Capacity to Chomp

Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 in Blog, Featured | 7 comments

Capacity to Chomp

One of my all-time favorite writers, Jerry Harvey, died three years ago today– August 1st, 2015. He was the author of The Abilene Paradox as well as one of the best titled books around, How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed in the Back, My Fingerprints are on the Knife? His writing in Organization Development helped shape my own writing more than any other person and I miss him dearly.

In 1981, my mother went back to graduate school when she was in her 60s to get her Masters in Social Work at Catholic University in Washington DC. She asked Jerry to write a letter of recommendation to the program for her. This letter of recommendation captures his spirit as well as my mother’s. As a tribute to Jerry and my mother, I want to share it with you:


Ms. Elizabeth Dupre has asked me to write a recommendation supporting her application for admission to the Master’s Program in Social Work at Catholic University. I shall be happy to do so.

To put my comments in context, I have known Ms. Dupre for approximately twenty years and consider her to be a close personal friend.

Here is what I can and cannot say about her:

  1. She is very bright and very well read. She is not bright in the way a 21 year old, fuzzy-cheeked graduate student is bright though. By that I mean that, at present, she would probably be unable to easily wire together a fifty-page research paper on the “Relative Merits of Various Forms of Welfare Compensation for the Elderly”. She has been away from formal schooling too long for that. She would be able to write some beautiful, haunting poetry about the ironies of welfare or the experience of aging though.
    Also, I doubt that, at present, she would be able to easily discuss the conceptual issues of the social work field but she would be able to discuss what the work of people like Saul Bellows, John Cheever, or Tennessee Williams might have to say about the social conditions of our time. 
  2. She has “guts”. She is a recovered alcoholic, who, out of sheer guts and courage, dug herself out of the pits and has been doing counseling with those, who, for whatever reason, have been unable to do what she did. In different terms, she has motivation and drive, and if she wants to succeed in something, she will succeed at it. 
  3. She can perform under pressure and she is sensitive to and skillful in coping with difficult people and situations. Hell, she is the mother of six solid, fully-grown, very attractive children. What else can I say other than she has long been a very successful teacher at a private, cooperative day school and has competently coped with the pressures of anxious parents, kids of all varieties, and a very bright, mobile, high achieving family. 
  4. She has a marvelous sense of humor and is very easy to get along with. 
  5. In what may appear to be a contradiction to #4, she is very difficult to deal with at times. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and prefers to deal with essence rather than appearance and superficiality. More directly, if you have fools on your faculty or student body, they may find Ms. Dupre chomping on the backs of their respective necks. She doesn’t hold grudges though and her capacity to chomp is always in the service of the pursuit of essence and excellence.

In summary, I recommend Ms. Dupre without reservation and hope you see fit to accept her. Let me know if you need anything else.


Jerry Harvey


  1. Awwwww John. Wonderful to wake up on this fine day and to be reminded so vividly of Mom’ and Jerry. I miss them too.

  2. What a great endorsement! we should all be so lucky to have just one like that in our lifetime.

    • John, what a timely gracious remembrance of two uniquely talented people who meant so much to us! Jerry and I were privileged to enjoy many wonderful years of friendship with Vlad and Ibby. We weren’t at all surprised that they raised such a diverse, interesting bunch of kids, grandkids, and now, great-grandkids. The pain of Ibby’s and Jerry’s absence is always with us, but so are the wonderful memories of their presence. Thank you very much for your expressions of appreciation for Jerry. I was so very blessed to share his life.
      Beth Harvey

  3. Best recommendation I’ve seen. Honest, funny, and deep.

  4. Great tribute, John!

  5. Jerry Harvey’s description of my Aunt Ibby is absolutely beautiful and so “right on”. It made me remember her so dearly and delight in her depth all over again. Thank you John, for thinking to share it with us. It certainly was wonderful to read.

  6. What a recommendation! Loved the directness, the depth of knowing and understanding another! Indeed a great tribute to a multi-faceted woman who had the desire and gumption too go back to graduate school to get a masters! Thanks for sharing this insight into your life both past and now present as she (as well as Jerry) continues to influence your life.

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