Contribute A Story


23 responses to “Contribute A Story

  1. Dave Haaga

    Valerie worked down the hall from my office in Asbury Bldg. for many years. Her smile and friendly encouragement helped make AU a great place to work. I specifically remember how proud she was of the Hiroshima exhibit, with good reason. What a great contribution that was. I’ll miss her very much.

  2. Wlm L Leap

    Valerie French always spoke with a strong voice on behalf of women’s issues and women’s conerns, and she was doing so long before women’s issues and women’s concerns became fashionable practice on the AU campus. Her courage inspired many of us to begin our own projects here. But we followed. She led.

  3. Josette A Wisman

    When I met Valerie almost forty years ago, she was this gorgeous young professor who was the light of CAS. I was a very young professor myself, and she helped me know my way around in the college and the whole university. So kind and helpful to me when I was preparing for tenure. Nobody else (except for my husband) helped me as much. If I ever got recognition for my teaching, it was thanks to her many hints that she gave me about being a good teacher in the classroom. I will always remember her smile and good humor. Great teacher, great scholar, great asset to the AU community. What a loss.

  4. Mary Frances Giandrea

    I didn’t know Valerie well, but she was extremely kind to me these last few years, sharing her library of books on ancient history and providing a great deal of moral support. I wish I had known her when she was active on campus; I can only imagine what a formidable proponent of women in academia she must have been. I just wanted her family to know that she touched so many people’s lives, even people who only knew her briefly.

  5. Caleen Sinnette Jennings

    I attended one of Valerie’s sessions at the AFTC in my first or second year at American. She was electrifying. She demonstrated such mastery of the classroom. She was so completely engaged and enthusiastic. Her practical advice in that session helped me improve my syllabi and my classroom management skills. As years went by, I was so impressed by the volume of administrative work she was able to take on while keeping teaching at the center of her life. She was a role model to me in so many ways and she always had words of inspiration and encouragement.

  6. Nadia Harris

    Valerie French was a member of the orientation team for new faculty when I started teaching at American University. She was welcoming, friendly and supportive. I consulted her on a few occasions when I needed guidance and she always responded with generosity and grace. I was grateful for her mentoring and friendship. Her kindness and energy were an inspiration to me.

  7. Lucinda Conger

    The AIA bridge group (4 ladies, all members of the Archaeological Institute of America) continues, but it is not the same. None of us has the same gift for the game that Valerie had–none of us had played it as long as she had. She said that her mother started to teach her bridge when she was 5, and her brother too, so they would have a foursome at home. She had a huge collection of cards inherited from her mother. We always allowed a lot of table talk, so that Valerie could explain some fine point of bidding or play that helped us to become better players. She taught us that 9s and 10s were not so bad–they could be “pushers”. She had an efficient method for picking up the cards in the trick just played. She always kept score. When it was her turn to be hostess, her lunches were always fabulous and beautifully presented with family china and glassware. It was wonderful to meet Caesar, the cat. And occasionally Bob would take a hand if one of the ladies had to leave early. We had been playing together since 2006. The last time we played together was at my house, the Monday before she died.

  8. Dr. French always saw the best in people. She certainly gave me a chance and I’ll never forget it. This is a sudden and terrible loss.

  9. Lefteris Hazapis

    I, and all of us at the psychology department, knew Valerie as a neighbor when she directed the Summer Sessions office and she and her husband Bob were in Asbury 309. Although I regret not knowing her as well as I would have liked, I was always amazed with her enthusiasm for Greece, its history and people. It was an enthusiasm much greater than that shown by many of my compatriots over time. Like Byron and others before her, she was a true Philhellene and she will be missed.

  10. Eric Lohr

    Valerie was one of those big personalities that charges a room with energy when she walked in–or even just when she walked by with a quick bon mot. What an enthusiastic, positive force. She did a lot to help me adjust to AU and turn it into a home. Memory eternal.

  11. Jill Cairns-Gallimore

    Valerie was one of the most inspirational professors to T.A. She seemed to do it all: create settings for fabulous projects and discussions as well as deliver interesting and inspired lectures. She also sought to convey some of this knowledge to me when I was her T.A. More importantly, though, she was compassionate – and was there for me when I most needed that compassion. Somehow, she managed to be amazingly professional, yet personal at the same time (who did not love her marvelous hugs?). Thank you Valerie.

  12. Peter Kuznick

    This is a slight tweaking of my toast at Valerie’s May 2005 retirement party.

    It’s easy to know where to begin with Valerie stories. It’s hard to know where to end. There are so many of them. Not only because of what she’d done over the years but because of the flair and passion with which she did things and the colorful ways she had of expressing herself. When I got tenure, many of my colleagues congratulated me. Some talked about the political cover tenure afforded. I remember their sentiments, but the only words I remember were Valerie’s when she said, “Peter this is so wonderful. You know what it means? Now even if they catch you humping an elephant on the quad they can’t fire you.” I knew that tenure afforded some major benefits, but that was one that had never entered my mind. But Valerie’s mind didn’t work the way most other people’s did.

    One of my all-time favorite classroom moments came when I was teaching my 500 level seminar on The History of American Sexuality. Like any good American historian, of course I started with the ancient Greeks. That was mostly an excuse to have Valerie come in and give a guest lecture about Greek sexuality. But before talking about the Greeks, she decided to demonstrate shifting generational attitudes by describing her grandmother’s Victorian prudishness and inability to talk about anything having to do with sex. And in typical Valerie fashion, she told the students that “penis was a word my grandmother could never get her mouth around.” I think even she was surprised by the way that one came out.

    When most people think of Valerie, they think of the warm and fuzzy side–the nurturer, the peacemaker, the community builder, and especially the dedicated teacher. But those of us who have had the opportunity to go to into battle with Valerie know that she is also a fierce and principled fighter. Some will recall her tenure as Director of Summer Sessions for the university–a position in which she came up with some of her most visionary and creative ideas for new courses and institutes–among them my Nuclear Studies Institute, which we inaugurated in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings. The idea for the Institute was hatched in discussions that Valerie and I had with one of my favorite students–Akiko Naono–who had recently graduated from SIS. Akiko’s grandfather had been killed in Hiroshima and her mother and grandmother had survived. We planned that I would teach a couple courses here and then Akiko and I would take the students on a study abroad trip to Hiroshima. But the Institute was quickly embroiled in a major crisis that threatened to destroy it before if even got off the ground. During Akiko’s meetings in Japan to arrange our visit, she got into discussions with officials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki about AU holding an exhibit that would include some of the artifacts that were originally supposed to be displayed in the Smithsonian’s ill-fated Enola Gay exhibit. Valerie and I prevailed upon the new Ladner administration to sign off on holding what became the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s only major exhibit outside of Japan on the 50th anniversary. And given the travesty at the Smithsonian and all the controversy surrounding the exhibit’s cancellation, this was a bold step for the administration–which Valerie and I felt was just the kind of thing that a great university should be doing. And once the plan for the exhibit was announced, it became major news all over the world. Well it didn’t take very long for the shit to hit the fan. With passions already inflamed by the Smithsonian controversy and conservative veterans groups mobilized and out for more blood, pressure mounted on President Ladner, who began having second thoughts about the wisdom of this undertaking. For a while, it seemed as if Valerie, Akiko, and I were meeting with Ladner and his cabinet every third day, dealing with everything from media strategy to how to prevent right-wing terrorists from bombing the Sports Center Garage. Ladner even called newly appointed Provost Bob Griffith in for assistance months before his job was supposed to begin–a sort of baptism by fire. The meetings were classic. I don’t think Ladner, much more of an old-boys type, had ever dealt with a woman like Valerie and he didn’t know what hit him. Valerie was at her best. Whenever Ben wavered and worried aloud that his tenure as president wouldn’t even last a year, Valerie would launch into an impassioned lecture on the meaning of academic freedom and intellectual integrity. I don’t know if she shamed him into not canceling the exhibit or she gave him the backbone he needed, but it worked. And when a crisis arose in our negotiations with the Japanese, Valerie suddenly flew off to Hiroshima to solve those problems. The exhibit was a huge international success and brought great acclaim to the university. Not only did Valerie never get the credit she deserved for the exhibit and the Institute, there were some who never forgave her for her courage and principle.

    So I have a special debt to Valerie that goes even beyond all the years of support and friendship and kindness. Valerie was a dear and special friend, a wise and compassionate chair, an exemplary teacher, a stalwart ally, and a principled and fearless fighter. And there were no words that Valerie couldn’t get her mouth around.

  13. James Weaver

    Valerie had a reputation as a inspired and inspiring teacher. Anyone who could make ancient history exciting and relevant to students in the 20th century had to have something special. I knew her primarily as we worked together to make AU a more democratic institution. When I came to AU, in 1963, it was a very Methodist institution. The President was appointed directly by God, and the President appointed all administrators, including deans. We changed that. Valerie was instrumental in that struggle. We even got faculty participation in choosing the President. President Hurst Anderson had established a Faculty Senate in 1965 and we used that organization to have faculty influence in curriculum, teaching, and the administration. I could count on Valerie to come through when the chips were down. She was a tough negotiator and I was always glad to have her on my side. Jim Weaver

  14. Joan Gero

    Joan Gero
    January 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Valerie was my first friend when I came to American U to teach archaeology. She simply dropped by my basement office in Hurst Hall one afternoon early my first semester there, introduced herself, and asked me, “how were we lucky enough to get YOU here??” She had read my work!!! I was amazed, impressed and delighted to find a colleague in history interested in feminist takes on the past (certainly no one in anthropology was similarly excited!). In no time we were scheming to co-teach, and against all odds Valerie made it happen: THE GODDESS course was born! We had great fun teaching the course twice, with a few practice policies the first time and then BINGO, a wonderful successful second offering, although I could never shake the notion that Valerie was doing all the work and I was having at least half the fun. I treasured Valerie’s mentoring all my years at AU, appreciated her almost psychic emotional antenae for reading subtle moods and shifts, and her unbounded enthusiasm for good new ideas. She was easy to love, and I did.

  15. Pamela Nadell

    Remembering Valerie
    Pamela S. Nadell
    How to sum up a life well lived of a colleague much admired and loved? In her life Valerie fulfilled so many different roles, held so many titles. She was, of course, a wife, married for more than thirty-five years to a husband she adored, mother and step-mother, and doting grandmother. At AU, we knew her as professor, sustaining single-handedly the teaching of ancient Graeco-Roman history, disqualifying our department from renaming itself the Department of Modern History.
    If there was ever a born teacher among us, it was Valerie French. We also knew her as a scholar, asking new questions about childhood in antiquity and as a dedicated administrator, who had been Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Director of AU’s Summer Sessions before our History Department Chair.
    But, when I remember Valerie, it is less for these official titles and roles than for her unofficial position as one among the tens of thousands of women, who propelled themselves into the professions on the cusp of the revolution wrought by feminism’s second wave. These women, Valerie French among them, represented beacons of possibilities to those of us, just a few years behind, who rode their on their coattails into the new world they helped make.
    From the moment, nearly thirty years ago, when I first met Valerie during my interview to join this faculty, she stood for me and I suspect for other female faculty of my generation then, as a role model. She proved it was possible to live life to its fullest, sustaining and combining all her passions—for family, for students, for history, and for AU. Demonstrating, not by word but rather by example, she showed me, during the long decade when our Department had only three women on its faculty, that it was possible to be a woman filled with passions for family and for work and to succeed at both.
    I like to think I learned those lessons well. So today I remember Valerie French, not just as a colleague, friend, and historian but also as my teacher.
    May her memory be for a blessing for us all.

  16. Bob Beisner

    For those of you unable to be at Valerie’s memorial on January 20, I’m attaching a copy of my own remarks.

    I know that in speaking today, if I start saying “Valerie was, or when I think of Valerie I think of,” I might be unable to finish the sentences—so instead I will recall some things Valerie had.

    The pictures displayed today reveal that Valerie had what she called baby lust, sometimes to a point that was alarming. Grandchildren—and their mothers and fathers—were the greatest beneficiaries, unless it was Valerie herself, who was always joyous around young children.

    Valerie had affection for an idea I long ago proposed of horizontal spirituality. She was a thoroughgoing romantic yet at the same time forever teased me because I, not she, wept every time we heard children sing. Where her spirituality utterly outmatched my own—though I made believe to the last—was when she extended her sensibility to inanimate objects. When the history department’s first Xerox machine misfired, her counsel was always to speak affectionately to it, pat it, and even hug it. A few years ago I peacefully acquiesced in naming our new red Prius “Rosy.”

    Valerie had an outsize sense of duty, which lay behind her drive to serve others. It didn’t matter what was involved—our children, the department, the college, the university, the Institute of American Archaeology, McLean Gardens—she almost never found excuses not to do far more than necessary to help. Over the years—with some therapeutic help—she learned how to pull in her personal boundaries—a little. I was relieved in the early eighties when she no longer brought stray students home. Hell, I was one of her strays!

    She had a gift of cheer and enthusiasm. All you had to do was observe her zest, see her smile, and you—well, I anyway—would fall into the pools of her big, gorgeous, brown eyes. The scholar who first introduced her to ancient history at Cornell in the early sixties remembers “with great clarity the bright smile on her young face and her lively and sparkling personality.”

    She had a great flair for cooking. So does our son-in-law in Austin, Joe Alquist. So every time we landed in that baked center of technological enterprise, Valerie and Joe would cook to their hearts’ content, while Katharine, her girls Ruby and Jane, and I enjoyed the results. Now and then, however, when Valerie caught a new, extra-kitchen, or post-kitchen enthusiasm, she would abandon stylish cuisine for what she called “heating.” But to the last, she could always produce one of the best French, Italian, or American comfort meals you’ve ever had, not to mention Yorkshire pudding and Thanksgiving turkeys.

    She had an aptitude for games and puzzles. Recently Sudoku gradually replaced crime novels when we lazed on the white sands of Anguilla. Lifelong, however, she channeled her puzzle-solving skills into playing bridge. It is only a slight stretch to report that before we married in 1976, I signed a pre-nup promising to learn how to play the game. So Valerie and her mother taught—rather trained—me.

    Valerie had a great love of travel, so we voyaged not only to the Caribbean but to France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey. Life, I now know, does not forgive delay. I was long amused when Valerie—batting her eyes—soulfully lamented, “I’ve never been to Hawaii,” which I had been. She made this plea as recently as a couple of months ago, but I never got around to doing the right thing.

    I think Valerie had an equality gene. She was not capable of lording it over anyone. She had considerable wealth from her family but gave most of it away to children, good causes, and institutions, especially AU, and was doing so to her last minutes. One of her Kingswood School friends wrote me that Valerie was “the sunshine” in her class. “She was smart but never made anyone feel ‘less smart’; she was friendly and always included everyone and anyone; she was passionate about life and her family which was a role model for all of us.”

    I cannot risk more than a few seconds to tell you—most of you don’t need telling—that Valerie had a huge capacity for affection and a talent for giving massive hugs (even to some slightly allergic to hugs).

    She had a strong commitment to gender equality and feminism, but some of her feminist confederates furrowed their brows at her primary devotion to children and family. Whether as teacher, scholar, administrator, or condominium activist, she had a fabulous knack for connecting with women—and men!

    There were many other things Valerie had, but in closing, I’ll mention three that always endeared her to me—an utterly irreverent spirit, love of the truth, and the courage to take on anyone, whether colleagues, deans, provosts, presidents, or husbands—all of which allow me to remind you that Valerie also had a commendable genius for getting fired!

  17. David Onkst

    I never took a class from Valerie, but I got to know her very well as a member of the first group of graduate students to participate in the Greenberg Seminars, a monthly workshop that she helped lead in effort to make us all better teachers. She brought some of the best professors from across the campus to speak to us about a variety of subjects, including the two Alan/Allan(s) from the History Department (Kraut and Lichtman), the late Jack Childs, and Caleen Sinnette Jennings, among others. But despite all of the great sessions we had, the one I remember the most, ironically, was the one about “appropriate behavior” toward students (i.e. a session on preventing charges of sexual harassment). I don’t remember who led the session, but I do remember that when he told us we really shouldn’t touch students, Valarie said: “Well, you can at least hug them, can’t you?” When he stated otherwise, she decided that she was not going to have any of it. She said that she was going to continue to hug her students and that was that. It was a classic Valerie moment, and thank goodness she didn’t stop giving us her signature hugs.

    After “graduating” from the seminars (yes, we all got certificates), Valerie always made it a point to check in with me whenever she saw me. I could just be walking down the hall past her door and I’d hear her say: “DAVE ID!!! Now, how is David doing?” And she always really wanted to know. These conversations would almost always end with a hug. I will always remember the genuine interest she took in me as a person and as a scholar. Her distinct voice is indelibly imprinted in my memory. I shall miss her greatly. She was a terrific lady, a great teacher, and a wonderful human being.

    David Onkst

  18. Heath & Mary Twichell

    In the fall of 1999, Mary and I spent two weeks in Greece on a tour sponsored by the AU Alumni Association and featuring Valerie as our daily lecturer–except for one day when Bob gave a talk on the history of Greek-American relations. I had known Valerie and Bob since my days as a PhD candidate at AU in the late 1960s, and we had been close friends ever since, but this was the first time I had ever heard either of them lecture. What a wonderful learning experience! But the most memorable part of our time together came after all the other members of the tour had flown home and left the four of us behind in Athens. Valerie had offered to give us a private tour of Delphi and so we headed there in a rental car. On the way, we stopped for a leisurely lunch at a small roadside restaurant. Since we were the only patrons,Valerie went into the kitchen, chatted up the owner’s wife in fluent Greek, sampled the pots on the stove, and ordered us a fabulous lunch. The french fries alone–lightly crisped in olive oil–were worth the price of the trip. Late that afternoon, we checked into our hotel in Arakova, a mountainside village a few miles from Delphi, and spent the next few hours exploring the shops. We had better luck with souvenirs to take home than with finding a place to have supper; every table in town seemed to be taken by Greek men smoking and gabbing or watching television. So we ate in our hotel dining room along with two busloads of German tourists, obviously headed for Delphi the next morning–just like us. It could have been just another generic tour-group meal, but as soon as we told Bob and Valerie that I had just proposed to Mary–and she had accepted–it immediately became a raucous celebration. Valerie’s loud whoops were accompanied by hugs so energetic that the tableware went flying. I’m sure our Teutonic fellow-diners thought we had lost our senses. But Valerie was just.being happy for us. And that’s just one of the many happy memories she left us!

    Heath & Mary Twichell

  19. Richard Breitman

    Valerie and Bob were leading figures in the History Department when I arrived at AU. In fact, they hosted me when I came for my job interview. I had the immense pleasure of working side by side with them over more than two decades.

    One of the first things I learned at AU was that Valerie knew how to get things done–either in the Department or at the university. Another was that she always appreciated candor, even when others did not always blend it with tact. Sometimes we were political allies, sometimes not. But I cannot remember any battles that left real scars. It is terribly difficult for me to think of History and AU without Valerie’s presence, which stimulated and also gave comfort.

    Valerie championed the importance of ancient history and chronological breadth in a university that all too often thought only of the present and very recent past. I read a selection of her scholarship on the ancient world, and found it revived my memories of a graduate field in ancient Greece. I pored carefully over her co-authored work (with Allan Lichtman) Historians and the Living Past, which I assigned in some of my own classes.

    In a department of outstanding teachers, Valerie was always at or near the top. Her courses never lacked for students, and she maintained touch with many over the years. Indeed, some attended her memorial, and one, David Aldridge, spoke there.

    Valerie was a talented player in the now defunct Department softball games. She obviously enjoyed herself on those occasions. But when a group of female faculty complained that these events moved them or female grad students to the margins, she joined the opposition. Fifteen years ago, I thought it was the wrong decision to end such contests; today, I think it probably saved some knees and backs. The episode reveals one of Valerie’s best characteristics: she had a big heart and could not bear to exclude those who wanted to belong.

    Valerie loved to serve, and she did it well. Apart from her work as associate dean, chair of the Senate, and department chair, Valerie was always there when someone needed to talk over issues or problems. That is the Valerie I will miss most.

  20. Janet Auten

    Valerie made great iced tea.
    In our 8 years together team-teaching the Gen-Ed “Women’s Voices Through Time,” we’d often meet over at Valerie’s close-to-campus townhouse, and there in her living room, we’d sip tea and strategize. Yearly, we discovered more “women’s voices” that clamored to be crammed into the syllabus. Valerie was all about finding a voice.

    Every year, early in the course, we’d do a bit of play-acting to try to c0nvey to our undergrad students the stakes we saw in listening to women of the past. She’d begin a rambling lecture on the reading, and then I’d interrupt: “No, Valerie, that’s not important; we don’t want to hear about that….” And she would look genuinely startled, stunned, being Silenced.
    And hurt. As if it didn’t happen every year, as if I really meant it.
    Point (emphatically) made.
    What a savvy teacher (and marvelous mentor)Valerie was. And of course, the students invariable mentioned that moment in their course reflections and even in conversations with us years later.

    I wish we could hear her voice again now.

  21. Milton Greenberg

    Here is a letter I sent to Valerie upon her retirement and read at the Memorial Service:
    May 2, 2005

    Dear Valerie:

    Congratulations on your retirement from AU. I know you will make the most of this particular passage of life, just as you did with everything you had to do.

    I consider you to be one of the significant figures in my own journey through AU, someone I trusted, with good cause, and upon whom I could depend for straight talk, reliability and friendship.

    I also consider you to be among the most selfless persons I have known, a giver and not a taker, who sees most issues in broad context beyond selfish interest. Those characteristics marked your career as teacher, scholar and administrator.

    To you I owe gratitude for The Greenberg Seminar which I treasure and have continued to support. I have a great photo of you presenting me with that surprise at my retirement reception.

    You will personify what Ellen Goodman, the distinguished columnist for The Boston Globe, wrote in a now famous column called “graceful exits,” for people making a big change in their lives. Maintain “a sense of future,” she advised, “a belief that every exit line is an entry, that you are moving on, rather than out.”

    With love and appreciation,


  22. Bill Gehron CAS '76

    I was so sorry to miss the memorial service for Valerie but it’s been nice to read all of the comments people have made on this page, each of the tributes that have been posted bring her vividly back to life, it’s been so nice to read through them.

    I first met Valerie as a Freshman in 1972. I was enrolled in her survey course on the Ancient Near East. I don’t think, at the time, I had much of any idea of what the Ancient Near East was, but I became hooked in that class on Ancient History and on Valerie. What a teacher she was! So attractive, so charismatic, so intelligent yet so wonderfully approachable and friendly and what about those beautiful brown eyes! I was also amazed in that large classroom that she would call upon me and so many others by our first names. She made classical studies come alive and those who studied it feel so special. By the end of my first year Valerie had become not only my teacher but my Student Advisor and mentor. I remember taking a very small class, probably her Colloquim on Ancient Rome during the spring semester of my Freshman year. What a turning point that was for me! I saw a comment a fellow classmate at the time made about how that class had been a turning point for her too as it had made her ‘think’! Well, it did the exact same thing for me and I consider that particular class to have been one of the highlights of my time at AU.

    In my sophomore year I managed to land a job on Capitol Hill interning for a Member of Congress and I continued with that position until my graduation. It was a wonderful and rewarding experience, one that I treasure to this day. However, there were sometimes issues that came up in my workplace I needed to ‘hash out’ with someone and I almost always turned to Valerie for advice and guidance. She was always spot-on reminding me of duty and integrity and just plain common sense.

    Valerie also pushed me to serve as my class representative on the Department of History Council. I served in that capacity from my freshman till my senior year. I enjoyed it enormously. She also recommended me to serve on the American University Journal of Historical Studies as an editor which had just started up around 1975. Valerie handled so many responsibilities so efficiently and seemingly easily, she just pushed many of us to try and do the same.

    Valerie also gave me my first job after graduation! I had to wait a semester after graduating for my brother to get his degree. We were given by our parents a graduation trip to Europe for several months. In September I had lunch with Valerie and told her of my dilemma of trying to find a job to tide me over until December when we would depart on our trip. Valerie said, ‘We’re looking for a second secretary for the History Department and I see no reason why you couldn’t fill the spot until January!’ So in we marched to Dr. Brandenburg’s office (he was Chair at the time), and all the arrangements were finalized and I got the job! Those couple of months spent working there were a lot of fun.

    I started working in the Hotel Industry and spent the first decade or more working in hotels in Washington, DC. I always made it a point to have lunch or sometimes dinner with Valerie several times a year. We enjoyed just catching up and talking about what was going on in each of our lives and what was happening at AU. Around 1990 I moved to New York City and we got together once or twice when she visited the city.

    Over the intervening years we lost touch with each other as sometimes happens. However in 2005 I received the note about her retirement and the reception that was being given in her honor in Mary Graydon Hall. I see how many people commented on Valerie’s ‘Bear Hugs’. I honestly don’t remember her giving those in the days when I would often see her. However, the evening I walked into the reception (a little late), she was speaking at the lecturn. She saw me in the back of the room and said, ‘Is that Bill Gehron?’ And with that she stepped away from the microphone, walked into the center of the room with her arms raised high above her head and enveloped me in a giant Bear Hug! Afterwards during the reception I introduced her to a friend I had brought with me who had attended AU. Valerie looked at my friend Jan and said, ‘Now did I have you in any of my classes?’ And when Jan said no, Valerie added, ‘I didn’t think so, because I certainly would have remembered someone as pretty as you.’ And bingo, another person fell under Valerie’s spell!

    Each morning I have a small meditation exercise I do. I finish it with a thought towards those deceased people, family and friends, who have had an influence on my life. It’s a small list, not more than ten people. Valerie’s on that list. It’s my daily acknowledgment to a great mentor and friend.


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