My mentor, advisor, and the father figure in my life, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, passed away this week on Wednesday, October 20th.
I met Mihaly (Mike) soon after my father died unexpectedly at the age of 57. I asked him to be my academic advisor and he took me under his wing. He was only a year older than my father. It was a confusing mentor relationship because he was already somewhat famous by then–I didn’t want to take up his time and it was awkward to have fatherly feelings for a man who wasn’t my father.
I felt like I disappointed him when I escaped to Montana after completing my Ph.D without publishing the research that I had conducted with him. I also declined the academic teaching job that he found for me. I guess I needed to be a hippie for awhile. Over the years, he graciously read and gave me feedback on drafts of my books, recommended me for teaching positions, and introduced me to his agent. (He cautioned me that it would be a long shot and it was… too long of a shot.)
It’s been a year of loss as my mother died three months ago. Now my father figure has passed too. Bless his heart. Thank you Mike for your amazing mentorship, intelligence, creativity and grace. And for seeing me.
P.S. Here’s the article we wrote together. Originally published in Museum News, and then revised and reprinted in a couple book chapters: