“ Ali was always an inspiration to me. He didn't have to be the dean of a business school (again) - he had a fine career already and no doubt could easily enjoy his retirement from academia. Clearly Ali was doing the job out of passion, and it showed. His kindness showed through as well, at all times he was a calm, thoughtful, and above all caring person.
I could tell many stories of Ali, despite not being in his "inner circle". I will share three vignettes.
Ali was part of the inspiration for me to finally stop saying "no thanks" to opportunities in life, and to say "YES!" to everything - especially scary stuff. Scary stuff like starting my MBA at age 52. Like saying "YES!" to teaching when the opportunity presented itself in the middle of my MBA. I was terrified of speaking in public, let alone in front of students! The timing was terrible – I was only half-way done the MBA. But despite not being ready, I said "YES!" (well a little more reluctantly than that). And I am still teaching today.
When Ali found out about my teaching and my embarking on the MBA, he made a point of searching me out and congratulating me – with a sparkle in his eyes and real enthusiasm he said that he was excited for me and that it was "never too late to keep learning". And when I was crossing the stage to get my diploma, there he was, right in front of me – I don’t know why I was surprised, I guess all the pageantry of the day made me a little foggy. I reached out to shake his hand, and to my surprise, he opened up both arms and gave me a big hug, the big hug! What a guy.
Another story - it was just before Christmas at about 7pm. I was still at work and all the staff had long since left. I heard a rattle on my door. It was Ali and Rebecca, delivering Christmas cards. But not "normal" Christmas cards. These ones were hand-written and customized to the person. Mine was directly for me. That had never happened in the 30 years I have worked here.
I don't know how long he spent on those cards, but it meant a great deal to me. And the fact that he wanted to deliver them personally was the topper. I helped them open up doors that night, dropping off little notes and he looked so very contented.
Finally, I would be remiss to not point out how he was also not afraid to make a little fun of himself. In "Ali's Updates", his update videos to the faculty and the world, he regularly made fun of himself or acted playfully at the end of the video. Being a bit of a goof-ball myself, I appreciated his ability to show humility and be able to be the "low status" character for the sake of a smile, despite his lofty position.
Ali was a lovely man, and a great man at that. We will all miss him terribly. I am so sorry for your loss. ”