The Big Question

What’s the Best Gift You Ever Received?
Illustration by Valerie Morgan Natasha Andrade Senior Lecturer of Civil and Environmental Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering For my 40th birthday and our 10th anniversary, my husband gave me a trip to the Maldives. Snorkeling around the island and the reefs further out was just incredible, and water landing was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. During one of our boat trips, we rescued a sea turtle that was entangled on fishing gear. He was brought to the Olive Ridley Project. I ended up adopting the turtle (with a donation to cover the costs of medical care). He had one of the flippers amputated, but was later successfully released back to the big blue ocean.
Thomas Antonsen Distinguished University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering The best material gift, from my parents, was the Time-Life Science Library. A new book would arrive every few months, and I would devour it. The worst gift was a suitcase one year on Christmas. It had me wondering, what message was being sent?
Henry C. Boyd III Clinical Professor of Marketing, Robert H. Smith School of Business When I started dating my wife, Isabel, I quickly learned that gift giving is a huge part of the Mozambican culture. As an avid shopper, Isabel has considerable talent at scoring the perfect gift. Sure enough, she got me an iconic poster of my favorite artist, Miles Davis. The poster captures Miles’ ever-present coolness. He exudes an air of confidence that comes after years of mastery over one's art.
Alisa Clyne Associate Professor, Fischell Department of Bioengineering Every October, MIT glass lab artists create a pumpkin patch of gorgeous hand-blown glass pumpkins. I could not afford one when I was in graduate school. A friend gave me one a few years later for our wedding. It was a thoughtful, meaningful and beautiful gift.
Lucy A. Dalglish Dean and Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism For my 10th birthday, my grandparents gave me a sewing basket. I sewed most of my clothes as a teenager, and I still use that basket every week. I thought of them often as I made dozens of face masks over the past few months.
Steve Fetter Associate Provost and Dean, Graduate School, and Professor, School of Public Policy Some years ago, my wife gave me the present of cooking for family and friends in the kitchen of a downtown restaurant, The Oval Room, under the supervision of chef Paul Luna. Guests rotated into the kitchen to help and every dish was paired with a wine by the sommelier. It was great fun.
David Kass Clinical Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business The best gift I ever received was five shares of the common stock of Long Island Lighting when I was 12 years old. This $100 gift transformed my life. Until then, the only part of my local newspaper (The New York Times) that I read was the sports section. After receiving this gift, I read the business section first and developed my interest in, and passion for, economics and finance. This paved the way for my education and career.
Brooke Fisher Liu Professor of Communication; Associate Dean for Academic Standards and Policies, The Graduate School; and ADVANCE Professor, College of Information Studies Whenever I came home from college, my mom placed fresh flowers in my bedroom in a crystal vase. She passed away from cancer a year after my graduation, but my daughters and I enjoy filling the same vase with flowers whenever possible.
Linda C. Macrì Director, Academic and Professional Development, Graduate School My first year in college, my mom sent a Valentine’s card with a check and instructions to take a friend to lunch. She did it every year until I got married, and it was always a treat to take a friend out in the dead of winter.
Scott Roberts Assistant Dean and Chief of Operations, Graduate School I'm very close with my younger brother, Andrew, who also worked and studied at UMD. When we went out to Arizona to visit, my wife surprised me with tickets for him and me to attend a massive music festival with some of our favorite artists. She really went above and beyond!
Oliver Schlake Clinical Professor of Management and Organization, Robert H. Smith School of Business A very early version of a pocket calculator when I was in second grade (1973). Calculators were officially banned from school, but my parents thought that my interest in math would overshadow the potential shortcomings of having what was then called a “cheating machine.” They were right.
Jan V. Sengers Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, A. James Clark School of Engineering I received, together with my wife, Anneke Levelt Sengers, an honorary doctoral degree from the Technical University Delft in The Netherlands in the presence of Queen Beatrix in 1992. We were the first couple to receive honorary doctoral degrees simultaneously from any university in the Netherlands, and my wife was the first woman to receive an honorary doctoral degree in the 150-year history of the Technical University Delft.
Debra L. Shapiro Clarice Smith Professor of Management and Organization, Robert H. Smith School of Business I began studying piano at age 5 and have taken 21 years of lessons—mostly classical but also some jazz. My parents gave me a piano for the home I bought in Chapel Hill, N.C., where my academic career began; to this day this is among my most treasured gifts since it continues to bring joy (music) into my home. Share your answer or suggest a future question in the Comment section.


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