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Executive Director's Message

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Discovering Doors

At a recent dinner one of our scholarship recipients regaled us with tales of his unique sense of direction. He was born with a gift for losing his way. As a child he became lost so often that his mother finally made him wear a lanyard with her contact information so a kind passersby could assist him. By taking the road less traveled, however, he has been able to experience places he otherwise would have missed.

Martin Brennan

This story prompted a memory from my days as an exchange student at the University of Padua in Italy. I nervously embarked on my first day of class equipped with the name of a building, and my roommate's assurance: "You Americans landed on the moon! Of course you can find your art history classroom." The building proved to be elusive but after careful sleuthing I finally tracked it down. It had not moved since the 16th century. As I rushed in I asked a bemused custodian in fractured Italian where I might find the classroom. He pointed down the long corridor and said something that sounded like, "Look for a large door."

I raced down the corridor and with a sigh of relief I pulled open a large door and entered just as a loud "Noooo" echoed behind me. I found myself in a huge chamber facing two hundred or so impeccably dressed and quite distinguished adults who immediately stood up. We stared at each other in complete surprise. Somehow this did not seem like my art history class. The Academic Collegium was expecting the Rector of the University and instead they got me. One absolutely not amused custodian led me to my classroom. Perhaps I should have worn a lanyard.

In life we open doors often not knowing what awaits on the other side. Opening the door to I-House has allowed me to enter an experience more meaningful than I could have imagined. I entered the doors with three decades of diplomatic experience which have been enriched immeasurably by the I-House experience. All diplomats would benefit from an I-House experience early in their careers because of the broader understanding it provides of our shared humanity.

I am gratified that I have been able in some small way to build on the outstanding legacies of my predecessors Sherry Warrick and Joe Lurie. Working together, Board, Alumni, Residents and Staff have enhanced the welcoming appearance of I-House and the comfort of our accommodations. Formal trainings in cross-cultural communication, including a new intensive certificate program for residents in Spring 2012, and workshops serving the public and corporate sectors, are furthering I-House's reputation as, "A World Resource for Global Understanding." That I-House has accomplished this despite a sharp global economic downturn speaks to the dedication of all who cherish our unique endeavor.

Every arrival presages a departure. With a mix of anticipation of things new and regret for things missed, my tenure at I-House will draw to a close at the end of June. I feel that it is time for me to apply the lessons of I-House in Africa, Asia and beyond. While new doors have opened, I take comfort in the fact that the door to I-House beckons. I will always feel I-House is home and, whenever possible, be an active presence.

I am honored to continue to give to the House that has given so much to so many. Supporting scholarships and our beautiful building remain critically important for our continuing success, whether measured by doors or decades.