The tributes here are just amazing. It's wonderful to get glimpses of the personal interactions Greg had with so many. I realize I've been in a very special place, learning about and exploring the world over the past 6 years with a unique mentor and guide; a fact that I seem to have taken entirely for granted. I was the first to post here, when we were looking for pictures to stimulate Greg's memory, and I've been reading each post as it comes in, hungrily and tearfully, grateful for ways to replace the despair of the last few months with the much more powerful memories of a long lifetime of personal and global impact. Thanks so much to all of you for that. I thought I might be able to share my thoughts in person at the memorial event, but realize I am still too emotionally raw. Tomorrow we will talk about how Greg's ideas have influenced a generation, but I can share some more personal reflections here in writing.
In spring 2007, Greg and Beth invited me to guest lecture at his social entrepreneurship class at Duke. (Greg and I had met previously through Cynthia Massarsky’s Yale Social Venture Competition- huge thanks to Cynthia!) For the lecture, we discussed the topic briefly; I told him what I had prepared on it for my class at Columbia, which included some of Jed Emerson's slides on the spectrum of capital available for social entrepreneurs, and a short case study. Greg agreed to assign it to the students. He didn't know it yet but I was pregnant with my second child, and details were not my friend. I misjudged the length of the session, which was 30 minutes shorter than the Columbia class time, and realized right before the class that my class plan was not going to work. And, lo and behold, that is just what happened. I swear it was possibly the worst class of my life, ending before I got to the main point of the session. Imagine my surprise when Greg asked me to come back to teach his course at Duke. I started commuting south to Duke in the Fall of 2007, belly growing to hide the view of my shoes, often too winded to stand while teaching. Greg was traveling frequently, and monthly we'd get together at Fuqua and have lunch, where slowly, over time, we discovered we had almost completely different backgrounds, networks and experiences, but very similar views of the field of social entrepreneurship. And as we kept talking, I felt like I had come home. The take-away is this: he took a bet on me, from that first day on, and I hope we all remember what a difference that can make in someone's life. His generosity, patience and humility helped me build a dream into a career, and helped us build together the world-class research center CASE had become, with leadership and support from so many others (Joel, Sally, Ed, Matt, Erin, Paul, Ruth and Wendy, to name but a few).
But in the past weeks, what has come up most often are things I want to ASK him. Why didn't I talk to him about this idea or that? What did he really think of this development, that report, or this news? And wouldn't he think THIS was funny? Greg was a master at seeing through the cloud of entrepreneurial chaos that surrounds those working the hardest in our community as he would delineate, first gently and them robustly, the underlying elements that undergird their decision-making and strategy. He took the idiosyncratic and boiled it down to the universal, serving it back up so people could learn from others' mistakes and solutions. His frameworks from decades ago have stood the test of time, and I believe they always will. He was a natural cross-pollinator, happily connecting people from different sectors, working in different areas, on seemingly different problems. He was a successful intrepreneur himself, convincing Harvard, Stanford and Duke to integrate this new field as an academic discipline, and he understood and admired entrepreneurs intimately. And far from being the ivory tower introvert, he craved connection as well. Many of us laughed about the 3pm candy bar runs he'd invite us on, back when he was still eating candy, or the long chats he'd settle in for when wanting a break from the tedium of writing. He liked to find delight in personal interactions, learning a little from everyone along the way.
He was also, paradoxically, a stickler for language, definitions built carefully on the best theoretical writing found to date, and had no patience for people using others' ideas or time without giving them full credit. He was a painstaking wordsmith, as CASE staff can attest; very few memos went out from all of us that he didn't take a hand at redrafting. It was a tedious habit for the administration of a research center, but a very useful one for creating a field, where consistency of language is essential. I think back now to all of the enthusiastic puppy dog writing I did in the early days: here's an idea, and here's one, and here's another -- offering them up like bones to the master dog who had already stocked the pet store shelves himself. He never rejected them, or me, but gently redirected my energy and enthusiasm, letting me play around with more thoughts until there was something new or interesting and then gently encouraging that. I think he was more a mentor to me than I ever really knew, because he was so subtle and mid-western about all of it.
At the CASE 10th anniversary celebration last year, I admitted to him I was nervous before my Ted-style talk, as I had never given so personal a presentation before. He replied he wasn't nervous at all. How could he be? How many hundreds of talks and board meetings and interviews and panels had he done? But there was one he was nervous for -- I could see it. It was also one of his best performances ever -- at the interview we had with USAID. It was our final video-conference interview for the $10 million HESN contract, for which Greg was the co-principal investigator. He flew in from CA as he was visiting Stanford that term, and despite the first few minutes of audio difficulties for the video feed (that we finally solved by passing around a cellphone on speaker mode when one of us wanted to speak), he wowed them and us with his enthusiasm, insight and polish. We were a smooth team that day, all taking our lead from Greg, who stepped into the role of one institution courting another with panache and authority. We all looked at each other after the call ended, and our colleague David Robinson said, in a tone as much surprised as celebratory, "Well, I think we just NAILED that!" And indeed, we all realized, due to Greg, there was no doubt in our minds we had.
The last few years have been a whirlwind, and in so many ways, Greg was caught up in his own maelstroms. I question now so many little things - did I tell him I appreciated him enough? Was I supportive enough? I sat by his bed at one point in the hospital while he was sedated and told him all of it, whispering it while he slept with tears streaming down my face. But then, a few weeks later, when he woke up after having suffered several more medical challenges, it seemed horribly wrong to offer departing words to a man fighting to make sense of his path to recovery. Big thank you's were simply out of the question. I tried to give him a sense of peacefulness and continuity instead. I read him notes from friends, shared office gossip and told him I admired how much effort he was putting into his therapy, that I knew it would take time and that he should expect it to. I guess I wanted him to know we loved him just as he was - no pretense, no heroic effort required. I clearly either calmed him or exhausted him because he fell asleep while I was visiting. It's the last time I saw him, as I tiptoed quietly out of the room. If I was even a small part of helping this man feel at peace in the world he worked so hard to improve, I feel I did my part. Greg, we all love you so very much. Rest in peace.