- Words in Remembrance of Our Late Founder, Harold Isaacs
As I sit and reflect on what I am going to write about our beloved friend, colleague, and ATWS founder, Dr. Harold Isaacs, I feel overwhelmed. First, I deeply regret that I will not be at the conference to tell you in person what I feel about Harry. If I could be there, I would be there. And let me say that by referring to Dr. Isaacs by the name of Harry, I certainly mean no disrespect. From the time I met him early in 1990 (as I interviewed for my job at Georgia Southwestern State University) he was always Harry to me. The bond was instant because he was everyone’s friend, a soul-mate and a down-to-Earth figure.
I started teaching at GSW in August of that year and within a couple of months I had joined ATWS as a life member, so enthralled was I with the man who had founded this great association. Though readily approachable and accessible to everyone, there was yet something ethereal about him, too. He had a passion, a quiet intensity, a broad and encompassing intellect, and a heart the size of the Cosmos. He lived by the old saying, “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” He seemed to love and accept everyone; he always looked past race and language and religion and culture, as these were never the slightest obstacles or impediments to him. We all knew that if Harry said something, it came from his head and his heart - absent any malice or prejudice or bias.
Those who knew him for any length of time will recognize what I am talking about. This is what I will miss most [End Page 41] about the man – he was a trusted peace-maker and a steady source of wisdom and great advice. I am sure that there will be innumerable words of praise for the man from everyone who speaks of him at the conference, in panels and in the halls of the hotel and as you go about touring the city and environs of Quito. There is little I can say that others will not say, as well. Harry was a phenomenon!
So let me focus on more personal aspects of my years with Harry, especially the final months. We were friends and colleagues for twenty-five years. His office was (and still is) next door to mine, just a few steps away. That was good for me because whenever life was tough I could step next door to see Harry and he would always encourage me, inspire me, and make me want to draw upon my better spirit, as he manifested his own grand spirit every day. Without ever raising his voice, his passion for understanding and peace and justice and a better life for all inhabitants of this planet was always on display – quietly, but insistently.
In the early years, which I heard about in some detail from him, Harry was nearly a one-man show. Bill Head certainly played a key role in getting the Association off the ground, for example drafting our constitution. But Harry had to be treasurer, editor, and leader combined in the early period. There was little enthusiasm for Third World studies back then. Who needed to know about the multitudes of strangely different people living in the peripheral countries? Eventually, though, GSW and the world caught up with Harry, and the Association, as you know, grew into a seminal, international league of scholars and others who share a passion for understanding other peoples and promoting knowledge to improve lives even in remote places.
That is, ATWS became what Harry had envisioned: an association of people committed to a better world, a large “family” of folks with big hearts and good wills and a common [End Page 42] mission.
I was drawn in immediately, then. How could I not be? I served as treasurer for nine years. After all, Harry needed a break! For many years I was involved in conference organization and I served as vice-president and president of...