All month I've been looking forward to yesterday, what had affectionately become known in our household as "Danielle Allen Day," since Allen was scheduled to visit campus to talk about The Odyssey Project, and since I was lucky enough to share two meals and good conversation with her and even to present a rather encomiastic introduction to her audience (though what introduction is not encomiastic?). I also got to meet her dog; he licked me on the nose.
Yesterday in fact took me back a little, to basketball camp on another campus the summer I turned 14, and to the day I met Mary Ostrowski, a longago Tennessee player who was strong and fast and sported high cheekbones, high socks, and thick black wristbands, and who I thought was pretty awesome. I got to know Mary O at camp; she learned my name and autographed my vinyl adidas bag which I then carried everywhere despite the fact that the bag was yellow with black stripes, the school colors of our cross-county rivals.
It's probably a little dumb or uncool for an academic (or an adult) to admit she has a heroine, but my feeling on the matter is this: if I ever find myself in a position where I can't admit to admiring someone with intelligence so fierce and yet so tempered with generosity and humility, someone who makes everyone around her smarter (qualities she in fact shares with the only other MacArthur fellow I know)--or worse, if I find myself no longer coming into contact with such people, then it's probably time for me to get out.