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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Condi Rice Made Me an Extraordinary Offer!

We Hit It Off ...
T'was a dream job, at a dream time: Stanford University recruited me as Director of Educational Technology Ventures in late 1997, to organize and assist ed/tech start-ups that Stanford undergrads, grad students and faculty were dreaming up, by facilitating connections with Sand Hill Road investors.  In fact the HR office shared a parking lot with Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers - just breathtaking (if such things leave you breathless).

So between October and March I visited campus 4 times, was offered the position and hunted for real estate.  My boss would be Mariann Byerwalter, a star Cardinal grad who'd been way up in Bank of America and had come back to the alma mater as CFO to engineer the Stanford Hospital & Clinics consolidation and oversee Business Development. My four year old daughter would one day go to Stanford for free, and in free time I'd mill about among the Burghers of Calais, pondering life in the Rodin sculpture garden....
Following our second visit, Mariann led me to a small office for a private meeting with her boss, the Provost.  The go-between from Diversified Search of Philadelphia had alerted me that this Provost with a funny first name was a brilliant Sovietologist and a Washington insider rumored to be on the short list for a cabinet post, should GWB emerge as the candidate (odds were long at that point, three years ahead of the 2000 election).

...on sale today
What a sharp, friendly and modest person I met - extraordinarily intelligent, extraordinarily humble.  We scoped the vision for the Tech Ventures office, and the spirit of innovation on campus (without parallel in my view), and then Condoleezza and I shot the breeze about Washington DC: the Kennedy Center, restaurants she missed (Cities, B. Smith's, and we both loved the Belmont Kitchen), and her old Massachusetts Avenue apartment a short walk from my home in NW.  Only three years later did I fully realize how much I'd NOT said, how little reason I'd given her to think me worthy of the job.  Somehow, though, at the end of that hour she initialed Mariann's hiring recommendation and we shook hands as soon-to-be colleagues.

The recruiting process was a long one, and it happened that during this time my marriage was coming to an end. As circumstances changed, I had to reconsider the move and decline the offer.  It is the single career choice that I have looked back on with wistfulness.

Lots of my friends still obsess angrily about "W," but even they have to admit - 'though they do so secretly - that Condoleezza Rice has more class and grace than just about anyone who finds a calling in public service.

Watch this video and you'll see why I will ALWAYS be a Condi fan!!!

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