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Farewell to a great man


I was beyond saddened to hear of the passing of my former boss, Dr. Esmael Adibi.  “Essie” (as I called him) worked as the director of the A. Gary Andersen Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.  I worked for Essie for 5 years and learned so much from him.

First thing I learned was, he was willing to take a leap of faith on me.  My sister also worked for him, she was his student and he needed someone and asked her to work there.  She was happy to do so.  Her term was short-lived as she was moving out of the country.  He asked that she help with a successor.

I was by NO means qualified, but she told him that I was smart and she’d be mad if he didn’t consider hiring me.

I had no college education.  I was working in the School of Education at the time, so I was just down the hall.  As he was a proper man and didn’t want to have any part of nepotism, he had his colleague talk to me to see if I was a good fit.  As luck would have it, he thought I would be fine and I was hired in.  And I was scared to death!

I was completely unqualified for the job, but my sister sat with me and hammered in as much information as she could before she left.

After that, it was just me and Essie… Well and Raymond as well (Dr. Sfeir to most).

I questioned myself every single day.  I didn’t want to disappoint these guys who had given me such an amazing opportunity.  But as luck would have it…they were patient….and very kind.

They were educators and they were willing to take me under their wing.

I mostly reported to Essie and my duties were fairly light at first.  As time went on, I started to take on more responsibility.  And as he felt more confident, he let me go more and more.

The thing I loved about Essie, is that he always took the time to show me or talk me through a process.  It wasn’t babysitting, I was proficient in many things, but the educator in him was always present.  And he was forgiving.

As the years went on, trust was built.  I started realizing what a big deal he was when the ’94 Northridge earthquake happened and we were getting calls from News stations asking about the economic impact the earthquake would have on the economy.  He and Dr. Doti were a revered in this field. They worked quickly to get the data out to the public.  And their advice was taken seriously.

When I started, we focused mainly on the Orange County economy, but quickly added the Inland Empire and shortly after that was Los Angeles.  Their information was highly regarded by many and I was proud to be a part of it.

But to me, he was always “Essie”.

After I left Chapman, I headed on to marriage and children.  We still kept in touch with Christmas cards and occasional visits.  I remember when I first brought my daughters to meet him.  They were probably 3 and 5?  I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to bring a trainwreck into his office, kids being kids and all.  He was so happy to see me and to meet them and he kissed them on their little heads.  My older daughter didn’t understand why he did that and I told her that children are precious and that was just the way he was.  But that sealed the deal with her.  Any time we were in the area she would say, “Let’s go see Essie”.  And though it wasn’t frequent, it was always nice to see him.

I have my daughter to thank for one of the last times I saw him.  We happened to be near the college and she said, “Let’s go see Essie”.  I said, “Oh no…I’m not dressed to see him”.  She replied as she walked toward the school, “He doesn’t care how you look!”  And off we went!  I’m so thankful for that time.

What he gave to me as I worked there was a sense of pride.  He didn’t to anything by using shortcuts.  He took great pride in everything he did and he took his time when necessary.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right!  Even potting a plant.  I remember one time he had a pot and plant and dirt.  The new plant was going to be in his office.  I will never forget staring at him as he carefully put down paper and put the pot on top.  Then I watched as he carefully poured the dirt into the pot (where I would have slapped it all together).  It really made me take pause that it didn’t matter the task…it was to be done well and with purpose.

He was such a proud man.  When I started working with him, his kids were in elementary school.  Last visit he shared a picture of his daughter’s wedding and spoke of his son and wife that they were all doing well.  I loved catching up.

I will miss him but will take with me all the he taught me.  I wish I had known the last time I saw him would be the last…

It was just a few months back…. I stopped in to share with him my friend’s daughter who was deciding between colleges.  He wasn’t in the office just then, but I was told he should be back any second.  So we wandered the campus while keeping an eye out.  When I looked across I could see him coming from the parking structure.  I ran up to him with my friend’s daughter and quickly introduced them.  I said, “This is Amanda, she’s deciding whether to go to Chapman or NYU” ….he looked at me and looked at her and smiled and said, “Go to NYU”.  Our visit was brief but we all laughed.  He was a great man.  I have tears in my eyes as I write these final words…

Essie, you changed my life.  You shaped who I am.  You had faith in me, and you helped me to grow as a person.  We shared many wonderful conversations and I will forever be grateful that even if only for a little while, I got to have you in my life.  Not as a Dr….or a Professor….but as Essie….a mentor, and my friend!  God be with you.  You made a difference in this world!

To his family…please accept my heartfelt condolences.  His loss is felt far and wide.  My prayers are with you.