My Experience as a ALI Fellow at Harvard

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Wow! It’s hard to find the right words to express one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I just completed the first phase as a Fellow in the Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI) at Harvard. This program is a new stage in higher education, designed to prepare experienced leaders to take on new challenges in the social sector, where we can potentially make an even greater societal impact than we do in our careers. The final stage of ALI features presentations by each Fellow on our individual projects, which we hope will make a difference in the world. In November, I will fly back to Harvard and present my project. In the meantime, we will work on developing and fine tuning our projects. I’ll share the details of my proposed project in my next post.

For now, I want to tell you about this awesome experience of living in Cambridge, Massachusetts and attending Harvard. Karla and I moved to Cambridge on January 22, 2015, into an apartment neither of us had seen. I was a nervous wreck, because that last time we rented a place sight unseen was in Atlanta in 1983. The picture of the place didn’t match what we found in person in 1983, so this experience brought up bad flashbacks. But we were pleasantly surprised with our small apartment in Kendall Square, Cambridge.

I was still in disbelief that I was attending Harvard and Karla and I were moving away for 4 months. I know God was directing me to this program and this experience. Here’s why I feel this to be the case; I was looking at a magazine in June 2014 and saw an ad for the Harvard ALI program. It was late in the application process but the deadline hadn’t passed yet. I said, “why not apply? It sounds interesting and I probably won’t get accepted anyway.” I didn’t tell anyone that I had applied so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I didn’t get accepted. The application process was moving forward, and by late August or early September, it was starting to look like I would be accepted as a Fellow in the ALI program. So in September, I told my wife about this opportunity. She just smiled and said, “we are a team and we are life partners, so if you get in, let’s do it.” In the interview process, I told them that I had a week in March when I had to go to Honduras with a group for a working mission trip. It just so happened that the mission trip and spring break were the same week. I said, “God, you are making this happen.”

I had been planning for the last two years to promote Ike Tiggs to President of CD Moody Construction. Ike accepted the position and was doing a great job. Once again I said, “God, you want me to go to Harvard.” I got accepted despite applying towards the end of the application process, spring break was during the time I wanted to go to Honduras on a mission trip, I had picked an excellent person to serve as President of the company and Karla was supportive. So I knew God was leading me to take this opportunity. Now I had to mentally adjust, which was a little tougher than I anticipated.

I was leaving the business I started from scratch in 1988, I was leaving our home, our adult kids, our church, the organizations I was involved with and everything else I had known for the last 32 years. We were going without a car and living in a small apartment like when we first got married. I would be busy and Karla would be in a place that she didn’t know anyone or the area. We arrived with no car and had to go to the grocery store by cab, and I thought, “Lord, did I hear you right?” Then the worst snow in over 100 years starts falling in Boston, and I thought, “Lord, did I hear correctly?” My anxiety was starting to kick up because I started feeling like I had made a horrible mistake and ruined everything by moving us.

I was so wrong in those thoughts, because this turned out to be an incredible experience. When my anxiety started kicking up I said to myself, “If I have the faith I claim to have, then I need to just go with the flow and see where this journey takes us.”

We lived one block from the Charles River and one and a half blocks from the subway station. We found a service called Peapod that delivers groceries to the apartment front door. We quickly fell in love with urban living. We loved not having a car and we walked everywhere or took the subway. There was no fast food restaurants around, but plenty of good restaurants within walking distance. We loved our little apartment and felt as if we were newlyweds again, dreaming about the next phase of life.

The energy and classes at Harvard was an unbelievable experience. It quickly became freeing and liberating for me. It was neat being invisible; no one knew me and they didn’t care. I was just another student. I quickly adjusted to college life and became the free spirit I was always wanted to be in my life. After the first few weeks, I stopped shaving and grew my first beard of my life. I let my hair grow for the first time in 20 years and realized that I’m going bald on top of my head. But it was ok, I didn’t care how it looked because I looked like any other student. I dressed like a student not wearing suits or sport coats. I only wore comfortable clothes.. I took a class called the history of the New Testament. What a wonderful class! I also took the history of art and architecture of Rome class. This class was held in the Museum of Arts at Harvard. It was so neat to have two days a week after class to roam the museum. My fellow ALI classmates, ALI classes and ALI instructors are awesome.

I have been able to take some incredible pictures during this time. I take so many pictures and share them with others because I want to share the new joy I experience through my camera lens. I have been on my journey of healing for years, and the last few years have been the best part of this journey. My eyes see things like I’ve never seen them before in my life. I’m coming to grips with being a childhood sexual abuse survivor and finally getting deep into true healing. By attending Harvard to soak up the energy and knowledge, I learned to believe that we can make a difference in the world.

I am excited about our construction business, and implementing what I have learned at Harvard to create a project that will help others around the world. This project is long-term and I am working hard to really place trust and faith in God as He guides my steps in this next phase of life. It doesn’t matter what your religion is or if you’re even religious. Just know that we all have a story and we can do something to make this world a better place.

I have a lot more to share but this post is already long enough. Enjoy some pictures and a Youtube video of a typical day at Harvard from this winter.

Check out this video on YouTube:


9 thoughts on “My Experience as a ALI Fellow at Harvard

  1. Great story! I lived in Boston for 12 years and took courses at Harvard while there. I am glad I didn’t know that you were Cambridge because I would’ve tried to connect you and Karla with some good people I know there. But not knowing anyone was the way to go because you got to friend like a freshman again. Peace and blessings, Carl

  2. I have a friend who started commuting to her job in Boston this past fall. She commutes during the week and comes back home on weekends. Many times this past winter, she was stuck one place or the other! Boston is no joke! Congratulations on one more walk of faith.

  3. What an awesome experience Dave! Good for you and Mrs. Karla to listen to Him and DO IT!!

    Caring About Children,

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    “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

  4. Dave, what a wonderful opportunity you’ve seized. I know that God has blessed your endeavor. Keep praying and moving forward.

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