A Much Loved Colleague Bids Farewell | Teachers College Columbia University

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A Much Loved Colleague Bids Farewell

Ida Esannason retires after three decades of service
Ida Esannason retires after three decades of service

By Joe Levine

“Ida, I can’t express how much we owe you – the dedication and dignity you’ve brought to the job, your decency and your insistence on civility in our community. You are so much a part of our lives.”

Jim Borland, Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, was addressing Ida Esannason, Academic Secretary for the department, at her retirement party from TC after more than three decades of service. It was a bittersweet occasion – bitter because, as Esannason forthrightly told a packed room of friends, family, colleagues and well-wishers,  she was retiring because of life-threatening illness;  sweet because the outpouring of love in the room was an almost tangible thing. Indeed, Esannason’s TC colleagues had collected more than $1,000 to help defray expenses she would incur seeking a second medical opinion on her condition. 

“She was my righthand person – one of those people who really run the department without official title,” said Celia Genishi, Professor of Education.

And Stacy Thomas, Administrative Assistant in Academic Computing, added, “Ida’s the kind of person who works behind the scenes when something needs to happen, whether on union issues or anything else. She has the relationships with people, and her goal is always to help everyone involved. She’s a very motherly person.”

For her own part, Esannason, whose time at TC has encompassed working for the Institute of Urban and Minority Education and the Mysak Clinic, expressed deep gratitude to everyone she has worked with over the years.

“I know you’re busy,” she told everyone at her retirement party. “That you’d take time out of your schedules to celebrate with me is a blessing. So many people go through life feeling all alone, but I have a wonderful family and my church members and minister. This celebration, the love and the gifts I’ve received, make me able to go on.”

She reminded her listeners that “We do not know the hour or the day”; that “we none of us are that important”; and she asked everyone to be kind to one another. "For me," she said, “be gracious, kind, respectful, decent to one another.”

Esannason advised everyone to “be careful how you meet and greet someone because you never know who they’ll turn out to be in your life,” and concluded, “I only wish I’d been able to introduce you all to each other.”

Esannason is a long-time Sunday school and music teacher in her life outside TC, based at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem.  Cecil Muschett, Sr., Assistant Pastor there and her long-time friend, also attended the retirement party and addressed the gathering.

“What thrills me today is to see how many people turned out for this occasion,” he said. “Usually we wait until someone has passed for flowers, poems, tears. The poor person is gone and can’t smell or hear. I’m so glad you let Ida know you love her and are celebrating life with her.  Even though she’s been sick, God has been good to her.”

Published Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2011