Like most of us, I have a number of friends from different times in my life who I keep in regular touch with. There are many whose lives have taken such different paths that we don’t keep in touch, but we are still friends. Coming back to UT Austin has been an occasion to reconnect with people in the second category; moving back to San Antonio was another such occasion.
Several years ago, I was having lunch with one such San Antonio friend from high school when his phone rang. Phil didn’t answer because it was a younger brother and he’d call him back later. After getting back to my office 20 minutes later, Phil called to say that the phone call he had ignored was his brother letting him know that our friend William had died that morning. William was another friend from my high school years. I hadn’t seen him in 10 or more years, but on the rare occasions we saw each other, we were still friends though our lives had become very different.
During the next few days I learned something very important. I was no less connected to William the day after he died than I had been the day before. William and I were friends the day before he died and we were still friends the day after.
Coming back to UT Austin, it has been a joy to reconnect with so many friends and colleagues including Cristi Biggs, who devoted 18 years to the New Student Services (NSS) area of the Office of the Dean of Students (DoS). It was with great sadness that I learned the news that she had died before Christmas. Each of us will experience her absence in a different way. For some it will be daily as they figure out how to do their work without her; others will have scattered experiences when something happens that reminds them Cristi is not here to ask a question or share a laugh. All of us at UT Austin will lose out on the energy and care she brought to her work everyday even if we rarely saw her.
But here’s what my friend William taught me years ago. While we will miss Cristi in our individual ways, Cristi is still part of us. What we learned from her, what we enjoyed about her, what she shared with us over the years – it’s all still part of us and we are the better for it.
As we start the new semester, let’s remember to appreciate one another for the gifts we each bring with us and to ask for help when we need it. My thanks to each of you for all you do every day in support of our students and each other.
Looking forward to a great semester,