A week ago I was honored by the Department of Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center with a generous send off. Then on Wednesday I hugged everyone good-bye and jumped on a plane to return to Maine. After resting for a bit Bob and I attended a reception at the Geoffrey Warner Studio. As you can imagine it was an emotional week but there was no better way of ending it that gathering with community to celebrate the completion of two of Geoffrey’s major pieces – an olive wood desk and a huge big leaf maple conference table.
Bob and I had moved to NJ over 25 years ago and I had immediately entered hospital administration, first starting at Montefiore Medical Center then moving after many years to Weill-Cornell Medical Center where I met the amazing diabetologist Dr. Robert Campbell. When Dr. Campbell was offered the position as Executive VP/Medical Director of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital he brought me with him. We worked together for 11 years before the hospital merged with another. From there I joined the best vitreo-retinal surgeon in the world and a man who personifies the word “gentleman” , Dr. Stanley Chang. We also worked together for 11 years (just a coincidence). During those years I co-directed the departments of Ophthalmology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Dermatology on several occasions. Recently when my husband lost his job we sold our house in Westwood, NJ and moved to our vacation home in Deer Isle, ME. Columbia and the Department of Dermatology allowed me to telecommute and travel back and forth from Maine to New York City for six months but we all knew this was a temporary situation. It was with great ambivalence that I left Columbia but we are very much looking forward to the next phase in our lives.
One of the hardest things was to leave my boss and friend, the Chairman of Dermatology – Dr. David Bickers. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how much I enjoyed working with him. I used to explain to people that our partnership was so good because our skills complemented each other. Our leadership team “danced well together”. I loved his ability to listen to all sides and to pinpoint the essence and come up with a comprehensive strategy, all the while keeping us laughing with his keen humor. I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of excellent bosses and mentors and I adored them all but this man and his department captured my heart. The was no better capstone on my career in New York than to be the administrator of this department.
Of course any leader is only as good as his/her staff and I referred to my administrative team as the “Dream Team”. I used to tell them at least once a week that they made me look good. It didn’t hurt that they are gorgeous! This group of people are not only the best and the brightest, but they were a blast to work with. We worked hard and played hard.
The Department of Dermatology honored me with a large reception at the Columbia Faculty club and I was delighted to not only celebrate this occasion with people from the department but also from the Eye Institute and even those from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt!
Both Drs. Chang and Bickers spoke on my behalf and said such lovely things. I’m sure I was blushing constantly. Luckily they only gently roasted me!
And later a delicious (and I’m sure very expensive dinner) at one of Dr. Bickers’ favorite restaurants. We had a blast! We laughed and talked and hugged and ate and drank. It doesn’t get better than this. The whole afternoon and evening go down as one of the most special times in my life and I am feeling very special and very blessed.
I was still riding pretty high when I boarded the plane to Bangor, loaded with all kinds of lovely jewelry and cards from colleagues and friends. As I drove through the magnificent scenery toward magical Deer Isle I reflected that it is so unfortunate that we can’t combine all of our loved ones and treasured places in one location – somehow have both the excitement of Manhattan with the splendor of a Bald Eagle soaring above, to gather everyone we love in one place. Of course this is just a dream. I kept thinking of that song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”
That night we were invited by Geoffrey Warner to a reception in his Stonington work shop to celebrate the completion of two of his most recently commissioned pieces. Both of these extraordinary items are now on their way to an office in Portland, Maine. We first met Geoffrey when we chartered his sailboat the Aria early in our visits to Maine. Geoffrey is one of those remarkably talented and yet self-effacing people, a real Renaissance man. He not only is a gifted furniture designer and builder but he is an artist and a singer/musician. Even among the talented and brilliant people on Deer Isle, he stands out.
After we admired his latest pieces and chatted with various members of the community, we sat on his famous and incredibly comfortable “owl stools” and listened to the music made by the folk music band and delighted in his fiddle playing.
Take a look at the music stands he designs, makes and uses! They are the very essence of beauty and utility.
Geoffrey designs kitchen cabinets, furniture, lamps, and even unusual mobiles made out of old CDs.
I highly urge you to visit his website now (http://www.geoffreywarnerstudio.com/) and his studio when you visit Stonington. He is truly one of the wonders on this island (and the nicest man you will ever meet!). People like Geoffrey are unusual and wonderful. Perhaps you and he will pull up on of his “continuous chairs” and have a chat. Better yet, you might be tempted to support his creative endeavors by purchasing something you will cherish forever.