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Neal P. Goldman

Partner at Brigade Capital Management LLC, Class of '91

Why did you become and English major?

As a person who always liked to challenge myself throughout my life, I knew English was an area where I was weak (I guess, that is if you believe verbal SAT scores are a good measure of this—that is debatable!), and I wanted to focus on the weakness. Knowing a limited amount about literature and never having been one who read books for “fun” in my free time, I started taking English Literature classes and found they were unlocking a part of my mind. These courses were the beginning of my becoming a great analytical thinker and helped me better understand life and the complicated world we live in.

How has a literary education contributed to success in your career and/or other aspects of your life?

One of the best kept secrets (and there are many) for English majors at the University of Michigan is that the study of the well-designed curriculum will make you a better businessperson, a better lover and companion, a better parent, and a person who is better able to cope with all the highs and lows you will all face as you go through life.

As I started to think about some of the reasons I have been a successful businessman, parent, and husband, they all came back to themes that I picked up while taking classes in the English Department. What other major allows you to study war, politics, love, death, and character strengths and flaws? As young eager students, you do not realize how lucky you are at this point in life, to have the time and freedom to study English and the classics, and learn from the lessons of some of the greatest minds of all time.

Whether it is John Milton in Paradise Lost teaching his theory of the fortunate fall or Melville in Moby Dick showing us the character flaws of Ahab in his pursuit of revenge—these lessons and the many others I took away had a prodigious impact on my success. Today, I only wish I could take two years off and study them all over again.

Do you ever get nostalgic about going to Michigan?

After going on a business trip to Detroit recently, I was fortunate enough to have a few extra hours that I was able to detour back to Ann Arbor. When I arrived, I immediately got that “high” feeling of excitement that most returning alumni get and reminds of how proud we are to be Wolverines. This trip brought me right back to my first days on campus, where I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to meet new, interesting people and intimidated by the number of course choices and different majors that the University of Michigan has to offer.