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Amy Silva '79
November 18, 2016
Since 2011, I have been a Teacher at The Theatre Arts Production Company School, a public middle/high school in the Bronx.
Formerly Museum Educator in charge of Adult Programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where I was employed from 1979 - 2010.
In 1982, on his way back to Colgate after receiving his presidential award from Regan, he stopped by The Cloisters, where I was then working. When my boss asked if he had come to see the art, he retorted, "I am here to see Amy." I'll never forget that day.
Thank you for so much for inviting me to speak at your retirement dinner. What an honor to be able to state publicly how much you have impacted my life, and by extension, the lives of my children and my students. I’ve taken the liberty of sharing my words with fellow students, admirers and devotees in this blog.
41 years ago, I set foot on Colgate’s campus for the very first time. I was idealistic, naïve, ill-prepared, and so very shy. All I knew was I wanted to study astronomy far away from the city that was my home What on earth was that little girl from East Harlem thinking?! The intro to astronomy lecture hall was huge; it was packed with students who seemed comfortable and knew exactly what to do. You had a way of engaging all of us, capturing our attention, interest, and imagination. I remember watching you pace up and down in the front of the room, mimicking the movements of heavenly bodies with your own body. Then you sat down. Whenever you extended your arms or brought them up close to you, the speed with which you rotated on the stool changed, first slow, then fast, then slow again, Wheel! Then you laughed; we all laughed. You love teaching; it has brought you great joy, even if at times wrapped in bits of disappointment. I know what it feels like to have a student fall short of one’s expectations.
Alas, I struggled with that course, as I did with so many others here at Colgate, but I did not quit. I did not give up. I remember those dark nights when you would take us up to the observatory. Staring into the sky, I couldn’t tell the difference between the stars and the planets, or between the satellites and the fireflies that meandered erratically up above, until, that is, one landed near my feet! Even though I lacked the requisite math and science, you did not reject or dismiss me when I asked to join your archaeoastronomy class. In that moment, you changed the trajectory of my life.
You were aware of my deficits, but you saw something in me; whether it was grit or curiosity, I do not know. You welcomed me into your world of Texas Instruments, plumb bobs, and Patoli boards as our Jan Plan study groups ventured back and forth across Mexico in search of how Ancient Americans marked celestial events. You opened my mind and heart to the art and culture of Ancient America as you guided me through an interdisciplinary study of courses whose titles hovered in the A’s (not the grades I received – the names of the courses) – astronomy, archaeology, art, art history, anthropology, all of which led to my work in museum education. One could get a full education at Colgate without leaving the A’s.
Most importantly, you never lowered the standards for me. And for that I am forever grateful. You encouraged me, challenged me, and held me to the same high expectations you had for your other students. “No excuses; I went to public schools, too,” you would tell me. Were you aware you had become my surrogate father? I did not want to let you down.
Thank you for believing in me, for being my mentor and my teacher; for keeping in touch throughout all of these years; for visiting me at The Cloisters when you received your Professor of the Year award in ’82 and later at the Met, where I continued to dig deeper into and lectured on the arts of Meso and South America, Native America, as well as other areas. Know that my children also thank you for teaching their mother. I wish you the very best in your retirement years. Somehow, I know you will continue to teach, even if from afar.