So I felt very lucky when my professor asked me to serve on a student council, and, at the first meeting, I found myself sitting next to Donna, sent by another professor. She amazed us all. She was ingenious and on every occasion came up with more ideas than we could deal with. She was indefatigable, ready for hours of free work to put those ideas to work for the community.
What took me longer to realize was that her real strength was how she dealt with all the people she attracted so effortlessly. She was not just pleasant and considerate; she paid extraordinary heed to others and always found time to hear them or be helpful.
I made a few quick switches in my assignments abroad, and my letters to Donna were returned. We lost touch. An old college friend told me that she had become well known in her field and traveled to poor countries for experimental work on children’s diseases. She had, he said, created a foundation for the purpose and put her life’s saving in it.
Thirty years later, I was on a short visit to Dominican Republic, and went to visit a friend in the local hospital. I might have passed the nurses’ station if I had not heard a familiar mellifluous voice that had once meant a lot to me. I turned to look at the doctor: a silver haired woman in a white coat, the stethoscope round her neck and a file in her hand, and a set of memorable sparkling eyes.
I held her hand as I looked at them, now radiant with recognition and joy. She was, as ever, truly a beauty.