by Nat Frothingham
Alden Guild was remembered and honored on May 20 at a memorial service at Norwich University’s White Memorial Chapel, then with a military internment at the Norwich University Cemetery. Following the internment there was a luncheon reception at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier.
Guild, who lived a long life — rich with family, friends and achievements — died on January 13, 2017 at the age of 87. He was a Montpelier resident for almost 60 years.
Among his many credits, Guild was a Dartmouth College graduate, a Korean War veteran and a University of Chicago Law School graduate. For more than three decades, Guild was an attorney in the law department of National Life Insurance Company, rising to the position of Senior Vice President and General Counsel. After his retirement from National Life, Guild was “Of Counsel” at the Montpelier law firm McKee, Giuliani & Cleveland.
Sheldon Prentice, also an attorney, who was Guild’s friend for more than 50 years, delivered the eulogy at the luncheon reception.
Prentice began by remembering exactly when — as a seven-year-old boy — he had first met Alden. “Alden and I first met in 1957,” he said as he began speaking.
At the time of their first meeting, Guild was 28 years old. By then he had graduated from Dartmouth College and served for almost three years in the U.S. Air Force with a tour of duty in Korea during the Korean War, that lasted more than a year. He also had earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. And he had met his future wife, Ruth Creighton at Dartmouth and they married in 1957, sharing, as their daughter Heather said, “nearly 60 wonderful years together.”
Even as a seven-year-old, Prentice had a sharp memory of Guild from that first meeting in 1957, saying, “Alden cast a dashing figure in his bow tie and with his intellectual demeanor. My father, a Dartmouth alum, had invited Ruth and Alden over to dinner. Alden had moved to Montpelier to serve in the law department of National Life. Little did I know at the ripe old age of seven how many ways my life would intersect with Alden.”
And intersect it did. In 1967, 10 years after that first meeting, when Prentice was looking to graduate from Montpelier High School, he applied for admission to Dartmouth College. As part of the application process, Prentice had a face-to-face interview with a three-member team of Dartmouth graduates. Alden Guild was one member of that team.
Later — although he was not a participant — Prentice became aware of a Dartmouth College program inspired by Guild’s Class of 1952 that enlisted Dartmouth Class of 1972 graduates to mentor deserving students from underprivileged circumstances.
In 1980, Prentice who had been working at a New York City law firm — wanted to get back to Montpelier and Vermont, and once again Guild was one of a number of people who helped Prentice make a transition to National Life.
“By this time,” Prentice added, “Alden was Deputy General Counsel (at National Life) and soon became General Counsel.”
The two men increasingly were bonded by their active involvement in Dartmouth alumni affairs. Guild included Prentice at dinners and events with fellow classmates of his Class of 1952. Later, Guild became the recipient of the Dartmouth Alumni Award, which is awarded to three or four alumni each year who had given notable service to Dartmouth, their profession and their community.
Years later, Prentice himself became a recipient of the Dartmouth Alumni Award and said as part of his eulogy, “I thank Alden for putting me in the position where I could also earn that award and I always looked to Alden as a role model to others.”
Also speaking at the luncheon reception was Guild’s daughter, Heather Guild. In what she said, she attempted to get beyond her father’s formidable list of career and community service achievements — to the man himself. “People tended to know the resume, but not always the story behind it,” she said.
Since her father’s death in January, Heather and her mother Ruth had received many sympathy cards, that she said, “beautifully expressed what we knew to be true about Alden Guild (also known as Aldy, Bid and Dad).
“And,” she continued, “He had a wonderful sense of humor, epitomized loyalty, exemplified dedication, was a great mentor, was a talented lawyer, was smart beyond the law and so on. But one phrase came up over and over: Alden was ‘one of the good guys.’ And those five words would have made him smile, because being a ‘good guy’ was at the core of everything he said and everything he did as a father, a husband, a friend, an uncle, a cousin, a brother and a son.”
Beyond his many professional and public achievements, did they know Alden as “the little boy hugging his lifelong best friend, his brother Warren?” Did they know that as a 10-year-old child he wrote a postcard that his mother mailed to his father, who was away on business, with this postcard message, “Dear Daddy, I miss you. Mommy is starving me. But I am alright. Your Son, Adly.”
This was the same Alden who was nicknamed “Two Beer Bid” by his Dartmouth fraternity brothers because that was all it took “to make finding his nose with his index finger more challenging than a mid-term history exam.”
That same Alden, or Bid, as a Dartmouth upperclassman got his fraternity Theta Chi, to drop out of the national chapter, “because it refused to let Jews or Blacks join.”
And when Alden learned that one of his friends “was called up for a second tour (of duty) during the Korean War,” said Heather, “he knew what he needed to do even if it would break his mother’s heart.” He was a Dartmouth junior, but he took a break from college, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served for almost three years.
During his time in Korea, his daughter said, he kept a diary for the “one year, one month and 13 days” of his tour of duty there. According to Heather, “He rose from Private First Class to Staff Sergeant, and pretty much kept his unit running smoothly.”
He also saw and experienced, viscerally, some of the dark sides of war and took leftover food from the Air Force mess to feed the children at the orphanage. When he was on leave, he bought clothes for the children instead of vodka.
His daughter Heather said it was probably her father’s “modesty, humor and wit that made us enjoy his company so much.”
Heather called her father “the consummate professional.” But when her business school classmates accepted an invitation to pay a visit to the Lake Mansfield Trout Club near Stowe, Alden entertained them by balancing a spoon on his nose.
At National Life, after Guild published three very well received books on specific aspects of stock purchases, partnership and close partnership law, he was given top billing as the author of this trilogy. According to his daughter Heather, the three books can still be ordered from Amazon for $8.99 plus shipping.
But Alden wanted to be absolutely certain that his authorship claims would be preserved intact. How did he make this happen? Here’s what Heather revealed. “Only a handful of people ever knew that the first letter in the first 10 paragraphs of the first chapter in ‘Business Partnership Purchase Agreements’ spell out A-L-D-E-N G-U-I-L-D.”
Attorney Paul Giuliani Talking about Alden Guild
At the May 20 luncheon reception, Paul Giuliani, a fellow attorney and friend of Alden Guild, told this story.
“I had been approached with a (career) opportunity that most lawyers would have committed a felony to achieve,” said Giuliani.
“I wrestled with it.” “I’ll get back to you,” he said to the people making the offer. And yet Giuliani found himself “really conflicted.” “I talked to Alden,” Giuliani said. Alden’s reply was this, “Six months from now would you be happy?” Giuliani replied, “Probably not.”
He declined the offer. “That was the best non-decision I ever made,” said Giuliani, looking back on that brief exchange.
Then Giuliani spoke more broadly about Alden. “He had an incredible intellect. He was able to wade through all the clutter, the chaff, and diversions — and focus on the underlying principle.”
“He was a very, very bright guy, a funny guy, a real joy to be around. He was hilarious. He could tell stories until the tears came to your eyes.”
Then Giuliani added, “His lifestyle was unpretentious. He had a modest house, a modest car. He was an institution.”