On September 28th, 2012 I was given the opportunity to speak at the 70th anniversary celebration of the American School of Guayaquil, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The school was dedicating the 70th anniversary yearbook to my dad, Dr. Albert Eyde, and I traveled to Ecuador to receive the dedication, as well as share a few words in memory of my dad.
In 2008 my dad passed away very quickly, he had only found out three weeks before his death that he had cancer. I was 8 months pregnant at the time, so I was not able to travel to Guayaquil with my siblings to attend the memorial services that were held there. To me, this was really sad, because I was the only one of his children who had been connected to his work; all my brothers had moved away years before. When I became a teacher at the American School (and later at Brookdale) Dad was so proud of me, he always said I would make a good teacher (I never believed him until I tried). I felt like he passed the baton to me, and not being able to be at his memorial services was a huge bummer.
When Patricia Ayala, current Secondary School Rector, contacted me about the dedication, and the possibility of one of the Eydes being present to accept it during the ceremony, I jumped at the chance! When they said that I could have the podium for a few minutes, I knew that this was an opportunity to share what I never had a chance to before. Despite my excitement, it was also very daunting. I spent many, many sleepless nights thinking about how to narrow it down to something meaningful, and at the same time encouraging.
I had so many things that I wanted to share. The history of the American School and the history of my family is so intricately entwined, that many times they seem one and the same.
In the end, the whole experience was a tremendous blessing for me. It was a journey on many different levels, and along the way I found a few things that I had not expected to find: forgiveness, inspiration, transformation, and closure. Ultimately, I gave the speech in Spanish, but I wrote it in English first and then translated it. There was no way I could have done this alone. I am so blessed to have wonderful people in my life who selflessly gave their time to help me! Thanks to Curtis for the help in narrowing down the focus and helping me work through the first drafts, to Anthony for the truly great final edits, Karina, Sandra & Paola for the help in translating, and Paola for listening to me practice the speech, and helping perfect my elocution in Spanish.
A Brief History
Years before I was born, my dad began working at the school as director of the English Department, in 1967. He was married to Ingrid Kraut at the time, and my oldest brother Cornell went to kindergarten there (he was later immortalized in a poem by Yorka Bossisio in the 1978 yearbook).
My second oldest brother, Niel, was born in Guayaquil 1968, but didn’t attend the school until 1978, when he was in the 4th grade. That year my dad took our family to Guayaquil for a year on his sabbatical from Rutgers to write his doctoral dissertation. He worked at the school, in the English Dept. again, and I began my career there in the 2nd grade. All of my siblings and I have been students at the American School. My brother Niel and I were both teachers there. That is where I met my husband, and many of my dearest, best friends.
However, the lasting impact that my dad had on the American School began when he was hired to be the Director General of the school in 1984. I guess I remember it so acutely because it was such a sensitive time in my own life, I had just turned 13 and my family uprooted and moved to a different continent, with a different language, culture, everything was different! I wanted to be excited, but the truth is it that it took me at least a year to adjust and get over my culture shock. I used to spend a lot of time with my dad in his office after school, he would be working and I would be curled up in an armchair, reading. He would tell me about the different things he was working on, and he would always listen to my opinions and ideas. He even used a couple of them!
My dad implemented a lot of radical changes at the school. For example, he started the school on the path of being SACS accredited, began the International Baccalaureate program, brought the first PC lab to a high school in Guayaquil, began English immersion from 1st grade (revolutionary!), and really set the bar for the standard of bilingual, multicultural education in Guayaquil. This, in turn, raised the quality of high school graduates, which had an upwards effect into the universities in Guayaquil, who had to adapt to the heightened aspirations and interests of incoming, now fully bilingual, freshmen. Just by doing his job at the American School to the best of his abilities, he really changed the educational landscape in a profound way.
Here is the speech in English:
It is a tremendous pleasure for me to represent the Eyde family and receive this wonderful gift and honor from the American School of Guayaquil towards my dad, Dr. Albert Eyde.
Many of you knew him, but for those of you who never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Eyde, I want to share some of the qualities that probably contributed to this posthumous honor.
Al was a devoted teacher who began his history with Colegio Americano in 1967, teaching English in the International Section, before I was even born.
He was a visionary, but beyond his professional preparation, and his achievements in completing groundbreaking projects in education here in Guayaquil and abroad, he was a visionary in another meaningful way. He was able to see the individual potential in people, often when they couldn’t even imagine it in themselves.
After his passing 4 years ago, I received hundreds of messages from students and colleagues who shared with me the many different ways in which Al impacted their lives. He was a positive force in many lives, encouraging people to excel. He was the type of person who gave you confidence in knowing that he believed in you, and you knew he expected you to do something with that potential. In this way he brought out the best in people. Al was always kind to everyone, young and old; he always greeted everyone with a smile. He had a great sense of humor and a powerful presence. With his genuine, friendly personality he made people feel like they could approach him, and one of his greatest strengths as a leader, I believe, was that he would listen to your ideas and concerns- students, parents, and colleagues alike. It was this quality which earned him so much love and respect.
I have been thinking a lot about what my dad would say if he had been able to be here today to accept this great honor personally. First, I think he would say that the accomplishments he made at Colegio Americano are something to be proud of, but they never would have been possible without the open hearts & minds of the board members, teachers, administrators, and parents who worked with him as a team, and helped bring about lasting change and success.
A person can be a visionary and can accomplish much by imposing their own strength and will, but when they win the support and dedication of hard working people who share a greater goal, the momentum continues long after the visionary is gone. Success makes it possible for you to leave an inheritance for others. But if you desire to do more, to create a legacy, then you need to think unselfishly and invest in others. When you do that, you gain the opportunity to create a legacy that will outlive you. I know that his hope was that what he started here at Colegio Americano would be carried on, to further enrich the education of our students, and the overall quality of multicultural education in Guayaquil.
My dad was a big fan of quotes, so in closing I would like to share a couple. The first is by one of his favorite authors, the poet Khalil Gibran, who wrote,” to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.” I remember asking my Dad one time why he worked so hard, and put in so many hours at the school. His answer was that, for him, work was spiritual. It was his way of serving his fellow man, of making things better, and impacting the lives of people in a positive way. His work gave him a purpose, and it fulfilled him. This leads me to my second quote, by Gandhi, who said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is a quote that Al used often in his speeches, and one which I believe he put into practice. The changes Al Eyde wished to see in the world were obvious: more kindness, people giving selflessly, acting nobly, sharing ideas with each other, and encouraging one another to work for the greater good, because that is what he did. Ultimately, I believe that the inmost secret, which Gibran speaks of, is found in being the change you wish to see in the world. That is Al’s true legacy, and one which we must carry on.
On behalf of the entire Eyde family, I thank you. May the American School of Guayaquil continue to grow, and be a leader in education in Guayaquil, and in Ecuador for 70 more years!
The video of the speech in Spanish: