Russell (Toby) D'Oench, III '67
I was sitting at my computer a couple of weeks ago, minding my own business, when Robin Nichols' name flashed up my screen. For those of you who haven't yet met Robin in person or, like me, in virtual space, Robin's duties include tracking down far flung IDS alumni and inquiring into their lives. "Would you mind writing a one page report on what you've done since IDS for the next issue of the Beech Tree Connection?" she asked. Sounded like an obituary. In my case, what I've done since IDS would be a little hard to condense. Nevertheless, I agreed.
I currently live on the upper east side of Manhattan with my wife and companion of 23 years, Tani Takagi, my 12 year old son, Robin, and 7 year old daughter, Miye. I am a partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP (which, for those of you who don't follow law firm league tables, is a very BIG law firm). My practice is devoted principally to the buying and selling of investment management firms, from entrepreneurial leverage buy out fund sponsors, like Thomas H. Lee & Co., to mutual fund behemoths, like INVESCO and AIM.
Home life is devoted year 'round to ice hockey. Both kids play on New York City travel teams (which, for those of you who aren't acquainted with this particular sports cult, means getting up on weekend mornings in time for practices that end as the sun rises and means spending Thanksgiving and President weekend in such faded destination spots as Niagara Falls and Hershey, Pennsylvania). At Christmas time, however, we get out west to ski and in August, we get to Martha's Vineyard (where my son is a regular at the local ice hockey camp). In short, life is pretty close to how I imagined it might be when I graduated from IDS in the spring of 1967.
Life since IDS hasn't always been so predictable and conventional. I spent four years after IDS attending The Lawrenceville School. Just as I started, my younger sister Jennifer slipped into a coma caused by a rare form of encephalitis that she would battle for two and a half years before dying. After Lawrenceville, I spent a year living in Paris and traveling by train through the Soviet Union to Japan and by air through southeast Asia, India and North Africa to New York. Next I spent five years attending, and almost graduating from, Wesleyan (taking another year off shortly before the Soweto uprising in 1976 to create a library within an adult education center run by a Irish Franciscan monk in a black South African township).
During the 13 years following Wesleyan, I founded and ran a foundation in New York City named the North Star Fund, which supported (and still supports) progressive community organizing initiatives in New York City. I later ran the Center for Constitutional Rights, which addressed, among other things, many of the most egregious abuses of executive power by the Reagan and Bush administrations (of late, the Center is playing an important role in examining the Constitutional basis for military tribunals).
Eventually, by the late 1980s, having grown weary of fund raising, I decided to complete my Wesleyan degree (it turned out to be a little tricky finishing a degree some 16 years after starting) and went to Columbia Law School, graduating in 1992. I clerked for a year for a wonderful federal judge, then began my current profession as a corporate lawyer. While I started my latest career later than most, I've never felt as though I had wasted a year along the way.
Robin Nichols asked me to recall, as well, memories of IDS. I remember fondly my friends and my sisters' friends. And I remember, in particular, my English teacher Mr. Peretti. He introduced me, through Shane, to the epic struggle in the American west between dirt farmers and powerful cattle barons. He taught me how to capture the beauty of an old New England gravestone with a crayon and a sheet of paper. He showed me how to build a model sail boat from thin sheets of wood. Mine was painted white, with a red stripe at the water line and a green bottom. His, I remember, was painted a gleaming dark blue, encircled with a white stripe and undercoated in eggshell blue. He was one of several great teachers in my life, constantly engaging with his world, finding wealth and beauty in the most unexpected of places (including, every once and a while, our eighth grade