This is a condensed version of notes written by Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall regarding his trip to New York last week.
Thursday was a full day, with two big events and some smaller ones interspersed. First was a talk by Kirstin at the Cosmopolitan Club, a private women’s club in New York, to which my grandmother belonged for many years.
When we arrived at the Cos Club, we were greeted by Beth Goehring and Susan Ciaccio, the two women on the Library Committee who had organized the event, who were very nice and pleased that we all came in spite of the fact that their event had a waiting list of over 40 people!
Kirstin’s talk at the Cos Club was in the library on the sixth floor, which was new territory for me. As a child, I had never been allowed out of the lobby because this was strictly a women’s club. So I felt as if I was eating forbidden fruit much of the time. Kirstin gave an inspiring talk, including some of FP’s own rules of the road for being effective in life in general, and as a lobbyist in particular, which got my attention.
We gave out a good number of brochures and invited people to sign our web site’s guest book if they’d like to be on our mailing list. I only missed the first group that got onto the small elevator before Chris Breiseth gently nudged me toward the brochures (thank you, Chris!), which I was forgetting in the chitchat after Kirstin’s talk was over.
The Cos Club had thoughtfully hired a serious SUV to whisk her to Columbia and it happened to be plenty big enough to comfortably seat all of us (my partner Christopher, Chris Breiseth, Kirstin Downey, Barb Burt, and me). We settled in and Kirstin and Chris wasted no time in diving into rapid fire conversation about various people who could speak at various events and who so and so was and what they had done and why they were significant and so on. It was obviously over my head but Barb did her best to keep up by taking notes on her iPod and the rest is still in Chris and Kirstin’s heads, so all’s well. We soon arrived at the gates of the Columbia campus at 116th street and headed for the Butler Library.
Jenny Lee, who couldn’t have been a nicer, kinder, more intelligent, and thoughtful person greeted us on the ground floor and helped us get past the guard. There was a little time to set up in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Jenny’s domain, on the sixth floor (yes, another sixth floor happening) where the exhibit was so nicely installed (by Jenny) and where the reception would be held. There was small room off to one side where Jenny had provided a computer projector and we hooked up my little Apple laptop to show images of The Brick House and FP’s Perkins family lands.
Kirstin’s talk, in a room on the ground floor, was very good. This one focused a bit more on FP’s efforts to ease immigration rules so that more refugees from Nazi Germany could be brought into this country. Very well presented and received, bravo Kirstin!
Afterwards, we went back up to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (sixth floor) for the reception. Penny Colman (another FP biographer) was there and very enthusiastic, full of good ideas.
The Mount Holyoke College NYC network had put the word out and so a number of MHC grads were there, which was good to see. I got pigeon-holed by a nice man who had been the son of the superintendent of the building that Margaret Poole lived in in NYC where FP spent a lot of time as a sort of permanent guest when I was a small boy. I remember visiting that apartment often and have clear memories of times there.
We went our separate ways after the reception (some of us had a long way to go; Kirstin arrived home in Virginia at 3:00am!) with a warm feeling of togetherness, common purpose, and FP’s amazing significance housed so securely with Jenny on the sixth floor.
Here are some photos from the Butler Library exhibit: