Memorial to Dr. Mine Ener

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Dear Editors of the Villanovan,

Last week’s editorial in the Villanovan asked a thoughtful and compelling question. What did the committee that created the Mine Ener memorial in the library hope to communicate to the Villanova community? The editorial noted the money, energy and faith in the idea’s importance that must have been required and asked that those involved share that faith with the student body. This is a fair question that deserves response, especially in light of the tragic death of Dr. Ener’s daughter, Raya, followed by her own heartbreaking and lonely death. The committee regrets that we did not more fully communicate the context and meaning of the memorial before the dedication on January 20 took place.

In the months since their deaths in August 2003, there have been numerous initiatives to memorialize Dr. Ener and Raya. Friends and family immediately responded to the tragedy by supporting organizations dedicated to improving the lives of people with Down’s syndrome and post-partum depression; numerous family members and friends at the university and in the broader community have given significant time and funds to these causes. Colleagues at Villanova and other universities, and organizations in the fields of history, women’s studies, psychology and Middle Eastern studies have also held lectures and symposia in her memory.

The memorial in Falvey Library serves a very different purpose, and remembers other aspects of Dr. Ener’s life. It seeks to reflect and communicate the good that Dr. Ener did and the love that she had for her students and colleagues before her fatal mental illness. By furnishing a corner of the Falvey first-floor lounge with private donations given in her memory, the committee sought to create for students a place of beauty, peace and study that would communicate inspiration, love, remembrance, consolation and prayer.

As a scholar, teacher, mentor and friend, Dr. Ener was united in love with the members of her large and close knit family, her numerous colleagues, students and friends in the Villanova community, and her many friends around the world. Her commitment to love those she encountered throughout the campus endeared her to all of us. “St. Augustine,” Father Ellis stated at the dedication, “tells us that teachers and students must have their dwelling in one another. I think Mine epitomized this characteristic. . . . Love and understanding. . . are the ultimate goals of acquiring knowledge. If we are able to live and practice these goals, we should have a fitting memorial to Mine who herself exercised love and care for her students and colleagues. Let us treasure this memory.” As the blessing delivered on January 20 reminded us, she was also committed to helping the poor and disadvantaged, as was evident in her research and publications on the history of charity in the Middle East. Thus the memorial was not a University honor bestowed, or the naming of a building or even the lounge, but an expression of love reciprocated for love given.

We also wish to remember to strive to be present for people in their times of trouble. In our prayer at the dedication, we “recognized our sadness and our inability to change and transform her dark night.” Perhaps the remembrance will help us do a better job as a community to care for our most vulnerable members so that no child, parent, husband, wife, brother, sister or grandparent among us will suffer such an unspeakable tragedy. Maybe this memory will promote a greater understanding of post-partum depression and psychosis and a greater ability to bring possibly life-saving help and care to a child in danger or a mother in despair. May we remember the fragility of our health and those around us and be vigilant in protecting one another.

Many were shattered by Dr. Ener’s and Raya’s deaths. Another purpose of the memorial is to bring consolation to her family, to her husband and her brothers and sister-in-law, who were present at the dedication, to her students, who had been devastated by the tragedy, and to her friends who continue to grieve for the mother and child they had known and loved.

Finally, the purpose was to gather in prayer. The blessing at the dedication expressed “our hope and prayer that she and Raya are now at peace.” As was said that day, again citing St. Augustine, “Let knowledge be used as a kind of scaffolding which is used to build an edifice of love and understanding, an edifice which shall endure forever, even after knowledge itself shall disappear.”

Dr. Adele Lindenmeyr, Chair, History Department, for The Mine Ener Memorial Fund Committee: Rev. Kail C. Ellis, O.S.A., Dr. Barbara Wall, Dr. Seth Koven