It was the first day of classes in the fall of 1981. I was a new student who had just navigated orientation and a session on community building expertly engineered by the organizational behavior faculty. As a former organizer, I had prepared myself for this day by researching which of my classmates shared my passion for economic justice. That way, we could come to the community building session with our “study group” already formed, knowing that this group would significantly shape our experience during our first semester. One of the group members, Lew Bowers, was a well-known activist and Yale alum who had co-founded the Yale Food Coop and, it would turn out, would shape the next phase of my life.
Lew and I ventured into the mailroom after our first class and were greeted with a resounding welcome from two second-year students eager to meet Lew. From its earliest years, SOM involved students in the admission process, and these second-year students—also at SOM to pair their commitment to social justice with business skills—had been champions for Lew’s admission. One of them was Michael Mazerov, class of 1982.
That day in the mailroom Michael and I shared our backgrounds and interests, and he gallantly offered to teach me how to use the computer, which today classifies as a prehistoric invention: a DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) mainframe. Since I was completely ignorant of computers (I checked out a computer class in college and lasted less than 30 minutes before heading back to the comfort of American history), it took more than one lesson to get me at least partially literate. In an oft-repeated ritual at Yale, I treated Michael to a dinner of eggplant parmigiana grinders at Clark’s Family Restaurant to thank him for his services. When we returned to reenact our meal 35 years later and told the waitress our story as she took our picture, she announced, “I have heard this story hundreds of times!”
I am pleased to report that we will celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary this year, are the proud parents of two millennials, and have dedicated our careers to advancing economic justice in this country. I have been engaged in supporting SOM students and alumni who are entering or advancing in this field, as well as helping with student recruitment. A recent alum, Ethan Geiling, worked at my organization—Prosperity Now—for four years before starting SOM in 2014. Several weeks before he left for SOM, he organized a group of his classmates working in the D.C. area to share drinks and questions with me. I should note that everyone in this group was single at the time. After I shared this story, one of them piped up, “Maybe we should all stay in the mailroom the entire first week of school!”