Sean Doyle sat in the corner at our first proctor meeting. He was the only southern Californian in the group of about 20, and like the rest of us, he could hardly believe what he was hearing. Rob, our proctor, was outlining the punishments for breaking various rules; the worst things warranted expungement.
"Praised my hand and asked 'What does "expunge" mean?'" Doyle recalls. "I figured I was in trouble, I didn't know what 'expunge' meant."
But nobody else did, either. It means being expelled and erased from Harvard's records, and a sign went up on the door of Hurlbut I soon after: "We Love Expunge Cake."
Unlike the rest of us, Sean was never really in awe of Harvard. A graduate of Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, where he lettered in three sports, Doyle says. "I thought Harvard was in Connecticut." Recruited to play volleyball, a quintessentially Californian sport that has hardly taken hold in beachless Cambridge, he had never even seen Harvard until he arrived on September 9, 1981. He was, he recalls, "the ultimate California kid."
He looks back on it now, shakes his head. "Being from California, at Harvard, is a trick," says the California kid. But that's not the whole story. He has, over four years, come to incorporate the stereotypes of the Harvard Mar and the California Kid, and wears both hats with equal ease.
"I still say I'm stoked," he smiles. "I'm stoked I came to Harvard."
You can take the kid out of California, but you can't take the California out of the kid.
* * *
The adjustment was a tough one at first. "Everybody thought I should have blond hair and blue eyes--I have brown hair and brown eyes. But I surf--not very well. I play a beach sport. I take things that are not significant lightly." He was not the typical Harvard freshman, if there is such a thing. Three of his four roommates were devoted to academics, but school was never Doyle's biggest concern.
"I think the hardest thing was getting used to the system," he says. Expos was a particular problem. "I got all 'credits'--it goes A, B, C, credit." His teacher called him in and made sure that he was from California and had gone to public school. "I can tell,"' he remembers her saying.
That was one of several times Doyle considered packing it in. He never did. But he did think seriously of transferring back closer to home, to Stanford or UCLA, where his girlfriend was at school. "My first two years here I really regretted not going to UCLA," he recalls. "I was still having a hard time getting used to the different culture out here--the people--and the weather."
Climate was definitely a problem. On the first beautiful, crisp fall day of freshman year, he got up for a 10 a.m. class with only a few minutes to spare, saw the sun, pulled on shorts, and left. By the beginning of Moral Reasoning lecture at 11, he was turning blue from the cold. "I was so pissed--so pissed. And I still get caught."
* * *
When rooming forms were due, Hurlbut I went its separate ways. Doyle and Doug Johnson wound up in Leverett, along with John Krusz, Mickey Maspons, Pete Mielach and Jeff Musselman.
It was a good move. The group, five of whom were varsity athletes, instinctively got along and--despite the loss of Doug, who left Harvard during sophomore year--wound up, by all accounts, one of the closest rooming groups anybody knows. "We honestly do everything together," says Doyle. In their large, cluttered common room, the television hardly ever stops, and the mayhem that surrounds it includes competition for the less-than-coveted "Asshole of the Month" award, whose previous winners are commemorated on one wall.