my life.”
Richard had a liberal arts focus, studying “meta-ethics" – where ethical systems come from, where the rules come from. “I studied Western and Eastern philosophy and Sinology with Robert Bruce, a wonderful Scotsman who was with the College at that time.” “PC expanded internal and external vistas. The out-of-doors was really a vehicle for me to explore and have the courage to explore other parts of my life. It was never the destination.” Although he’s always been “very outgoing,” Richard noted that in some ways, the “internal vistas” were the hardest to expand. “Like a lot of cocky, 20-year-old guys, I thought I was pretty cool. I got let in on the fact, in no uncertain terms, that that was not necessarily a widely held opinion. I think I got my first taste of real feedback at the College,” he laughed.
“Integrity played the same role at PC back then that it does now. Both students and faculty challenged you. I think the PC mission makes people try harder, aspire to higher level of authenticity, to produce a new man or a new woman, a truly integrated and interdisciplinary persona.” “PC didn’t want to, and still doesn’t, just want to educate your mind, but also educate you physically, emotionally, spiritually. The basic premise of the school is different from most other places.” It was the preparation he needed, Richard reflects, to “react to life as it came along and feel I could really have some effect on the outcome.” “I was fired once from a job in my 20s, my second real job. I was writing to a friend about it, and at the beginning of the letter I told him I felt I was being tested on material for which I had not been given the assignments beforehand,” he said. “By the end of the letter I realized that that test was the assignment. That’s Prescott College. You have to dig deep and try hard to make life work, and every day is a live fire exercise.”
Richard notes that many of his classmates learned the same lessons, and have lived “highly individualized lives where by and large they had a higher degree of definition of the outcomes of their lives than most people” – lawyers, doctors, businessmen, teachers, artists. “My wife used an expression, she talked about how she was studying painting at Yavapai College, where she said, her instructor, Linne Thomas, has opened a window for her and she flew out. “Prescott College opened a window for me and I flew out. It allowed me to manifest myself in the world in a way that I was delighted with.”
As Chair of the Board of Trustee’s Committee on Trustees, Richard has worked hard for the past two years to formalize the structure and expectations of board duties and in finding and nominating of new board members. “We are truly searching for people who can be of real assistance to the school, who value its mission and can be a proactive advocate.
“The core reason I do things for the College is because it’s so nourishing. It brings out the best in me. It is an exciting environment – the quality of thought, the people you meet, the problems you get to work on and solve. You have a really visible effect because it’s a small, dynamic environment. Everyone can have input, even me. “Our current members' dedication is nothing less than extraordinary across the board, and our list of past trustees is a cherished treasure. We stand on the shoulders of greatness. There has been so much personal sacrifice and dedication above and beyond from faculty, students, staff, and board,” he said.
Richard has supported that heritage with an unrestricted legacy gift of $250,000 that “allows me to be generous at the end of my life in a way that I can’t be now,” he said. “Prescott College allowed me to have a wonderful life, and I am going to support that happening for other people, too. It’s one of the most important things I can do: to support, beyond my lifetime, the values and good I treasure so much.”