On 9th July members of the extended Ertegun family gathered together on an evening Zoom call to celebrate our beloved outgoing Ertegun director, Ed Herzig. The virtual partygoers represented multiple generations of Ertegunites, including current scholars, resident alumni, and alumni no longer resident, and spanning time zones from San Francisco to Athens and beyond.
The main unifying feature of the group was that few of us could be in Oxford physically for Ed’s in-person farewell party at Port Meadow—but we wanted to celebrate Ed, and his invaluable contributions to our community, nonetheless.
Julia Peck and Ursula Westwood planned the festivities. The programme was just the right length, incorporating the serious and the silly, mixing in a series of games and personal reflections. Julia started the evening by setting three minutes on the clock and sending us off to find household objects that reminded us of Ed. A running theme was objects that reflected Ed’s cool, collected demeanour, from ice cubes to sprigs of lavender; other objects touched on Ed’s academic and non-academic interests, such as a sweets box with Persian motifs and a blue yoga mat. Next up was the contour portrait competition. A headshot of a very dapper Ed was put on-screen, and Julia gave us one minute to copy it without looking down at our drawings or lifting our pens from the page. The results were impressive, though definitely showing plenty of Cubist influence (see example!). Picasso would be proud.
Sketch of Ed by Adina Goldman
The final portion of the evening was the most special. We had an opportunity to share with Ed what he meant to us personally, and to the Ertegun community at large. We spoke about his calm in the face of any storm, his understated sense of humour, and the culture his presence helped cultivate in the House. Many of us felt that Ed was particularly responsible for making Ertegun a generous, welcoming space, and encouraging the intergenerational exchange between current scholars and alumni. Many spoke on a personal note, as well, mentioning how helpful his guidance—on the academic profession and life at large—has been over the years. Finally, Ed took a moment to share what a rewarding experience guiding and sharing in this community of scholars (and not to mention, enjoying his fair share of Ertegun restaurant dinners and theatre outings!) has been for him over the past three years.
The consensus of the evening was clear. As we expressed in a myriad of ways, Ed helped foster the best of Ertegun, and those of us who were present in the House under his leadership are profoundly grateful.