Bob Whitehead - Class of 1968

By Jill Snowdon

Can you recall where you were when a key moment in history unfolded? Do you remember who you were with when something significant took place?

The impact of world-changing events often stay with us forever.

Bob Whitehead ’68 felt a rush of emotion when he stepped on campus for Alumni Weekend on May 5, 2018.

The California resident was back in town to celebrate the 50th reunion with his classmates. He served as the convocation speaker and shared memories of his time at Sem. He spoke about the impactful moment that happened as he left the dining hall on April 4, 1968.

“I remember walking in front of Darte Hall with Wally Johnson, a black kid from D.C., when he told me that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed in Memphis,” Whitehead said.

“I didn’t know how big of a moment that was at the time, nor did I understand the impact it would have on my life, much less Wally’s. But since then I have probably listened to that ‘I Have A Dream’ speech a thousand times and every time, I think of that walk from the dining hall back to my dorm room when Wally told me – with tears in his eyes – that Dr. King was dead.”

Whitehead went on to become a successful businessman, live in 19 different cities in the United States and abroad, and start three of his own companies. The recent Alumni Weekend was the second time Whitehead returned for a reunion and a walk through campus. He spoke about the most noticeable changes since graduating 50 years ago - entrepreneurialism, the rise of the internet, and how talking politics is no longer comfortable even in social circles.

The weekend served as a reminder of how being a student at Sem benefitted him throughout his career and helped him evolve in every aspect of his life.

“We have managed to adapt and not just survive, but succeed. For me, that had a lot to do with the three years that I spent on this campus,” Whitehead said in his convocation speech. “Sem taught me, somehow, above all else, that I should not be afraid. I was taught that when I had a shot at accomplishing something special, I should go for it.”