Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Nostalgia: Speech from 2011 for Tim Sullivan

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​Today was a complicated day, but the highlight of it was going to my office in the morning and finding Tim Sullivan waiting for me in my boss’s office – then spending around 1.5 hours alone with him…talking about everything and nothing. I am a really lucky person.

(photo coming soon. My phone app is horrible at inserting images)

Sullivan Lounge Inauguration (May 2011)

Generations of students have become close to Dr. Sullivan during his lifetime of giving to AUC. Most of my friends who are close to Dr. Sullivan knew him from a class, or when they had senior positions in MUN – not me. By the time I was senior enough, Dr. Sullivan had become provost and there was another MUN advisor. But I did get to know Dr. Sullivan while I was a student leading another extracurricular activity.

His door was always open – when I was a student, an alum, a staff member. By the time I started teaching at AUC he had left, but he was still always available via email, and we met whenever he came here. 

When I was a student, he would make time to meet with me over matters relating to our ACM chapter – a small, computer science extracurricular activity at the time. I am sure much of what we did could have been delegated to others, but he always made time to meet us, and always attended our events. When there were matters related to AUC that disturbed me (e.g. issues raised in the Caravan), he made the time to discuss them with me, even though no action was necessarily going to be taken.

As an alum, he remained a mentor and source of inspiration for me; he asked me the right questions to guide me to choosing the path that was right for me, in my graduate studies, and once I started, he supported me in my choice of doing my thesis about AUC. Up until now, conversations with him are helping me think more clearly about my teaching, my career and my life.

Up until now, he is in touch with people from AUC via email – he is even on facebook! During the revolution, he was following our status updates and posting comments – someone who clearly cared about Egypt and its people.

I learned from him two very important lessons: that much of the learning that takes place at AUC takes place outside the classroom, and all of us learn together. This was clear from his passion for MUN and how all of us who joined MUN were able to develop these leadership and interpersonal skills – and as he once told me, the most important outcome of an MUN experience is the confidence that [students develop that] they can make a difference[I later learned they call it self-efficacy and it’s important for citizenship].

More importantly, I learned from him that people should always come first. This was clear in the way his door was always open to students – even when he was a provost, even to people like me, who initially had no close contact with him through class or MUN.

Just the other day, I was reading in one of the student newspapers how AUC students would prefer that halls and rooms on campus be named after people who have contributed to AUC with passion, rather than simply with money. The Gerhart Center is one of the places that exemplifies this. I can’t think of anyone who deserves to be remembered for his lifetime contribution to AUC more than Dr. Sullivan, who has touched the lives of so many generations.  I hope that this lounge will be used in ways that would make Dr. Sullivan proud.

[at some point I made a joke, probably at the beginning, that I hoped the room would be just like Tim Sullivan – easy to find and with an always open door; that’s a big joke on campus because rooms are notoriously hard to find on AUC’s new campus, especially the building where this room is located]

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