A New American Family
a love story
Publication Year: 2011
This poignant but ultimately empowering memoir tells the story of Peter Likins, his wife Patricia, and the six children they adopted in the 1960s, building a family beset by challenges that ultimately strengthened all bonds. With issues such as inter-racial adoption, mental illness, drug addiction, unwed pregnancy, and homosexuality entwined in their lives, the Likins’ tale isn’t just a family memoir—it’s a story of the American experience, a memoir with a message. With circumstances of race, age, and health making all of their children virtually unadoptable by 1960s standards, Pat and Pete never strayed from the belief that loyalty and love could build a strong family.
Both Pete and Pat have served as teachers. and Pete’s long academic career—holding positions as a professor, dean, provost, and then president— illuminates more than just his personal success. Pete’s professional attainments produce a context for his family story, wherein high achievements in educational, athletic, and financial terms coexist with the joys and sorrows of this exceptional family.
A frank, open account of the difficulties his family faced, this is a brave story, told with unflinching honesty and remarkable compassion. A New American Family is a wonderful narrative of the genesis of a family and a journey to the deepest parts of a father’s heart.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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When the polls closed on the West Coast on November 4, 2008, and the chorus of political analysts on television announced that Barack Obama had been elected president, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. Surprised by my own reaction, I later wondered why I was so moved by this decision of my fellow citizens. I am, after all, an old white guy,...
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My consultations with others in writing this book have been limited to occasional inquiries about specific issues and events, so the book’s inevitable errors and omissions are my full responsibility. I do owe a debt of gratitude to the good people associated with the University of Arizona Press, who guided me in the transformation of my ...
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If I had been a dreamer as a child, I would have dreamed the wrong dreams. I didn’t have enough imagination to conceive of the wonderful life that has opened up for me, each chapter unfolding unpredictably over time. I didn’t know enough about the world even to fantasize about the opportunities that would in fact be mine to explore. I didn’t know enough ...
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“Tonight I met the boy I’m going to marry.” That’s what my wife of more than fifty years wrote in her diary the night we met at my junior high school graduation dance in 1950. I was not yet fourteen, just barely bold enough to cross the dance floor to risk rejection by a new girl in school who was lovely to behold. I didn’t have marriage on my mind. ...
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Military hospital barracks hastily constructed near Stanford University during World War II were transferred after the war to Stanford University and used in part for the Stanford Research Institute and in part for “Stanford Village,” housing married students. Soon after our marriage Pat and I rented a tiny gingerbread house in a Stanford neighbor’s backyard, ...
3. More Kids
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Pat was at home one afternoon in 1968, sick with the measles and watching a movie on television. The host of the show, Ben Hunter, dedicated fifteen minutes between films to “Adoption Interviews,” introducing to his audience children then thought to be “unadoptable” because of race, age, or infirmity. Ben Hunter was breaking through the barriers of prejudice ...
4. Still More Kids
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Ben Hunter’s show was not normal television fare for Pat, but she did watch “Adoption Interviews” one more time. A beautiful ten-year-old Indian girl on the show from the nearby Morongo tribe had lost both parents and was languishing in foster care. Our oldest child, Lora, was then nine, and we knew that adopting a youngster with ten years of ...
5. The Columbia Years
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What do they say in the song? “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere / It’s up to you, New York, New York.” Was this song playing in the back of my head when Columbia’s president, Bill McGill, came to UCLA to offer me the job of dean of Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science? I was not seeking ...
6. The Lehigh Years
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Pat called me in my office at Columbia one day in 1981, bubbling with excitement: “Pete, Lehigh University wants you to be a candidate for president!” She remembers well my response: “Honey, I’m still trying to figure out how to be a provost.” I was keenly aware of Lehigh’s reputation, which was exceptionally ...
7. Arizona . . . Home at Last
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Pat was always eager for the challenges of new adventures in new locales until she moved to Tucson. After encouraging the moves from UCLA to Columbia, Columbia to Lehigh, and Lehigh to Arizona, she staked out her permanent home in Tucson, Arizona. “You may go where you wish,” she told me, “but I am staying here.”...
8. Family Values
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Let this story end as it began, bridging “Young Love” to “Enduring Love.” Why is it that “the fiery passions of youth rarely ignite the glowing embers of enduring love”? What can young lovers learn from Pat’s story and my story and our story together? A successful, enduring marriage is most natural when both husband ...
Index of Names
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About the Author
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Publication Year: 2011