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This article originally appeared in the fall 2018 issue of STILLPOINT magazine.
Every Thursday night, they dial in from Boston, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. It’s a tradition that Jesse Adams ’11 (left), James Williams ’10 (center) and Joshua Di Frances x’08 (right) have been carrying on for years. The conference call takes priority—they don’t miss it.
“There’s a shared mindset in the way we want to have a greater impact at every level—in our families, our careers and our faith,” says Jesse.
The friends discuss personal and professional aspects of their lives, taking turns sharing new challenges or opportunities they’re facing, and in turn offering wisdom, encouragement and prayer. “We share ideas, advice and relationship networks to help each other better ourselves and grow in our faith and careers,” says Jesse.
Their shared life began with shared street addresses. Jesse and Josh grew up together in Wisconsin. As students, Jesse and James studied abroad together at the University of Edinburgh. (Josh, who transferred to Boston University during his senior year, came to visit.) These on- and-off roommates followed each other from Gordon to Boston and, most recently, to Washington, D.C.
In 2010, the trio moved to Kenmore Square (Boston), where Josh was leading operations for a biotech company before being recruited to help lead healthcare and technology strategic partnerships and investments at CVS Health. James was working for the Pioneer Institute, a think tank focused on state-level economic development issues, and Jesse was interning for former Senator Scott Brown.
A year later, in 2011, James and Jesse celebrated Independence Day by moving to Washington, D.C., where James started with the Lewin Group (an economic consulting firm) and Jesse joined the Republican State Leadership Committee (one of the five national committees for the Republican Party).
In various capacities at the Committee and ultimately as executive director of the subsidiary group, the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, Jesse worked with national- and state-level political leaders—lieutenant governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state and minority and majority legislative leaders—in all 50 states. “While I was there,” he says, “we reached the high-water mark—more Republicans elected than at any time in U.S. history.”
And he carried a bit of Gordon with him through the journey: a briefcase gifted by his mentor and friend, the late Dr. David Lumsdaine (political science). “David profoundly impacted my life,” says Jesse. “He was brilliant with his ideas and how he viewed the world.” After four years in the political arena, Jesse moved back home to Wisconsin in 2015 to grow his family business, Adams Electric, Inc.
Josh eventually left Boston for D.C. in 2017, when he was recruited to serve as deputy director (later executive director) for the Presidential Innovation Fellows—an elite program that pairs talented technologists and innovators from the private sector with top civil-servants and change-makers. The Fellows tackle some of the nation’s biggest challenges, such as innovating better solutions to humanitarian assistance in disasters, improving care and access to benefits for veterans, and re- imagining cancer clinical trials to increase awareness and access for patients.
Around the same time that Josh arrived in D.C., James joined the White House Council of Economic Advisers as a research economist. He offers objective economic advice—specifically focused on health issues and tax reform—to the president to support the formulation of domestic and international policy. As Jesse describes it, James “is working alongside some of the world’s finest economic minds, and much of his work is making it into white papers and informing economic policy.”
For current D.C.-dwellers James and Josh, their work on informing policy and improving technology for citizens transcends politics. “There’s amazing work happening behind the scenes within the government at all times,” Josh says. “I try to always be aware of the scale of what we do and the potential for positive impact.”
James cites advice he received as student body vice president from Chris Carlson, dean of student success: “You need to work within the system to improve governance.” So, James says, “We need to respect and learn from one another even if we disagree on policy issues; together we can ensure the common good.”