My favorite Professor Aveni moment is not a glamorous one, or a funny one, or one involving deep scholarship, or even the time my transit group nearly got arrested in Mexico.
Instead, the moment I remember perhaps most vividly in the ten years I've known Tony was the first day of class, my freshman year. I ended up in his Intro to Astronomy class - not my first choice in course selection, but I'd heard good things about Professor Aveni, and at least I'd get a science credit out of the way. One of the first things he said in class was, "This is one of the largest classes Colgate offers. I'm not going to be able to learn all of your names. So, if you want me to know who you are, come see me in office hours."
That invitation to engage changed my life. By the end of class, I was certain I needed this professor to know my name, and not just because I was an over-eager freshman. When I went to office hours, Tony continued his invitation - despite being a celebrated figure in the university, he kept the conversation going, inviting me to talk about my classes, my activities, and my goals and ideas for college. That's just who Tony is: interested in people, and welcoming towards anyone who wants to participate.
For me, this was a defining moment, and a defining characteristic of my relationship with Professor Aveni. He always offered opportunities, and always in ways flexible for takers. So, my English major didn't prevent me from side projects in cultural astronomy, and Tony was happy to mentor me for a summer project on Nahua poetry, rather than a more science-oriented pursuit. The invitation was always key though: it created an atmosphere of mentorship, one that required students to meet him halfway - to be mature enough to know they wanted to, and to be able to articulate their terms.
After a decade of accepting Tony's invitations, I was able to extend my own: for Tony to officiate at my wedding in summer 2015. He accepted that invitation.
My experiences with Tony have changed my life in so many ways. Perhaps most importantly, he introduced me to the joys of liberal arts and the interdisciplinary approach. I had never conceived of a world in which a career could be made by combining archaeology and astronomy, let alone that someone could enter that world after an entire doctorate on a different track. Tony's approach helped me to explore the world as he encouraged me to constantly see things from different perspectives. His story of his own experience is a constant encouragement to me as a young academic professional searching for my place in the university. In my current academic life, I see my strongest credential as being an interdisciplinarian. I feel not just comfortable, but at my best when I can weave together multiple areas of expertise. Tony taught me this, through modeling, encouragement, and mentorship.
Additionally, classes with Professor Aveni were instrumental in inspiring my archetypes for teaching. I had a 100-person lecture class, a 13-person seminar, and everything in between with Tony, and those classes have all shaped the way I approach my own teaching. His discussion about being the "Sage on the Stage" has inspired me to make sure that my own lectures are cohesive, focused, and funny to keep students learning and engaged - to make the form of 'lecture' continue to be meaningful in a changing world. His small-class discussions helped me learn how to guide my students into a world where they can ask their own interesting questions. Most topically, I adapted his Comparative Cosmologies course (one of my absolute favorites at Colgate!) into a freshman course on argumentative writing, and insisted on bringing the Popol Vuh into my early world lit class. Tony's actions in the classroom are ones that I recognized as exemplary even as a student, and are those I try to emulate today. The subjects he taught and the ways in which he approached them became deeply rooted in my consciousness, and I could not separate them from my approaches now even if I wanted to!
May the next phase in life be as fruitful as the past, and as mind-expanding for those around you as the prior ones have been. Thank you for touching my life so deeply, and the lives of so many others. Enjoy the Margot, and see you in Palm Springs!