At Harvard, Richard A. Nenneman `51 wrote his honors thesis on Octavius Brooks Frothingham, a New York religious figure who converted to the Christian Science faith in a search for religion that would not shoehorn him into a specific creed.
A couple years before, Nenneman as a Harvard undergraduate had made the same conversion to what he sees as "a very individualized religion." He was introduced to the faith, with its founding church in Boston's Back Bay, by several of his college friends, and eventually headed the Christian Science group at Harvard.
Along with defining a thesis topic, the conversion in college served to define Nenneman's future career.
After a decade in banking, Nenneman heard from a friend that the Christian Science Monitor was looking for a new financial editor, particularly one who had had experience in the business world. He jumped at the chance.
The decision turned out to be fateful; Nenneman served seven years as business editor of the Monitor, came back as managing editor and finally served as editor in chief of the Monitor from 1988 to 1993.
Nenneman came to Harvard, a scholarship student from Chicago, who despite not coming from an elite New England prep school, felt no academic disadvantage.
But he says he did feel a need to study.
"I always felt under the gun because I was a scholarship student," Nenneman says.
The history concentrator eventually graduated magna cum laude, with little difficulty according to one of his roommates.
"In college he was very bright," says Walker LaBurnerie '51. "He was able to get A's without a lot of work. If there were three questions on an exam, he could always ace one of them."
According to Nenneman, the pressures to carve out a career path in college were less severe than today.
"It was a very relaxed time," Nenneman says. Dating--particularly girls from Wellesley in Nenneman's case--was one chief social activity of the Harvard men of the day.
Relationships however were hindered by the difficulty of entertaining women, as regulations prohibited women visiting men's dorms room, except during the middle of the day.
Nenneman remembers being shocked when his roommate once brought a female up to their bedroom after a dance, even though the two only sat and listened to records.
But during his undergraudate years, another roommate introduced Nenneman to the roommate's sister, Katherine LaBurnerie, over a table at Howard Johnson's.