- Field Notes
Four board members depart.
Have you heard the one about the doctor, the lawyer, the politician, and the guy with the Yale mascot? Probably not, I'm guessing.
It helps to know something about the history of The Hastings Center. Until the Center's new bylaws were adopted in 1998, being elected to its board of directors could be a life sentence. The Center's current bylaws limit the service of its directors to eight years since the clock began ticking in 1998. We are about to lose the first set of directors to term limits, and what a loss it is.
Let me start with Chris Getman. Chris is an investment manager, a wonderfully warm friend, and keeper of the Yale bulldog, whom I met when Chris brought him here one day several years ago. The quintessential Yalie, even to the point of being awarded the Yale Medal, the university's highest honor to an alumnus, Chris is such a lovely person that it's hard to imagine even a Harvard grad could dislike him. We'll miss him.
The politician is Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado and an inspiration for the debate over setting limits for health care. Long before I met him, I was suspicious of the relatively crude position on age-based rationing attributed to him. When I read his actual speech, I found it provocative to be sure, but much more nuanced and thoughtful than his would-be critics acknowledged. Dick has a talent for seeing complex problems clearly and a passion for trying to solve them, without concern for the caricatures he knows will follow. Since then, he's been as thoughtful and loyal a friend as he is courageous and original a thinker.
Joe Iseman is the lawyer, and he's an extraordinarily accomplished one. Somehow, with a stellar career at a top New York law firm (since 1941!), which has to be one of the most competitive environments humankind has created, Joe remains as kind and generous a person as I've ever met. The Center has been graced by his wise counsel, as I have by his warm friendship. He admitted that the party to celebrate his ninetieth birthday comes right on the heels of his last board meeting this June. He's earned a pardon.
Now we come to the doctor. One of the earliest, most prominent, and most eloquent voices in the field, Eric Cassell has been linked to the Center almost since its founding. In 1971, he joined its Task Force on Dying. (Obviously, they licked that problem.) His recent book, Doctoring, joins his others, such as The Healer's Art and The Nature of Suffering, in the canon of seminal works in ethics and the humanities. Eric and I came to know each other well through our work on the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Witnessing his sparkling insights and wry humor up close is a failsafe recipe for admiration and friendship.
It is impossible in this brief space to list all the accomplishments of these four retiring members of our board, or to acknowledge adequately the Center's debt to them. But I can't resist saying something personal. Thanks to these four splendid persons, I've come to understand better the nature of suffering, the value of a wise counselor, the great importance of engagement in public life and public policy, and, of course, what it's like to live with Handsome Dan, the Yale bulldog.