The following feature was provided by Judy Bass, a communications specialist for in Lexington.
The peripatetic career of Minuteman High School graduate Rick Lawson illustrates some very useful principles that job-seekers might do well to note, especially in the current unsettled, highly competitive economy.
This outgoing and versatile man creatively utilized the skills he cultivated for one discipline and successfully applied them to other unrelated fields with excellent results. He pinpointed what he loved to do and parlayed that knowledge and enjoyment into a rewarding position, and has been an avid lifelong learner always eager to absorb new information.
“The more I learn, the more I find I have more to learn," said Lawson, now 51. "My graduation from high school was the beginning of my education, but not the end of it.”
Lawson, a resident of Methuen, has held the position of Interpretive Park Ranger at Minute Man National Historical Park since June 2011. He has long had a strong affinity for history. In fact, Lawson is a Colonial re-enactor on Patriots’ Day and at 20 to 25 other events throughout the year. He works with several reenacting groups, he said, but mostly with the Stow Minuteman Company.
Thus, for Lawson, being a Park Ranger who welcomes visitors from across the nation and around the world, educating them about the rich heritage of the 1,000-acre Park, which was established in 1959 and encompasses portions of three communities – Concord, Lincoln and Lexington – is a truly ideal fit.
The road to Lawson’s present job was surely not linear or predictable. His family moved to Acton from New Jersey when Lawson was in junior high school. He was interested in drafting, which offered, so he became a member of the Class of 1979, the new school’s second graduating class in its young history.
However, Lawson always liked cooking, so he eventually wound up taking Culinary Arts instead. It proved to be a momentous choice for him. Not only did Lawson snag a great full-time job during his senior year at Minuteman working five days a week from 3 to 11 p.m. in an industrial bakery, he also honed his customer service skills, came to understand the value of teamwork on the job and blossomed into a bona fide hands-on learner.
The next step on Lawson’s fascinating journey came when he enrolled at Paul Smith’s College in New York’s scenic Adirondack State Park to study hotel and restaurant management. One of the most memorable experiences he had during his student years there, he said, was cooking for athletes at the 1980 Winter Olympics in nearby Lake Placid.
“I pretty much came right back to Massachusetts after Paul Smith's College,” Lawson said. “Then I worked as executive chef of the Blades and Boards Club inside the old Boston Garden for nearly two years, feeding season ticket holders and also doing catering for the sky boxes and for all the concerts, ice shows, etc. I was at every event in the Garden for 1980-1981. We fed the roadies, crew and the artists for the concerts, as well as performers and technicians for the ice shows and the circus. Met a lot of famous people while I was there, but was dealing with them at their most basic human level. They weren't rock stars, athletes or celebrities to me, but rather people who needed to be fed. What's more basic than that?”
But it was yet another interest of Lawson’s that led him away from the hospitality field. He had worked at the student-run radio station while in college, and following up on that experience in the media, he went to Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown for audio visual production.
He landed a job with a small AV company where he remained for 25 years until December 2009, when, due to the company’s financial difficulties, Lawson unfortunately lost his position. As he tells it now, his wife, Mary Ann, wisely told him to “love what you do, do what you love,” a sage piece of advice that got him on the path to his subsequent career move.
Knowing that Lawson loved history, Mary Ann wondered if he could somehow use that interest in a job, which is how he began volunteering at Minute Man National Historical Park. Actually, he gravitated to her suggestion so strongly that Lawson spent more than 600 hours in each of the years 2010 and 2011 volunteering there, assisting the Park Rangers and getting acquainted with the staff.
Finally, he was hired last summer as a Park Ranger himself, tasked with responsibilities such as dealing with the public, giving talks on topics like Colonial history as well as demonstrations.
In a way, he said, he’s “still very much in the hospitality field,” especially since he was asked to conduct educational programs for students visiting the Park. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” he said.
It certainly looks as though Lawson is happily settled in the perfect niche.
“I’m happy to do the Ranger gig until I retire,” he said. “I hope to do this job for many years to come.”