While back on campus to attend his first Middlesex Board meeting, new Trustee Freddie Pantoja ’85 addressed the school community on September 29 as this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month speaker, generously sharing his own journey to the School, his experience as a student, and his career path in the pharmaceutical industry. Along the way, he also gave students great advice in hopes of preparing them to take advantage of the opportunities that they, too, will encounter at Middlesex and beyond.
Setting his personal story within the context of Hispanic Heritage Month, Freddie first highlighted many leaders with Hispanic heritage in a variety of fields: from Four-Star U.S. Army General Richard Cavazos to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, from artist Frida Kahlo to award-winning composer to performer Lin-Manuel Miranda, and from chef and humanitarian José Andrés to baseball greats Roberto Clemente and Ted Williams. As the son of parents who moved from Puerto Rico to New York City in the 1950s, Freddie proudly stated, “That makes me 100% Puerto Rican, 100% Nuyorican, and 100% American. I wholeheartedly embrace that I’m all of these and more.” He therefore encouraged students to “give deep thought to who you are,” for “who you are is your strength.” At the same time, he added, “But also respect the differences in others because diversity fosters strength and success, and makes us smarter, more innovative, more profitable, and more creative.”
Freddie’s family was not familiar with boarding schools, but because he was an excellent student, he received a scholarship from the program A Better Chance and was invited to visit Middlesex. “The minute I saw this beautiful campus and met with some administrators, faculty, and students, it was love at first sight,” he recalled, adding that the opportunity to enroll “changed my life – and for that I’m grateful.”
His thirst for knowledge, work ethic, and enthusiastic, broad engagement made for a smooth transition, and thanks to the friendship and support of fellow students, his advisor, and especially Headmaster David Sheldon, “Middlesex became my family away from home,” Freddie said. Believing that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” as the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, Freddie encouraged students to “build your skills, knowledge, experiences, connections, and credentials” to be prepared for or even create opportunities.
He also urged students to challenge themselves, to “push past the limits of your comfort zone.” Doing so as a math major “with a heavy dose of computer science” at Cornell connected Freddie with an oncology researcher who wanted to computerize his patient files. That job opportunity eventually led to a successful career, and today, Freddie manages the global alliance partnerships at Immunovant, a biopharmaceutical company focused on enabling normal lives for patients with autoimmune diseases.
“You will be successful – of this I have no doubt,” Freddie said, “but also aspire to be a good person, to be altruistic.” Active in volunteer activities at Middlesex, Freddie later co-founded a summer program at his church to provide children with instruction in music, computers, art, woodworking, and sports – helping youngsters in his community as a way of repaying the unwavering support he received from his family, friends, colleagues, and many others. “I’ve thrived by working hard and staying focused, being prepared for opportunities, accepting daunting challenges, and leaning on my resources,” he stated, “but this support has been the wind beneath my wings.”
In closing, Freddie urged students to cherish “each remaining moment” of their time at the School. “I love Middlesex and hope that years from now, you can speak as highly about the School and your experience as I do,” he said.