Sharon Poczter

Assistant Professor

Location: Ithaca, NY

"You didn’t have the luxury of that support, and still whenever the world told you no, somehow you knew to say yes."

Dear Mom,

This is not as much a letter to you, as a proclamation to the world—because the world should know about being strong through your example.

You grew up in difficult circumstances, economically, socially—well, in every possible way. You were told “no” because you were a woman, and “no” because you were Jewish; really “no” at every juncture and for any reason (“no” being the nicest of the words you were told). But something inside of you motivated you, gave you the confidence to leave the country you were born in, and drag your reluctant husband with you. Something told you there was a better life out there for you and your unborn children, even if you had to start with nothing. So you moved to the U.S., where you would take care of not only your husband, but two mothers and a brother, all at the age of 23. Somehow you knew when others did not.

And even when you reached the U.S., you knew. Today people complain about sending a couple of resumes for less than optimal jobs, and you sent hundreds of applications ultimately for a job counting towels in a hospital, even though you had a college degree. But you did it, and did it with gusto, so that you could support a husband pursuing his dream to become a professor. You pushed your brother to pursue his dreams, and get a graduate education, too. Even though you pushed everyone around you to pursue their dreams and didn’t think to pursue your dreams instead, you never complained. Somehow you knew.

Two kids and years later, you were finally able to pursue a graduate degree, even though you still had a full time job. You worked full days, went to school at night, and still made time to come to my hat shows, school plays, and class parties (although you did always ask me to volunteer you for the napkins). You were a silent role model, never using your schedule as an excuse for a bad mood, or as an explicit method of getting us to work harder or study more. Without a true role model, advocate or mentor, you somehow knew that work-life balance was not a this-or-that decision, and you knew how to allocate your time wisely. You knew work was important, and so was family. You knew to always keep your foot on the pedal, at work and at home. Somehow you knew.

And today, you are an executive at one of the largest hospital networks in New York, one of the only women at this level in your field and one of the most accomplished. And even now, you still manage to make time to care-give. Now you spend a full day at work, then take care of the elderly in our family, then go home and take care of your husband, your two daughters, and everyone else in your life. And you do so with no expectations and total dedication.

Your daughters, both of us with graduate degrees, have excelled far beyond your or their wildest dreams. One of us is a federal judge, and the other an Ivy League professor. Mostly, our success comes from saying yes when anyone tells us no. Over and over again. Picking ourselves up when we fail. When no one else believes. I was lucky, because when so many people told me I would not make it, somehow you knew.

You didn’t have the luxury of that support, and still whenever the world told you no, somehow you knew to say yes.

Thanking you minimizes the impact you have made in my life. You are my moral compass, my rock, my leader, my best friend.

I hope you know what you mean to me, and how proud I am to be your daughter.

Love you, Sharon