Friday, December 9, 2011

One More Party

Before I throw myself into the frenzy of finals week, I have one last party to attend. Tomorrow morning I'm getting on a 6:30 a.m. flight to the Baltimore-Washington Airport to spend the day with two dear women friends. That evening I'll attend the retirement party of the woman who served for thirty years as the secretary for the University of Maryland's Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, where I worked as an editor/staff writer/director of publications for a decade (roughly the 1980s). Sunday morning I'll fly back to Indiana.

It was such an intensely young time of my life when I worked there, of all of our lives, and we were so intensely close with one another. One week I remember having dinner six nights in a row with Center people (back then, we were the Center for Philosophy and Public Policy; the promotion to "institute" occurred later). Many people came to the Center after having failed somewhere else: being denied tenure, or reappointment, or dropping out of a Ph.D. program (me). Every single person went on to have not only a good, but a brilliant career, publishing important books and changing the face of the field of applied ethics. And we also transformed our personal lives, as well. When we started there, we were all (or almost all) single (and if married, living apart from one's spouse in a commuter arrangement). We watched each other date, marry (David and Judy even married each other), and have children, children who are now well into their 20s and launching their own careers.

One by one, we all left the Institute for jobs elsewhere. Finally, the Institute itself left: it moved from the University of Maryland to George Mason University this past year. The only person left, the last "man" standing, was our beloved secretary, Carroll Linkins, who retires this month.

So this is the point of the party: to have a reunion of the Institute family, as we celebrate Carroll's service to the Institute for thirty years. And maybe in the room there will be the ghosts of our much younger selves, looking for love, for professional success, trying to make a difference in the world of philosophy, and in the world in which we all have to try to live together.

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