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Good news: a success story

Friends, I want to tell you a story about an amazing woman I met, many years ago, when I was still in college. This young woman was super smart and funny. And more importantly, she was one of the kindest and most compassionate people I knew. And beautiful. We got set up on a blind date and I quickly fell in love.

We dated for five weeks, but she was leaving soon for Moscow and neither of us thought it could last. Hard to believe, but back then, when somebody left the country there was no easy way to stay in touch. We wrote airmail letters. And I became one of the few people on my campus who used email. She found a public computer she could wait in line to use, and we managed to correspond once a month.

After she returned to the US, I convinced her to come work with me at a summer camp in Vermont and we had one day a week together. I loved her gentle thoughtfulness, her magnanimity, able to listen to anyone with empathy and draw them out and make them feel like the most important person in the room.

We returned to college. She was at Bryn Mawr and I was in school ten miles away. We still only saw each other once a week but we talked almost every day on the phone. My dorm had only one phone for the entire floor, but it had a 30-foot cord so I could pull it down to our quad and hog the hall phone for an hour. She was not only caring but ambitious — a double major in Russian and political science, and a leader of the college environmental group and an editor of the campus paper. We’d often talk late at night as she sat editing in the newspaper office.

After we graduated, we spent the summer living in my parent’s rustic cabin on a lake in Michigan. We cooked and swam and played games and worked in a Birkenstock store. We had no running water, no deadlines, and no idea what we wanted to do with our lives.

I got a job back in Vermont and she landed an internship for an environmental group in DC called ISAR. It was hard to go our separate ways but she was always intrepid and went fearlessly off on her own. She took everything in stride — new job, new city, new housemates — even getting mugged her first week in Washington didn’t faze her for long.

She started working her way up through ISAR — from intern to assistant to office manager to editor of their magazine. She was always a hard worker, although somehow she always found time to help everyone around her as well.

When I returned to the US after a year in India and China, I only knew one thing for sure: I wanted to live with this wonderful woman. We got our first apartment together on Capitol Hill and I watched her grow from a young student into a confident, articulate leader.

When we next moved abroad there was no question: we were going together. We spent two years in Kazakhstan. We wrote a book together. But as she traveled in Central Asia, still working for the same non-profit, she got frustrated that international NGOs and US policymakers had insufficient understanding of regional politics and were therefore ineffective. She decided to go to grad school.

By then, I knew I would follow this woman anywhere. On a cold October afternoon in the Almaty Botanical Garden, shortly after she’d gotten her legs wet jumping a creek, I pulled a ring from my pocket and asked her to marry me.

Amy said yes. We moved to Wisconsin, she started a Master’s in Public Policy and a year and a half later, we were married at the same camp in Vermont. We bought a house. Always altruistic, she was one of the few grad students who actively engaged in the community, volunteering and serving on our neighborhood association board. She discovered her master’s program was not challenging enough for her. So she decided she wanted to get a PhD and wanted to teach. She’s been this way as long as I’ve known her: intellectual but dedicated to using her intelligence to help others.

Four years later, she passed her prelims while pregnant. That summer her dad was dying, and we went to Maine. I tried to support her, but she really she was fine and was in fact busy supporting her mom and sister while simultaneously nursing Jacob and planning her dissertation. When Jacob was eight months old we moved to Ukraine for her research. Again, I was amazed by her ability to interview government officials and simultaneously negotiate a new country and be a new mother.

Becoming a mom did change her, however. She is still munificent, generous with her time and attention, but her devotion has become more focused on our kids. And it brings me joy to see her kindness reflected in Jacob and Natalie as they learn from her.

It was no surprise that Hartwick College wanted to hire her before she even finished her dissertation. We moved to New York and she dedicated herself to teaching and serving the college. She’s a great and innovative teacher — she has an ability to make any topic interesting and gets students to engage and participate fully. She works so hard. She starts at 5 am and after we get the kids to school she puts in a full day, comes home and serves as a caring parent until the kids bedtime. If she doesn’t fall asleep in Natalie’s bed she goes downstairs to keep working. And somehow she finds time to still be engaged in the community. I tell you, I thought I was a hard worker until I met her.

For the past 3 months, Amy has been nervous. She’s been under review for tenure. Although the rest of us knew she had nothing to worry about, she still fretted. But of course, ATP (the tenure committee) admired her so much that they didn’t know what to ask her, and the provost also told she was doing a great job.

The news, therefore, should surprise no one: Amy has been granted tenure! 
(Ok, technically the college president has recommended Amy for tenure. Tenure is not official until the trustees vote on it in February, but the trustees always follow the president’s recommendation.)

Congratulations Amy! We all love you and we’re very proud and we know you will continue to do great things in the world, in the community and in the classroom. I’m grateful for 22 years of watching you work and love and live and I look forward to many more.

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