I felt honored to be asked to write an homage for the occasion of Rick Gray’s retirement. Rick has deeply impacted my academic life over the last ten years and I feel fortunate and grateful to have him as a friend and colleague. I first met Rick in the fall of 2007 when he researched and lectured at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany. I sent him an e-mail stating regretfully that I wasn’t able to attend his lecture and asked if it was possible to meet him outside of the auditorium. Anyone familiar with Rick would know that there was only one answer to this question.
This was the beginning of a ten-year friendship. It started with a conversation about Michel Foucault’s concept of “heterotopic spaces” in society and my idea of taking advantage of the potential of Foucault’s concept as a methodological way of interpreting literary texts. At that time, I did not know that this conversation would open new perspectives in my future research and teaching. When Rick left Germany, I started to work on my proposal for the Heterotopia-Project. Shortly following, I was delighted when Rick agreed to be my postdoctoral mentor.
In 2009, with the generous support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the opportunity presented itself to network with American universities. I traveled to the UW and enjoyed working closely with Rick. I got to know him better during this time and discovered the many wonderful qualities of his work and life. I would like to highlight two of them: his scholarly open-mindedness for new ideas and his critical concern. In retrospect, I think that I wouldn’t have been able to finish my project successfully without his input. Rick was not only a mentor in my academic work; he also showed me how to deal with ideas critically and prolifically. From 2009 forward I had the honor and pleasure of having him as a mentor in professional and private life. Rick taught me how to reflect upon my own ideas and how to benefit from our critical discourse.
With Rick’s support, I had two prolific years in my academic career. Rick and I were at conferences at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), at the IVG conference in Warsaw and of course at the GSA and MLA. „External Space – Co-Space – Internal Space: Heterotopia in Culture and Society” was the outcome of our scholarly work, which was published in 2012.
In Seattle, I had the pleasure to discover that open-mindedness and generosity distinguish not only Rick’s academic career but also his private life. A new level of trust and friendship developed that has enriched my life to the present day. We undertook many trips, had conversations over lunch and dinner, played tennis, and spent time together in Seattle and Winthrop. Rick showed me how it is possible to bring work and friendship together and to improve both. The Humboltian idea of a family remained for Rick and me not only an idea; more that that: It came to be a part of my own life when I recognized how welcome I felt – and still feel – in Rick’s family.
I remember with great pleasure the decade of friendship between us. Even though I couldn’t physically be at Rick’s retirement party, I’d like to send my warmest regards and wishes to Rick and his family within the limited space of this newsletter.
Rick, I am deeply thankful for your friendship, trust, support, and care.