WPI Wire, Vol. 10, No. 2 - Summer 1996

Seaberg retires as director of special admissions

Back in 1962, Roy A. Seaberg Jr. '56 had to make a career decision: should he opt for a post as a sales manager with a New England company or accept the invitation of the late Warren Zepp '42, alumni secretary, to join him as assistant secretary of the WPI Alumni Association? Seaberg, who retired as director of special admissions June 30, says the best decision of his life was to throw in his lot with WPI.

"I've loved every minute on the Hill," Seaberg reports. "Over the years I've had the privilege of helping students around the world mold their futures. And, as executive secretary of the WPI Plan Committee, I was also able to help my alma mater reshape its future. Exciting times!"

After receiving his B.S. in mechanical engineering, Seaberg was a field secretary for two years for Phi Gamma Delta‹the first Fiji from the WPI chapter selected as field representative for the fraternity. In addition, he served as area advisor from 1958 to 1966 and assisted in raising money to renovate the chapter house. In 1958, following a tour with the U.S. Army, he became a manufacturer's rep for Stewart Miller Associates of Needham, Mass., a firm representing manufacturers of hydraulic equipment.

His background in advising and industry and as a loyal alumnus stood him in good stead when he joined the WPI staff in 1962 as assistant secretary of the Alumni Association. His initial responsibilities included compiling and writing material for the WPI Journal, arranging reunions, and speaking at alumni chapter meetings throughout the country. In 1969 he was named assistant director of admissions; he was promoted to associate director of admissions in 1973 and to director in 1980.

In 1984 Seaberg was appointed director of special admissions‹ a jet-setting ambassador for the Institute who might find himself speaking to high school students in China on Monday and in Turkey on Tuesday. "It was my job to spread the story of WPI around the globe," he says.

With the assistance of staff members and alumni in foreign lands, he spread the word well. Today there are students on campus from 63 different countries‹and the number is growing.

Seaberg found that a globe-trotter has to expect the unexpected. On one trip, it took him 44 sleepless hours to go from Canton, China, to Worcester via a train trip to Hong Kong, a flight to Los Angeles, a couple of "red-eyes," and a drive home from Rhode Island. He was also surprised in his travels to learn that verbal SAT scores in Singapore were higher than in the U.S. (English is the official language of Singapore.)

He has enjoyed working with potential students, whatever their homeland. He has especially liked interacting with students one-on-one. Not only has he helped them through the admissions process, he's assisted them in their search for financial aid.

"The payback has been that a number of students and alums have expressed their gratitude to me for helping to set them on the right career path," he says. "It's gratifying to hear you've been instrumental in making lives better."

Along the way there were a few embarrassing moments, including the day Seaberg, through an office mix-up, told a freshman candidate on the phone she had been accepted-- only to find out moments later she had not. He decided to keep silent. Four years later the student graduated with distinction. "So much for placement tests," he says with a chuckle.

Seaberg is justifiably proud of the part he played in the development of the WPI Plan. "The birth of the Plan heralded the fact that WPI was at last leaving the Victorian Age," he says. "Changes in attitudes, procedures and the curriculum were in the wind. "However, it's important to remember that most of the Plan initiators were not young Turks, but the old guard of the college. They helped keep the 'revolution' on campus orderly and calm."

In addition to serving on the Plan Committee, Seaberg had other WPI interests, including Skull, the senior honor society. Winner of the N.Y.C. Junior Golf Championship in 1952, he coached the WPI golf team to two undefeated seasons between 1963 and 1970. He was a former president of the Worcester County Alumni Council, a representative to the Alumni Council, and a member of the Trustee Search and Pub committees. He served on the Nominating Committee for 20 years, and currently serves on the Citations Committee of the Alumni Association. He says he became active in campus affairs because of the values of loyalty he learned as a student at Poly Prep Country Day School in New York and at WPI. "One loyalty feeds the other," he explains.

Now happily retired, Seaberg may often be seen attired in his trademark plaid pants at the Sterling (Mass.) Country Club, where he is a member of the board of governors and a past vice president. He says his future plans include golfing wherever it's warm and the sun is shining.

Asked for his opinion of the growth he's seen on campus since he entered WPI as in 1952, Seaberg is most candid. "It's my feeling," he answers, "that although the WPI seal has the right motto, 'lehr und kunst,' [learning and skilled art], the rejected motto, 'pauca fideliter' [a few things faithfully], should also be kept in mind. As David Reisman, Harvard professor emeritus of sociology, said at the 25th Anniversary Banquet, the word 'Polytechnic' in our name has protected us and prevented a deterioration of quality. I believe we need to be very careful about overexpansion."

Ruth Trask

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