For Matt Dittrich ’12, being admitted to Whitman College was nothing short of magical.
Originally from Camas, Washington, Dittrich applied to Whitman at the urging of his family. His grandmother grew up in the Walla Walla area during the Great Depression and viewed Whitman as the top college to go to — if you were smart enough to get in.
“I applied to Whitman just to see if I could get in, with a zero percent chance I could afford it,” Dittrich said. His father worked as a telephone lineman, and his mother worked odd jobs.
He got in. And received the Paul Garrett Scholarship (now known as the Garrett Sherwood Scholarship), which covered all of his tuition.
“Whitman was a gateway to a whole new world. I felt like Harry Potter going to Hogwarts,” he said. “It was a world I’d never fathomed.”
Today, Dittrich functions as an important member of that world. He has served on the Whitman College Alumni Association Board since 2015. In 2018, he became class representative for the Class of 2012.
Dittrich views giving back to Whitman as almost a duty.
“Every major life opportunity I’ve had since Whitman was either directly or indirectly tied to the Whitman community,” he said. “I’ve just been very blessed by the community. That’s the genesis of my ambition to give back, and to continue to be involved as much as I can. I try to, when I can, get involved with just about everything going on that people will let me into the room for.”
Dittrich, who majored in politics at Whitman, serves as a mentor and advisor for current Whitman students, often fielding at least one email a week from students looking for advice. He’s also worked closely with the Student Engagement Center on career-oriented initiatives and events like the first Sophomore Summit in January 2019. He also supports the Summer Fly-In Program, which offers first-generation/working-class students like himself the opportunity to become familiar with Whitman before classes begin.
“One of the great joys in my life is talking to students on the phone,” Dittrich said. “It’s such wonderful joy to give people a little advice, to help them work on their résumé and their storytelling — to help them get launched.”
After graduation, Dittrich earned a business degree from Yale and worked as a consultant at Bain & Company in London, advising technology and private equity firms on four continents. Recently, he helped establish a startup incubator and accelerator called The Fort with Fortive, an industrial growth company located in Everett, Washington. In March 2020, Dittrich launched his own search fund, Blue Wood Capital.
I’m ready to be an entrepreneur,” Dittrich said in an interview with Yale School of Management. “This is exactly what all my personal, professional and academic experience has been leading toward.”
He’s looking forward to staying involved with Whitman, especially as the college moves toward its strategic goals of creating a more inclusive and diverse community.
“Whitman was sort of the gateway to a new world for me. But now it’s more than any other place my home. It’s because of the people and the community,” he said. “There’s a mission I think that’s inherent in all Whitman students to try to make the world a better place. I love being a part of it."