Harold as Teacher
As I struggled the other night trying
to figure out how you
eulogize someone who most likely would have been annoyed and certainly
embarrassed by all the attention being paid to him today, I reached out
Harold's dear friend Marjorie Benton for her thoughts and reflections.
As always, Marjorie eloquently
articulated what most of us
know and feel – that Harold made her a better person, that he
of the rough "Irish" edges off her and that he understood the meaning
like nobody else.
Throughout our conversation, I was
reminded of Oliver
Wendell Holmes's quote: "I would not give
a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I
would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
Unlike the rest of us, Harold Richman
seems to have been
born on the other side of complexity. You can see him sitting
sipping hot water, smiling that Cheshire-cat smile, occasionally
for us and
I know for me, Harold dedicated himself to helping the rest of us find
to the other side of complexity.
When I met Harold some twenty years
ago during my 4th
year of college – and note I said 4th
year and not senior
year, which tells you something about my extended stay at the
– one professor had referred to me as "a punk" and another as
un-academic student he had ever had" – I also had just about
incompletes as grades on my transcript.
I was definitely drowning in simplicity this side of
complexity. But it
was in his class on US Social
Policy that I experienced Harold's magic.
As in other forums, Harold was
unassuming in the classroom,
saying very little, asking more questions that providing answers,
being, as was
written on his Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate
peer and instructor at the same time".
Through this process, we as a class somehow always arrived
at a place that had a floor that always seemed higher than the ceiling
have constructed on our own.
In that classroom and over the past
two decades, I have come
to understand two truths that Harold personified: first, that life, to
from John Gardner, is a "great opportunity, brilliantly disguised as an
insoluble problem" and second, that you can't get to the other side of
complexity alone but only with others.
For my entire adult life, Harold has
been my companion on
that road to simplicity, thru my first job, graduate school, marriage,
and now, death. As
with so many
others, I love Harold and will miss him terribly.
But as I look around this room, I see
the beauty of Harold
Richman... he contributed to a world that was not blinded or dependent
light but one where infinitely more lights shined and more paths lit
otherwise would have. That
legacy and that is our charge.