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Thursday, June 6, 2024

LIFE AT MIDLIFE: WHAT’S NEXT? was a special intergenerational program exploring change and meaning in midlife and beyond. Changes in career, family structure, gender, and priorities can seem daunting in midlife, but they can lead to a greater sense of life well-lived.

Dr. Robert Waldinger ‘73, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and Alexis Redding '98, a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, moderated by Michael Feferman ‘98, began the program by providing us with tools for informed conversation.

Drawing on questions from the 25th Reunion survey of the Class of ‘98, HR’73 classmates, Bobby Clayton, Ron Dieckmann, Anne MacKinnon, and Lindsey Straus shared personal reflections about changes they made in their lives during midlife and beyond, why they made them, and how those changes have impacted their lives.

All attending were then invited to join breakout rooms that allowed us to talk freely with one another about our own experiences, questions, and concerns.

Finally, we came together for a few minutes at the end to share the takeaways from our rooms.



    Michael grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moved back home in 2021 after two decades in Austin, TX. His family includes his wife Rachel and their two children Nina (12) and Oscar (7). Michael's varied career has ping-ponged from tech startups to producing live music festivals to independent consulting to local business ownership. As of this writing, his life has never been better - but that sure hasn't always been the case. One of his fondest ambitions is to help friends and classmates to find their own version of the path that has taken him from rock bottom to unprecedented peace of mind over the last 10 years.


    Alexis is a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she studies the college experience and the process of coming of age across generations. Her book, The End of Adolescence: The Lost Art of Delaying Adulthood follows a group of students at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges in the 1970s. Along with her co-author, she is following a group of alumni from the Class of 1975 to chronicle how their lives unfolded after college. As she shared at the Class of 1998’s 25th Reunion, her research has found that the period between the 25th and 30th reunions is a time of profound change for the graduates of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. 


    Robert Waldinger, MD, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Zen priest. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and he is married with two grown sons. He is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, where he directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Begun in 1938 and continuing to this day, it is the longest study of human wellbeing ever conducted. Dr. Waldinger is the author of The Good Life (co-authored with Marc Schulz), which examines the central role of relationships in shaping our health and wellbeing. His TEDx talk on this subject is one of the ten most viewed talks in the history of TED. To learn more, visit and He teaches Zen meditation in Newton ( and internationally.


    Robert L. Clayton is an experienced attorney with a focus on labor management relations, employment, sports, education, regulatory compliance, and government affairs. He advises technology and energy companies on privacy and data protection regulations, and guides clients in understanding the regulatory framework and procurement policies of federal and state agencies. He represents corporations and public institutions in labor and employment litigation and has substantial experience in handling EEOC discrimination cases. His education practice includes advising universities and secondary school districts on crisis management, labor relations, Title IV, VI, and IX, and NCAA compliance matters. He is a nationally recognized lecturer on diversity in higher education and is a frequent speaker at legal conferences.

    Robert L. Clayton focuses his practice in the areas of labor management relations, employment, sports, education, regulatory compliance and government affairs. Mr. Clayton serves as a trusted advisor to technology and energy companies on regulatory and legal matters in privacy and data protection. He routinely counsels clients in policy development and regulatory compliance under HIPAA and FERPA, COPPA with a focus on cloud provider services. His government affairs practice guides clients in understanding the regulatory framework and procurement policies of federal and state agencies with oversight for secondary and higher education and healthcare. Mr. Clayton provides expert advice on the impact of proposed policy changes and FAQs to advance business objectives.


    After Harvard, Ron attended Stanford Medical School, and the Berkeley School of Public Health. Then, for 25 years, he was Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. Ron helped create the specialty of pediatric emergency medicine, in part with publication of five different first edition textbooks in conventional hard copy format, over 15 years. Clinical practice had been a huge passion and driving force during that early career.

    Then, he became disenchanted with the written word. Every book was out-of-date at the time of publication! And who would ever carry around a heavy, dusty textbook on rounds?! Instead, Ron envisioned something quite different—a project that wound up taking him a far cry from clinical medicine and academic pursuits at UCSF. He envisioned an updatable, expandable and scalable digital platform, built primarily for instant mobile phone access at the patient’s bedside. In 2003, he founded a software company to develop an interactive pediatric software program. He named it PEMSoft; it was the first virtual pediatric knowledge system. Life after PEMSoft turned in a new, quite different direction.

    But his biggest life change did not revolve around commercial software development; it was about entering the nonprofit world and global health. After release of the first for-profit version of PEMSoft in 2005, Ron gifted the software to colleagues in Hanoi, Vietnam. The experiment was an unexpected success and Ron surmised that physicians worldwide, almost all of whom owned mobile phones, would benefit from virtual access to comprehensive, up-to-date medical information. Back in California, he founded KidsCareEverywhere (KCE), a nonprofit charity, to donate the software and empower doctors in the under-resourced world. And his wife Patty Gates, a lawyer by training, became a vital and inspiring part of his day-to-day activities.

    In 2013, PEMSoft was acquired by EBSCO, a multi-national information services company in Ipswich, MA, and EBSCO has generously supported continued donations of the software through KCE since then. Over 18 years, KCE has gifted millions of dollars in medical software to doctors in public hospitals in 25 countries on three continents: Africa, South America and Asia and trained over 10,000 doctors. 75 missions to remote locations have converted Ron’s life to something unimaginable a few decades earlier--engaging his entire family (two daughters served as program directors for KCE), amassing lots of frequent flyer points, and turning his thoughts far from clinical practice. Many of these thoughts evolved from observations of massive disparities in access to medical information between the under-resourced world and the Western world—a digital divide that he is now hoping to help bridge.


    Anne did various things in her 20s, got a law degree but found her home in journalism in Wyoming (far from Illinois-Kentucky upbringing). Became editor-in-chief of statewide paper, left after 15 years due to conflict with publisher, created university classes and lecture series on natural resource issues, helped start and oversee online investigative news site for the state…and a free early childhood program in her town. Lots of travel with husband and young child. Got PhD to add rigor to those natural resource thoughts; wrote book for non-lawyers on Wyoming water law and management history. Now a “consultant in public discussion of natural resource issues” – some income, sometimes, plus backpacking and traveling.


    Born in Manhattan, Lindsey grew up in Westport, CT and has been living in Massachusetts since 1989 and on Cape Cod since she began living as a woman in 2002. After stints at a large corporate law firm in Baltimore, with Mobil Oil and with a large firm in Worcester, MA, she has been a solo practitioner on the Cape for the past twenty years. Life since her transition has been good. She enjoys spending time with her 40-year-old non-identical triplet sons (all in New England) and her 6-year-old granddaughter, cooking, golfing, choral singing and serving as a lay minister at her church.

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