In Memory of Amir Lopatin    
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 Marcela Muniz's Stanford Speech  

September 23, 2008

First, thank you to the Lopatin family for this incredibly generous gift to Stanford. We know that Amir was passionate about and connected to many causes and we feel very fortunate that you have chosen Stanford for this gift. I also want to welcome Amir’s friends that have traveled from the east coast – we are so honored to have you all here.

It is an honor to speak with Robb on behalf of Amir’s friends and cohort-mates at the School of Education.

In thinking back on our time with Amir, it takes me back to the experience of being a first year graduate student with him and with all of the members of our cohort. There was a wonderful spirit of friendship and camaraderie among us as we started our journeys toward the Ph.D., and Amir was a truly vital part of that experience. We were all in it together, first year, navigating the waters, making friends with the individuals that we would support and in turn draw great support from in our graduate school adventure.

What Amir brought to the mix was his famous sense of inquisitiveness, his earnestness, sheer brilliance, and a caring heart.

The only class we had together was our ‘pizza seminar’ with our deans, so most of my time with Amir was out of class, be it at a cohort happy hour, playing pub trivia, or at someone’s apartment from the cohort as we forged those important first year bonds.

I can’t help but smile to think of some of the questions that Amir brought into any conversation. He was truly a man of questions that ran the gamut, with no topic being sacred. Religion, philosophy, theory, dating relationships, culture, beliefs, you name it. Regardless of location or atmosphere, in or out of class, beverage in hand or not, he was always engaged and asking questions.

One night that we were out bowling he asked me, “why is it that Latino people like to dance so much?” And he truly wanted to know! Always drawing from data, he drew from his sample of me and Iliana, and we both love to dance regardless of location, just as we were that night at the bowling alley, and so the questions flowed from there.

He was always earnest, always showing that Amir charm when posing his questions with the little twinkle in his eye and that sort of mischievous smile – you couldn’t help but do your best to answer any sort of question for him and engage him in conversation, even if the question seemed like it was out of left field. I think any of us in the cohort can relate our stories of conversation with Amir – some lighter conversations, some tougher ones, some perplexing, but always, always engaging. A big part of why he was so great to talk to was that he really listened and digested what was being said. He’d ask, listen, process as he *censored*ed his head a bit, and then reflect back in his words. He was really interested in what we said, and a caring and wonderful listener.

Jon Dolle, another member of our cohort who is in the philosophy of education program, who could not be here today, has referred to Amir as a philosopher at heart, and I think that really does capture part of him as we knew him at Stanford. Amir was true to his own ideas yet really open to our ideas and to the exchange of ideas. You always felt that when you spoke to Amir.

Amir really had a true sense of inquiry and a mesmerizing level of intellectual vitality, the kind I’d love all of my students to have – it would certainly keep me on my toes to say the least. We didn’t have nearly enough time with Amir, but the time we had with him left us with many lasting gifts and lessons.
  • Be joyful in your learning.
  • Retain a sense of inquisitiveness and earnestness in your pursuits.
  • Discover the things about which you are passionate.
  • Listen – truly listen – to others.
  • Share kindness and generosity of spirit with those around you.
  • And finally, use your gifts to make your slice of the world better than when you found it.

The fellowship that is in Amir’s name is so appropriate in that it celebrates the things we love about Amir and the talents that he used to make a difference in the lives of others. For that we are very grateful.

Last Updated Tuesday, November 25 2008 @ 05:27 PM Eastern Standard Time; 2,516 Hits View Printable Version