Dana Friedman ‘83

Whale of a Tale

Thirty years ago,
Dana Friedman ’83 graduated from Sewickley Academy with plans to ski, read, write, and discover his passion. “I was leaving behind a C+ average and a letter of recommendation from my favorite English teacher, Paul Kolakowski, informing college admission officers, ‘Dana has yet to find his potential,’” he said.

Dana was confident in exploring potential in the advertising industry upon graduating from Colby College in 1987. But, lacking longed-for glamour in advertising and the terrorist attacks of September 11 encouraged Dana to re-evaluate the worth of his work. Hoping to contribute more significantly through public service, he sought out the training and certifications of becoming an animal control officer. In 2009, he was hired by the Coastal Animal Services Authority, serving San Clemente and Dana Point, California.

Three years later, Dana and his whale rescue team were authorized to assess a situation involving three Pacific gray whales entangled in commercial fishing gear. The team disentangled two of the whales, turning their focus to the third who they named June.

Four hours in, the team began to make significant cuts on June’s entanglement. Because of her health and behavior, rough sea conditions, and the lack of sunlight, the team added a second buoy to the whale and reluctantly let go. June was later set free by a commercial crab fishing crew who had spotted the buoys off of Bodega Bay. Four rescues later, Dana’s team still keeps in touch.

Dana describes his day job as a world apart from what he had planned for himself upon graduating from Sewickley Academy. He recalls this rescue mission as one of his most exciting and rewarding experiences. “I never saw it coming, Mr. Kolakowski, but I am pretty sure I have found my potential,” Dana said.

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Sewickley Academy is a nationally recognized Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in Pre-K through Grade 12 on a single campus.