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Profiles: Rick Caras '71

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Rick Caras '71

After graduation, Rick Caras ’71 knew exactly what he didn’t want: more school. It’s not that he didn’t love Bowdoin, but after pulling all-nighters and living in dorms, Rick says, “I needed a break from studying and being a student.” This decision eliminated graduate school but didn’t provide many alternatives, and so Rick took to the streets. Literally. After a few days of going door-to-door introducing himself to various businesses, Rick landed a job at the Shawmut Bank in Boston, a position for which he felt “ill-prepared,” given his background as a history major who had “dabbled” in economics. Despite his initial hesitation Rick soon became completely immersed in the world of finance, working 60-70 hour weeks on Wall Street. As he tells the story now: “I got attracted to the ‘dark side’ and stayed there.”

One day in 1997, Rick experienced sharp leg pain on his way home from a business trip, but didn’t think too much of it and simply poured himself a martini when he got in.Twenty-four hours later, Rick lay in the hospital, paralyzed from the chest down, and remained immobile for a month. Rick was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a very rare neurological disease that affects only 2,000 people per year. After an initial period of denial, Rick focused his mental energy on making an unexpected full recovery, and returned to work at Morgan Stanley, still reliant on heavy doses of pain medication.

Somehow, the dark side wasn’t as appealing the second time around, and after a little over a year, Rick made a tough decision: “I stepped back and said ‘OK, I’m going to retire, [and] get back to what I dreamed about.’” For Rick, this meant writing his first novel, a financial thriller entitled Stealth Empire. As a high school student, he wrote poetry and short stories, and his writing flourished at Bowdoin where he took several creative writing courses with thoughts of becoming a novelist. Stealth Empire was Rick’s first step toward achieving the goals of his youth; however, immediately after he began the project, Rick was diagnosed with cancer.

While undergoing chemotherapy, Rick refused to succumb to depression, and used his writing as a distraction. “I put myself into the world I was writing about…if you’re looking down at the grass blades, then it’s OK.” Rick believes that this optimism played a large part in his miraculous recovery. “It all depends on how you deal with the crisis at hand,” he says, “you’ve got to play it as best you can.” Rick’s book, now finished and ready for release in April by Durban House Press, is an accomplishment Rick is extremely grateful for.“Would I have started writing without this wake-up call? I don’t have an answer for that,” he says of his illness. One thing he does know, “the road over the last ten years is a story of a cup half full. I’ve been given the chance to return to what I always loved.” Look for Stealth Empire at Amazon.com. 

Posted February 01, 2007