Posted by: unlikelygrad | November 24, 2009

an opportunity I thought I wouldn’t get so soon

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from SL (my former PI). The topic was “recommendation letter”. The body of the email only contained one sentence: “Call me as soon as you can.”

Confused, I picked up the phone. Hadn’t he already submitted all the recommendation letters for my fellowship applications?

After exchanging greetings, he said: “Will you write a recommendation letter for me?” I almost fell out of my chair in shock. I knew there was a strong possibility that he would be looking for a new job (his wife got tenure on the other side of the country), but I expected that any recommendation letters would come from colleagues or former bosses.

But no–one of the schools he’s applying to is a teaching school which stresses mentoring. And I’m the person best qualified to write about his mentoring abilities. (True, he’s mentored others, but none of them can write worth beans…)

So I wrote the letter, edited it several times, kicked it around for a few days, edited some more…and then sent it off. Now all I can do is wait and pray that he finds a school that will understand what a treasure he really is.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for a house. I am thankful for my husband (even if he does live 1000 miles away). I am thankful for my four amazing boys. I have awesome parents and wonderful siblings.

Writing this letter reminded me that I am very very thankful for a blessing that came into my life a little over a year ago: a brand-new assistant professor, possibly a bit unsure of himself, who took the time not only to help a student with her homework, but also navigate the graduate admissions process. A man who was willing to take a chance on a woman who’d never done formal research, and bring her into his lab. A guy who did cool research, taught with enthusiasm, treated his lab crew with respect and decency, and still took time to be a good dad and husband–who set a good example for me to follow.

Is it any wonder that I was willing to write a letter of recommendation for SL? How could I not, when he has done so much for me?

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