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My Regrets

Updated on July 7, 2020
jackclee lm profile image

Before retiring, Jack worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.


Whether we admit it or not, we all have regrets. It is a human trait to feel regret for some past wrongs. Both intentional or unintentional acts, regrets are one way to deal with them. It starts by recognizing what was done wrong and then making an effort to amend.

- Nov. 2018

updated 7/2020


After my retirement, I had more time to reflect. I also had more time to do some of the things I always wanted. One of the thing is volunteering. It is both a way to give back and also a selfish move. By volunteering you time and energy for a cause, you are rewarded with a good feeling, better self esteem and joy.

One recent event prompted me to join our school‘s alumni organization. I was a graduate of CCNY, class of 1974, and decided to join the Asian Alumni board. This was not my first attempt to participate in a non profit organization. 15 years earlier, I was asked to run for our local parish council. To my surprise, I won one of the seat. It was a three year commitment and I attended monthly meetings and supported some of the church activities. My biggest contribution was establishing a website for our parish. This was the early days of the internet and the web was just becoming in vogue. To this day, it is still active and the parish staff update this site weekly with the latest news and calendar and bulletin.

Getting back to my current story, I did not know what to expect joining an alumni group. I only knew our school has been going through some rough times and financially it is facing a huge shortfall. there was a recent scandal that forced the President of the College to resign. It created a very bad atmosphere and donations to the school went down significantly.

Being the new kid on the block, I wanted to make a difference. The board has about 12 members. Four of the mebers are officers while one is a faculty advisor and I was one of the other seven members. Some of the members never come to the meeting and I never met them. Attending the meeting is also a secretary and usually the Executive Vice President of the Alumni Organization. He runs the overall alumni organization. He has been there almost 30 years and knows the place backward and forward.

My regret was not understand thr organization first before jumping in with both feet.


I won’t go into too much detail but suffice to say, I started on the wrong foot with the VP. He took offense to my comments and suggestions. He was running the place for a long time, through good times and bad, and here comes a new kid (though I am not a kid in age, being 66 years old), telling them what they are doing wrong.

I mended my ways with him and the group and we are on good terms now. However, I can’t help but think of what could have been.

My bigger regret was not getting involved earlier in my life. Of couse, we all had excuses with jobs and family and other more pressing commitments. However, thinking about it now, I had no right to criticize the group for doing its job, however so poorly. At least, they stepped up and were engaged and trying their best.

If I had been involved 10 years earlier, who knows what may have been. The school went through a terrible period since I graduated. After 1974, open enrollment took its toll on the college. Standards went down, some professors left or retired, funding became a problem and they had to institute tuition where before it was the only free higher eduation around.

The physical education program was elliminated which caused a decline in the varsity sports program. Like a domino, one thing lead to another and now the school is a shell of what it once was.

Good Intentions...

The road to hell is paved with good intntions... I guess if you had to blame anyone, it would have been the good intentions of those in charge at CUNY. They wanted to extend the success of the free education program In NYC to include all people that wish to attend college. It was a colossal failure. The experiment went bad and it took many years to recover. Some things were lost forever. That is a shame.

What Could One Individual Do?

Let me recap what happened in just one year.

  • I started an adhoc group called Friends of CCNY Fencing.
  • We raised some funds and donated some needed equipment to the Women’s Varsity Team.
  • I created a website to keep our members informed of events and activities...
  • I organized a reunion dinner where over 12 people attended.
  • I help organized a reunion Alumni Fencing match where one of our past team members returned to give his life story - how he went from a kid from NYC becoming the World Champion in Veteran Sabre Fencing...
  • I wrote an article for the Beaverbeat on the benefits of joining a sports team.
  • I encouraged a fellow teammate to write an article published in the Alumnus magazine.
  • I became a close friend of the editor of that magazine. He became an ally in helping to rebuild our school’s athletic program.
  • I helped organize a dinner honoring one of our teammate who have been volunteering as P/T coach of the current women’s fencing team. It was his 50 anniversary graduating from the college.
  • We just completed a CCNY Fencing Alumni reunion match at Infinity Fencing Alliance club where 17 people attended.
  • We reached several past fencing alumni through the articles in the magazine and they have donated equipment and money to support the team.
  • Our roster of members of CCNY Fencers and Friends have grown to over 40 people.
  • We are in the process of creating a Newsletter to be sent out to all Fencing alumni on a regular basis to inform them of our progress.
  • I joined and became a board member of the Asian Alumni group.
  • I joined the Fencers Club and got back into fencing and I am building an archive for the club.
  • I am working on nomination one of our teammate to the Athletic Hall of Fame next year.

2018 Fencing Reunion

1973 Summer...6 of the 7 Reunited Above in 2018 - Can you spot the 6 rascals?

What are the Odds?

Among the 17 people gathered, there are 3 World Veteran Fencing Champions and 4 members of the CCNY Athletic Hall of Fame members. What are the odds?

Six of the 17 were on the same Varsity Fencing team back in 1973.

Among the 12 CCNY Alumni that showed up, there were:

5 Engineers, 3 Architects, 1 Doctor, 1 Social Worker, 1 Marketing Exec, 1 Business owner.

What are the odds, after 45 years, we are still together at the same place enjoying each others accomplishments and company and still fencing...?

Life can be strange sometimes. In the table of 10 people attending an Alumni dinner of 350, what are the odds that my table had 2 other fencers, totally unknown to me? They were not athletes at our school but took up fencing for fun and exercise.


Looking back, I cannot believe what we accomplished. In such a short period of time, with a few concerned people, with limited personal resources, and time and passion, we were able to achieve all the above.

The extra benefits of all this, reconnecting with our past teammates after forty plus years. We all grew older and heavier and with white hair and some without hair, and yet, we reconnected as if we were still those young kids on the team. We reminisced about our revered coach and all those stories and the great times we had. We made a decision to stay connected and do this every year. Some traveled from across the nation to make this event. That is real commitment.

The future is bright for our group. We are finding more members by the day. If you do the math, there are 45 years of fencing with members graduating each year. A team consist of 15 members. If a quarter of them graduate each year that is 4 a year. 4 time 45 equals 180 members. That is not even counting the Women’s teams.

My two regrets are not getting involved sooner and making assumptions about the Alumni organization before considering the reality.

© 2018 Jack Lee


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