This “30 Under 30” Honoree Really Misses Milano’s

Duncan Dickerson ’14 is a VP in Lazard’s asset management advisory practice and has executed billions in M&A, restructuring, private capital placements, shareholder activism defense and other strategic advisory mandates for conventional and renewable energy companies. Based in Houston, he is also responsible for managing and allocating the office’s junior resources. Dickerson was recently named one of Forbes’s “30 under 30” for his role assisting hydrocarbon producers as they navigate the Energy Transition.

At the College, Dickerson was an Ivy League track-and-field champion and repeat NCAA East Regional qualifier in the hammer throw (he holds the Columbia record), as well as a national qualifier in Parliamentary Debate. While earning an M.B.A. from Rice’s Jones School of Business, he achieved an NCAA D1 conference title in the hammer throw and was an NCAA West Regional qualifier. Dickerson was also recognized in Poets & Quants 2016 “Top MBA’s to Watch.”

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

Overconfident. I was not used to being challenged, I didn’t study in high school and extracurriculars were easy. After a few weeks of football training camp, I found that things were going to be very different at the College. When I started underperforming in practice, I made excuses and blamed the coaches, environment, players, injuries — anything other than accepting that I needed to work to perform at the D1 level. Eventually, I quit football out of frustration. I took the same approach in the classroom and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out.

It wasn’t until my junior year that I learned to approach Columbia with the effort and attitude required to be successful. I don’t think I necessarily became humble but I learned to approach school, sports and relationships in a better way. And with the help of my now-wife, Alex Delaney ’14, I finally have someone to keep my ego in check.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I split my time between a four-person suite in Carman, where I had been assigned to live with my football teammates, and Hartley in the Living-Learning Center, where I spent the majority of my time and overstayed my welcome crashing in my significant other’s suite. While the parties were a lot more fun in Carman, I built lifelong friendships in the LLC. I met Leonard Robinson SEAS ’13 there; he ultimately became the best man in my wedding and is the godfather to my son, Declan. We had a blast playing countless hours of video games and binge watching TV shows — the best foundation for any relationship. However, the lack of AC was much less fun.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

Lit Hum was my favorite Core class by a landslide. I loved the introduction to Western literature and have enjoyed rereading the books since I graduated. Nothing has been more helpful for connecting with older alumni than discussing Lit Hum. I owe my first job offer to being able to speak to Ovid’s Metamorphoses with George Van Amson’74, though I’m sure it was more of a pop quiz than a discussion.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

This might be a little taboo, but there is a floor in Hamilton where Alex and I would climb out onto the ledge overlooking the LLC grounds and the lawns. We would sit there for hours eating cheese and drinking wine. We loved watching all the activity on campus at night and the amazing sunsets. Fortunately, Public Safety never caught us. The windows are now bolted so they won’t open far enough for people to climb out, but it was a ton of fun while it lasted.

I also loved playing piano in the lobbies of the different dorms; I wish I had a similar setup where I live in Houston.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I don’t have a lot of regrets, but one thing I would have done differently is eat more Milano sandwiches. They are the best deli sandwiches I have ever had and one of the things I miss most about New York. Every time I am back in the city, I make an effort to go up to campus and sit on the Steps with a fresh Milano sandwich. If I could do it over, I would have maxed out my flex account just to eat more of them.