Dear Professor Finkelstein:
I hope you are well.
I look you up periodically because you had the biggest impact on my education (and life) while I was an undergraduate at Hunter. I am glad to see that you are teaching Mill again, even though not at a higher education setting where you thrive. Your classes were the only classes I never skipped, not because I was a stellar student, but because you were an amazing professor.
I don’t know any academic who has been tried as much as you have. It pains me because at the same time I don’t know any academic with your integrity, conviction and TALENT.
Anyway, my message is simple:
Please don’t give up on your teaching because you have a lot more students to inspire. I grew up not expecting to go to college and as a low-income/first-generation student, you gave me permission to engage with thinkers such as Mill, and Plato and claim my space in higher education. It is no easy feat to help the poor “get” John Stuart Mill, or at least get excited about his writing. To this day he is my favorite political philosopher. In May I will be receiving my doctorate from Columbia (I have worked all my professional life in university administration-currently I am at Princeton).
I say all this to say: through your life’s work you have touched SO MANY people. You have helped transform our lives, my life. Please never forget that. That to me is your biggest legacy. I am crying as I am typing, because not many people can do what you do. Had I not persisted at Hunter, I would have had to return to Greece and clean bathrooms in the family-ran small resort for the rest of my life. Not quite the transformational experience…
I am very sorry people and institutions have been cruel to you. In a way, it seems inevitable because you are a man of great integrity.
If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. Finally, if you ever visit Princeton, let me know please; I would love to take you out for lunch or coffee.
Finally, I will let you know if my future positions in higher education allow me to invite speakers.
Maria Kaloudis Papadakis