As you know, one of my greatest sources of pride and joy are the students who work for me every year, a.k.a. my “munchkins.” One of the ‘requirements’ of the
job is that my assistants write an essay for me at the end of their employ in which they describe what they have learned from this quixotic experience, both for their benefit and mine, as well as future generations. Here is the valedictory essay that my last assistant, Phoebe Hering Cornell ’16, who worked for me during the ’12-’13 academic year. wrote. As usual, it’s a beaut. I am pleased to share it with you, with Phoebe’s permission. Take it away Phoebe!
“When I accepted Gordon’s offer to officially become his creative and personal assistant I really had no idea what exactly that meant. And if asked to describe now what it means, I really find myself for a loss of words.” Thus began Counterintuitive it seems—speechless in my description of a job so centered upon the endless, lifelong pursuit of words. But regardless of my lack of foresight into what the job entailed, I accepted the offer and jumped headfirst in the world of Gordon and Sander Media.
I would say an accurate description of the process was that it was grueling—it even entailed my first experience of after hours in the always-lovely Cocktail Lounge of Uris library. If I were to say the job got easier, I would be lying. So I’ll admit, the job was tough. There were times I wanted to throw my phone and laptop and possibly even Gordon himself into the gorge that lined my frequent late night walks
to the Green Dragon and the various libraries lining the Arts Quad. But as much as I felt I couldn’t do the work or felt overwhelmed or exhausted or all of the above, Gordon was always waiting with a smile and words of encouragement and praise that would (almost) always make up for the stress and the difficulty that came with being the assistant for a scholar in perpetual high demand.
Gordon as a man is even more difficult to encapsulate than the elusive position he bestowed upon me as his “right-hand man.” Perhaps his lovely mother Dorrit, with whom I had weekly conversations that consistently served as one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of the job, put it best: “Gordon is Peter Pan. He never grows up, but we have to love that, you know?” And you really do. More than anything else, Gordon is loveable in his childlike spunk that he somehow balances with an illustrious scholarly career. He is a whirlwind of energy, contagious in his zest for life and the alternate path. Simply being exposed to a man with such a powerful personality as well as an outlook on life not often found in the ever-present, ever-overwhelming, doctor/lawyer/businessman atmosphere of Cornell was an incredible experience in and of itself. Getting to know this man, though, as one of his beloved “munchkins” has been one of the most valuable experiences of not just my Cornell career but of my life so far.
I mean this to be taken without even the slightest hyperbole that after working for Gordon during my first year at Cornell, I feel confident that I can handle anything Cornell will throw at me. Being a part of Sander Media gave me the most intimate of glimpses into the life and world of a creative eccentric; an opportunity to step directly in and become a part of one of the most interesting lives to which I
have been exposed. Even if I end up following a more straightforward life path than Gordon (although I certainly hope this isn’t the case), the opportunity to experience a year in a life as wildly interesting and fulfilling as Gordon’s was an experience I count myself incredibly lucky to have had. “
Thank you Phoebe! I consider myself lucky to have had you!