Matthew Lambert, A39

Biography

Matthew Lambert, A39

Matthew Lambert, A39

Matthew Lambert, A39, was born and raised in Winthrop, Massachusetts, where his father was president of a show manufacturing business. He admits he wasn't entirely keen on spending four years in college. "I'd had a taste of business and I was eager to get out into the big wide world," he recalls. But thanks to the favorable impression of a high school math teacher who was a Tufts graduate, he decided to try academics. Tufts turned out to be a good match: he did well in economics (despite cutting the occasion class to play golf on the Tufts "little six-holer,") and rose to be president of his fraternity.

After Tufts he went on later to earn a master's degree from Boston University. His career in advertising included positions such as advertising director of McDonalds Corp. and vice president of the advertising firm Arnold Co. He and his wife raised six children and have 14 grandchildren. Now living on Cape Cod, Lambert has, at age 84, no intention of retiring and is enjoying the 21st year of running his own sales consulting firm.


Interview Excerpt

Matthew Lambert, A39

On "bridge generation"

Matthew begins this interview in June, 2001, by opening his briefcase and reading from a memo to his classmates about the Class of 1939, a class he calls the "bridge generation."

"They say you can't go home again and I guess that's so. For the several times I tried it, it just didn't work. Returning to the old hometown, the streets are always narrower, the houses close together and there's also always some deterioration. These people-towns grow old just like people. And lately I've been thinking that Tufts, the newsletter, The Criterion, the alumni appeals, etc., have kept me informed about the changes. And I've been proud of the school, the new courses and the buildings and even the new schools. It certainly merits its placement in the recent top rankings of colleges in U.S. News & World Report, and I wondered if it had grown beyond me, beyond recognition. So I started thinking about it and I felt that, both as a generation and as a class, we were a bridging group. You know, nobody can kid anybody about how old we are. If you say Class of '39 you're 84, or in that vicinity. And we were born with the sound of World War I guns still booming, and our early years were subject to the customs and standards easily recognized by earlier generations. There was nothing too much different about the way we looked at things from the previous generations. But since we've graduated, the changes and standards and attitudes and customs and technology, it's been enormous. I think the greatest change has been the fastest in all of recorded history. Everything's been encapsulated into a very short period of time. In the year, just for an example, in the year of our graduation in 1939, Gone with the Wind was on the screen. And we sat in the theater watching Gone with the Wind while the whole audience waited for the daring, earthshaking moment when Clark Gable would say right out loud and on the big screen, 'I don't give a damn.' We've come a long way since then, when that was a shocker. We're also one of the bridge classes at Tufts. We arrived there while the Rez was still in existence and Jumbo was in the museum. We had a six-hole golf course and attendance at chapel was compulsory. We knewPresident Cousens in his last couple of years, Dean Rand, Leo Lewis and many others who were a very real connection with those earlier years. So we knew the past and have been participants and observers of the new days. So it's been really a bridging type experience."

"So, with all this in mind, the other day I decided to play hooky. I'm still working and I was conducting a sales training session in Cambridge and I was right near there. So I played hooky in the afternoon and I went over to Tufts. I've been back a number of times although I haven't attended every reunion. I attended the 25th Reunion and I was toastmaster at that time. And I was sandwiched between the present president of Tufts and the past president of Tufts at the head table, and they were telling me some of the changes that had taken place at the college, where the gals could visit the guys in the dorms and all like that. And I remember the condition of some of those dorm rooms, the men's dorm rooms, and I said, 'Gee, forgetting morality and all that other, what self-respecting girl would go into one of those dens of iniquity?' [Chuckles] But they said it was a new day and everything and I said, 'Three cheers.' So, anyway, I went over to Tufts and I parked my car on Professors Road just below the Zeta Psi House [the oldest fraternity at Tufts). I used to be a "Zetes" when I was there at Tufts. And I passed through the Dearborn Gate and I went up and it was a beautiful day, and from that vantage point everything looked about the same. You could half close your eyes and you were back there 40 or 50 years ago. Of course, over to the right was what was known as the new Wessell Library, which has been taken over by the Tisch Library. And in spite of its size and everything, it nestles very nicely into the contours of the earth and slopes down to College Avenue. It doesn't stand up there stark and it blends very nicely, I think. And walking through Ballou I emerged from the other side and was greeted by all my old friends. The buildings are about the same and certainly the chapel is exactly the same. I remember it. I went in there and it was just the same; not a thing has changed. When I went down in front of the Eaton Memorial Library. I recall the bookstore used to be down a few steps. And that was a great gathering place -- the bookstore. And in walking the rest of the campus, I found much that had endured. You know, a lot is just the same, but, of course, the new buildings now occupying the golf course [chuckles] are the equivalent of another college.

"But I think that the real measure of a college is not in its physical plant. The real joy and the true evaluation of today's Tufts I found in talking with some of the students. I talked with a couple in depth over coffee down in the dining room. I felt like Mr. Chips, you know, but I recognized the name of some of my classmates. Things haven't changed that much. It's like when the suitors used to call on my daughters. They looked a lot different than the guys I went around with when I was growing up, but when I talked to them they were just like me. They hadn't changed, you know. They were a little nervous, a little insecure and shy even. You know? They'd deny the shyness right away but it was still the same."

"And so I'd recognize in these new students some of my own classmates. They were interested and inquiring, enthusiastic and determined -- all the rest of that good stuff. So maybe the Class of 2001 and so forth is going to be almost as good as my class."

On the faculty

"I was never oriented toward scientific studies and at that time you had to take a science. So I took geology. I figured that would be fairly safe, and it wasn't. [Chuckles] It was a mind blower. At that time, Professor Lane headed up the department. He was an expert and nationally and internationally recognized for areas such as the age of the earth and so forth and so on. But he had a young chap who had just joined his department and he was the most marvelous teacher, Bob Nichols. He was absolutely fantastic! He had all the enthusiasm of just coming into the profession. He was a great teacher. To this day I can give an impromptu lecture on geologic features, glacial striations and drumlins and all the rest of it, just because I paid attention to this wonderful professor. As a little sidebar to that, I live down here on the Cape and I got a notice, this was about 10 years ago, that a luncheon was being held. And so I decided I'd just try it. I went to the luncheon and who was at the luncheon but Professor Nichols, Bob Nichols. And he came up to me. Now this was 10 years ago. I hadn't seen him for 40-odd years. He came right up to me and called me by name, asked about my twin brother who was with me in college, and remembered some of the things we had done. Can you imagine that? But they do say that professors remember their first classes."

On questioning authority

"As a striking coincidence, when my son went to Plymouth College up in Plymouth, New Hampshire, I remembered one year at college down in Tufts. I went to a dance up there [at Plymouth]. And I was cautioned by the chaperone, who was observing me dancing, that she had to see daylight between me and my partner. There must be daylight!"

"You know, as president of the fraternity, I was on the President's Council which met with the president to discuss things of mutual interest -- the students and the administration and so forth. Now, that's a far cry from conducting a sit-in in the president's [office]. See, we joined with the administration rather than against it, you know. We weren't passive or Milquetoasts or anything like that. But it just didn't occur to us as an option that you'd do something like that, because it went against all the customs and things that we had been. For example, the role of men and women, girls and boys. That had been established. Now there's a bridge thing that went back for many, many years. The role of the girl and the role of the boy were very well established. It was the traditional chauvinistic type of thing but kindly disposed and so forth. Women were to be protected and cherished. On the other side, men didn't cry, you know. And, you know, when you talk like this now, you make everything black-and-white when it was gray."

On social activities and dating

"I was one of the few ones in my fraternity who had a car. So we would go up to Boston. Sometimes we would just go up there as an overnight and come back the next morning for classes. Just for the heck of it. You know, that constituted wild behavior."

"You dated but not on campus. No, because you'd get up in the morning in the fraternity house and you'd look out your window and there'd be the Jackson girls going by to class or wherever they were going. And sometimes you had a feeling that they were, you know, that they were more like your sisters. There was more glamour to go with somebody from some other school."

"Wheelock College in Boston turned out what were considered the datable girls. Oh, Miss Wheelock's. We had contacts. I had a high school girlfriend who had gone to Wheelock and I introduced half my fraternity to Wheelock girls. Then I remember one year Ted Holsworth and I—he was in my fraternity—there was a big dance at Wheelock, it was going to be a barn dance. A square dance. But it was at a big barn out in the country and we decided the thing to do was to hire a horse and buggy . . . and we didn't know anything about this. I'd never had anything to do with horses, but we found a stable in Boston that had carriages and horses. And Ted and I climbed aboard and drove away from the thing. They asked, 'Have you ever, you know, driven?' We answered, 'Oh, ya. Sure, ya.' And we didn't have the slightest idea of what we were doing and we drove that carriage right through Boston, right through Copley Square. We tied up traffic for blocks, you know, and we arrived in front of Miss Wheelock's. That was out on the Riverway there, the Fenway. And there we are with this surrey with the fringe on top. Well, you know, they're leaning out the windows at Miss Wheelock's, you know, cheering us on. So we drove them out to the barn dance and everything. But what we didn't count on was that on returning the horse to the stables, the horse somehow knew it was on the way back to the stable. And it broke into a gallop [laughter] and we ended up on a high note because we were hanging on for dear life as we returned the horse to its barn.

"One year, again, with Miss Wheelock's, for some reason we were temporarily on our outs with our dates there. But they were having a big dance at the Copley Plaza. And we were determined that we were going to go there, even though we hadn't been invited. So we went into Boston; this was with Ed Comey. We went into Boston and we went to a costume place and we got big ribbons to go across our chests. We went in tails and we got these big ribbons and all these foreign decorations and mustaches and everything. And there's a balcony up above the main ballroom in the Copley Plaza. We sneaked up into the ballroom and up to the balcony. And the dance was in progress and everything and we had tipped off the band people about what we were going to do. And right in the middle of the dance the band breaks into a medley of all the foreign anthems that you could ever think of, from Le Marseillaise on up . . . [chuckles] And I got up and we took our bows from the balcony. That was our revenge for not being invited."

On a sense of place

"There are big changes in most institutions, and there have been big changes in curriculum in schools. But when you talk about buildings and just the ambiance of the college, that hasn't changed. And that's -- quite reassuring. You still can go back. You can still go back and visit your youth at the college; it hasn't changed that much. Not to get too poetic about it, but at twilight, coming up Professors Row, with the beginning darkness obscuring some of the edges and everything else, you could be back there, you know. Out of deference to alumni and everything else, they try to keep it that way a little bit, you know. And it is, it is an island. Any college, any sea of learning is a bit of an island. What they've been changing lately is to make it less of an island and to reach out to the community, but it still has aspects of an island. It's someplace you can retreat to."