Readers Write: A tribute for Michael D’Innocenzo

The Island Now

There are many words or characterizations that I could think of to describe Michael: pedagogue, activist, friend, historian, unwavering warrior for democracy. Yet, as I write these words, tears come to my eyes.

All are too generic and none truly capture the way in which the universe will suffer a loss from Michael’s passing.

In one of our recent correspondences, Michael referenced the expression: “May you live in interesting times.”

Surely known to be an ironic curse, Michael challenged me to use this as a poetry topic, something I certainly intend to try.

I met Michael through the pages of these Blank Slate papers, as I started writing opinion pieces prior to the 2016 election. Michael was a true believer in the power of civic discourse, the written word, and the free interchange of ideas through platforms such as the kind that Steven Blank has provided for in our communities.

Indeed, I met Michael during “interesting times.”

In my eyes, Michael was a super-human being who gave so much of his energy and intellect to those who he owed nothing. I have fond memories of attending the Presidential debate events at Hofstra, and other events such as his honorary lecture at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck.

During these “interesting times” in our society, Michael provided comfort through his courageous defense of democracy and activism, his perseverance and passionate pursuit of all things leading to a more just and liberal society, and, as many who have known him have experienced, his unique sense of humor and joke-telling.

While Michael may have been a professor for more than 60 years, he was truly a pedagogue everywhere he went. His de facto class roster was our entire community and all who met him.

One more time, I would like to say: “Thank you, Michael. You enriched my life and empowered me in ways that will last a lifetime.

While I hope you are off somewhere, ‘Out of Left Field,’ debating with the greatest minds of the past, and spontaneously telling jokes, all who have met you will pay it forward through our fierce courage, kindness, and defense of democracy. Your epistolary pal, Diana.”

Diana Poulos-Lutz

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