TITLE: Unexpected Gifts AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 24, 2010 1:50 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Last evening, my wife and I attended the wedding of one of my former graduate students. He is from India, and his new wife is from Russia. This was a small ceremony and party, with only a few of their closest friends. They will have big celebrations in their homelands next year to commemorate the marriage with extended family. This celebration consisted of a simple civil ceremony, beautiful wedding vows, and lots of fun courtesy of their multicultural friends. I was honored that he asked me to attend, and more honored that he considers me a close enough friend to invite to such a small and intimate affair. He arrived at my university as a student in one of my classes. Soon, he chose to work with me as his thesis advisor. In the years since he graduated, we have become colleagues and friends, talking first about our careers then about our lives. I consider him to be a friend of the highest order. The academic world sometimes delivers great gifts to us. There was no particular reason for this talented, hard-working, generous, and loyal young man to arrive on our doorstep, among all the many schools he could have chosen. When he did, I received the good fortune of working with him academically for two years and then the good fortune of a great friend thereafter. One of the traditions the groom and bride celebrated at their wedding was that anyone who wanted to give a toast could do so. Nearly everyone in attendance who knew either of them did so, and the groom himself spoke several times. About half way through the dinner and social time, my friend addressed the group, answering the often-asked question, how does a young man from Hyderabad end up at regional university in the middle of America's cornfields? He told a story about the e-mail he and I exchanged as he looked for an American grad school. Though we did not know it at the time, that was the beginning of our friendship. This story honored me, far beyond the wedding invitation, and humbled me. It was an unexpected gift as the snow began to fall at the outset of the holiday weekend. I wish Shri and Katya a lifetime of love and their own deep friendship. A friend is an eternal gift. -----