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John Skeats '73
November 11, 2016
I live in Woodstock, NY. I joined IBM shortly after graduation and remained there for just short of 39 years. Since then, I have been on very disparate paths. I have been working very actively with Google as part of their Top Contributor Program and have become a practitioner of the ancient Chinese practice of Qi Healing. I have also written a first draft of a novel which I will be rewriting starting some time next year. Along the way, I raised four wonderful children who I am tremendously proud of.
It is hard to pick just one moment with Professor Aveni, so I'll go with the one that was in many ways the most representative.
I have often shared the story of how Professor Aveni started off the first day's class of Stellar Astronomy. He told us that he would spend the first two classes sharing pictures and stories with us which represented why he loved astronomy. He explained that he was doing that because if we were to share that passion, it would make learning the material much easier. Learning would become a joy rather than a task. He went on to tell us that if we ever found ourselves not enjoying the class -- even in the middle of an exam -- that he should let him know immediately so that he could make a correction. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever felt the need. I certainly didn't. Every class was a joy. And, yes, even the exams were fun!
What he shared with us in the next two classes was truly inspiring, but it didn't end there. He made the entire semester equally inspiring, fascinating, and exciting. It was unmatched in my entire educational career.
I learned a great deal about astronomy of course, but the most important lesson I learned from Professor Aveni was what I learned that first day and was then reinforced by the example he set throughout the semester: the importance of having a passion for what one does in life.
Professor Aveni's lesson about the importance of being passionate was the most wonderful single thing I learned during my college career. I have carried that with me every day of my life since his class. People routinely comment about how passionate I am about what I do. That passion inevitably spilled over to my life in general. Nurturing and maintaining that kind of passion cannot help but give one a very happy and fulfilling life -- and it has.
Professor Aveni, you have been an incredible educator and scholar. I wish you all the happiness the world has to offer in the next chapter of your life. You deserve that and more for the wonderful gifts you gave me and the hundreds (thousands?) of students you shared you wisdom and knowledge with. It was a great honor to have been one of your students.