Barbara Gordon: A Life Lived in Song

This is a memorial essay for Barbara Gordon, written by my friend Yvonne Raley, formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University.

The sound of your voice will always be with me, Barbara, my beloved and loyal friend, my teacher of song. I am so grateful to have been graced with your presence for 27 years of my life, and so torn apart by your untimely death.

I knew you as delicate and fragile in many ways, and yet you were mighty, a true force that would fill people’s hearts with music and joy. I will never forget how you grilled me before taking me on as your student, to make sure I had enough dedication, because you would accept nothing less. I finally won you over with our shared love for Debussy and my ability to speak French, and so in 1994 I became your tutee Friday mornings at NYU, and a couple of years later at your home where I became part of your extended family: I stood next to the piano and practiced as Josh graduated high school and Ellie graduated college, got married and had kids of her own. I met Josh’s cat Milo who loved your yard, and I shared a memorable Seder with you. Not only did you introduce me to Satie and Ravel, but also to your Chiropractor and to Whole Foods!

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Barbara Gordon (1947-2021), RIP

I just got news today, a week after the fact, of the untimely passing of my friend and colleague Barbara Gordon, Associate Professor of Music and Instructor in French at Felician University. Hired about a year before I was (2007), Barbara essentially built the university’s music department and program (including its choir) from the ground up, and was responsible for just about every major musical event–religious, classical, jazz–that took place on campus. She organized the Christmas concert as well as the musical parts of the convocation and commencement ceremonies, and virtually every concert and recital in between. Where there was high musical culture to be had at Felician–be it Adele, Bach, or Coltrane–Barbara was likely behind it.  

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Waheed Hussain, RIP

A few months ago, I wrote an entry here about my new job, drawing heavily on Waheed Hussain’s Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “the common good.” I’d made a mental note at the time to forward my post on to Hussain in case he found it of interest, but procrastinated, partly for the usual reasons, and partly from a sense of timidity and inhibition: what if he found my post, or my use of his entry, superficial and callow?

I finally resolved to send it to him today, only to end up encountering his obituary. Tragically, he died less than two weeks ago, at the age of 48, of causes related to cancer.

caption: Waheed Hussain

By some strange coincidence, I just realized that we had missed one another twice before: he matriculated at Princeton the year I graduated (1991), and graduated the year before I moved back to town and started attending philosophy events at the university (1995).

My condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Carol Manigault, RIP

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing a few days ago of Carol Manigault, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Felician University. Carol was a dear friend, and one of the very few people I would see in Kirby Hall either “after hours” or on the weekend–there for the same reason as I was, out of a preference for working at the office rather than working at home. I sometimes wondered whether the explanation for that preference was the same in Carol’s case as in mine–a reluctance to go home from the sense that home was better avoided than inhabited. Continue reading

Albert Aghazarian, RIP

Many of us are mourning the loss of the Palestinian historian Albert Aghazarian, a Jerusalem native long associated with Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah. I met him briefly but memorably in 2013, on my first trip to Palestine; he provided simultaneous translation of the three lectures I gave at Al Quds University on my first trip there in June of that year. The lectures were on Lockean political philosophy and its relevance to Palestine. Without him, there wouldn’t have been any lectures. Continue reading

Goodbye, Neil Peart

[A guest post by my younger brother, Suleman Khawaja.]

I can still remember being six years old, sitting on the asphalt basketball court behind St. Joseph’s church, tagging along with my older brother and the other neighborhood 12-year olds, trying hard not to be so conspicuously small. A hushed anticipation fell over the churchyard. I can still hear the ephemeral bumps and clicks as the tape unspooled in the little boom box, the sonic artifacts of fingers pressing Record and Play on someone’s Dad’s hi-fi, the click of the needle touching down on vinyl. “This is it, man!” The LP-to-cassette knock-off of Moving Pictures cued to launch the opening burst of “Tom Sawyer” into the air of North Jersey suburbia.

1981. West Orange, New Jersey. That’s the first time I heard Rush. The first time I ever heard of Neil Peart. One story among so many others. But mine.

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