Mr. Doug Brunt ’89 encourages students to start writing

Mr. Doug Brunt ’89 speaks in an upper school assembly, October 12 – Communications

Alumnus Mr. Doug Brunt ’89 is an author and entrepreneur known for his literary works exploring themes of finance, ambition, and moral complexity. Mr. Brunt has authored novels such as Ghosts of Manhattan and The Means, delving into the intricacies and ethical dilemmas faced by individuals navigating the financial world. 

In addition to his literary pursuits, Mr. Brunt has ventured into entrepreneurship, showcasing a diverse range of interests. His commitment to storytelling, coupled with a keen understanding of contemporary issues, has positioned Mr. Brunt as a noteworthy voice in the literary landscape.

Whether exploring the complexities of human behavior or offering insights into the financial realm, Mr. Brunt’s work continues to captivate readers, inviting them to contemplate the nuanced aspects of the modern world. 

Just three weeks ago, Mr. Brunt spoke to the student body during an assembly. Mr. Brunt dove into the topic of his book, The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I

Rudolph Diesel, the visionary inventor of the diesel engine, disappeared suddenly on a passenger ferry on a calm night at sea on his way to Britain. This nonfiction work sets out to conclude what indeed befell Rudolph Diesel, despite a 100-year-old mystery surrounding his death. 

Mr. Brunt offered many lessons for the student body during his speech and Q&A session afterward. 

“It made me feel hopeful,” Fifth Former Connor Simpkins said of the assembly. “The way he started his career in internet security, but later in his life he was still able to come back to writing, which seemed like something he loved. I think that it shows that you don’t have to completely dedicate yourself to one thing or another. Writing is a skill that sticks with you your whole life, and I think you learn that here, at Haverford.”

While a love for writing can be developed and nurtured at many schools, Haverford emphasizes this process.  

“I think that the Haverford English curriculum has definitely improved my ability to analyze text vastly, compared to my old education,” Fifth Former Noah Kanefsky said. 

Mr. Brunt echoes this sentiment about the emphasis on literary skills at Haverford, while also acknowledging that schools grow and change.

“During my talk at Haverford, I mentioned Mr. Bergh, Mr. Mayock, and Mr. Laserna. Looking at their names in a list like this, I’m struck by what different types of people they were. But one thing they had in common was their dedication to the school and every student who came through there,” Mr. Brunt said. “They knew each kid on a personal level and would have given any amount of extra time, attention, or effort to give any kid a boost who needed one,” 

Mr. Brunt was able to take a tour of the school’s new facilities during his time here, leading to heartwarming flashbacks.

“I have a memory of Mr. Bergh reading a poem to the English class—maybe it was by William Blake—and he was waving his arms and striding around the room as he read to the class, sometimes leaping up on a chair when he felt the poem called for it. It was amazingly theatrical, like a Broadway show or a scene from Dead Poets Society. He was in a flop sweat by the time he’d finished, and of course, had us all in the palm of his hand,” Mr. Brunt said. “Anyone who had Mr. Bergh would remember a moment like this. He brought that kind of passion to the classroom.”

Mr. Brunt also covered his book-writing process, which he was able to complete due to the literary foundation he had built during his time here. 

“When a student is engaged, sometimes the best thing to do is get out of the way.”

Mr. Doug Brunt

“Schools need to find a balance between taking students through a demanding curriculum while offering the freedom to act on their curiosity,” Mr. Brunt said. “Haverford managed not to be a homework factory. The academics were rigorous, but there was flexibility within the curriculum so that students could pursue the things that piqued their interest. The main goal of any school is to promote curiosity and a love of learning. When a student is engaged, sometimes the best thing to do is get out of the way.”

Not only are the literary skills taught at Haverford essential to convey ideas, but the organization and thought process behind it are also important. 

“Haverford taught me how to write well,” Mr. Brunt said. “Whether we’re writing to persuade, explain, or entertain, how we organize our thinking and communicate makes all the difference. Good coaching and lots of practice go a long way. One of the great things about Haverford is that every teacher and coach (not just the English teachers) works with the students to help them become good thinkers.”

 Teachers at Haverford from all fields cannot stress enough the importance of verbal and written communication to get a point across. Many even try to build it into their curriculum, whether that be through essays or lab reports. 

“I think [writing] is perhaps the most important single academic skill that we as a school give to you, the students,” history teacher Mr. Timothy Lengel said. 

While writing, especially longer works, may seem like a daunting task to those who seek to begin, in the eyes of Mr. Brunt, the first step is all it takes. 

“The biggest challenge was getting started…reaching the moment of first putting pen to paper for the first time with a book in mind.”

Mr. Doug Brunt

“The biggest challenge was getting started, and I mean that in the most basic sense—reaching the moment of first putting pen to paper for the first time with a book in mind,” Mr. Brunt said. “So now I give that same advice all the time: just start writing. Hopefully one of these times the person I say this to will be ready to hear it.”

Whether a Haverford student looks to write a short poem for Pegasus or a longer piece for history class, many tools are available for their success. In fact, Mr. Brunt is a living example of this. 

“Everyone has a unique style that they develop over time…But there is no getting around the fact that the barrier to entry for all of this is that the writer must put words on the page, then pages on the pile. So, however, you get to your desk (or to the back seat of an Uber, or wherever you find the time to do it), and by whatever unique style works for you,” Mr. Brunt said. “My advice is to start writing.”