We've met only once in person; we got to know each other through e-mails. I've corresponded with him through his marriage, their decision to have children, his battles to maintain rationality at universities determined to go insane over trendy dogmas, his denial of tenure despite a sterling record of publications and grants, and his current pursuit of a permanent place at a different school.
He is a man of courage and principle, who cares deeply about his field of study, his students, his profession, and the world at large.
But this letter came with a photo attached -- his two sons and two boy-cousins, all pre-teens. They were mugging for the camera and they looked happy and sassy. "This may be a silly photograph," my friend said, "but it sure makes me smile."
I wrote back to him a brief comment about how cool it was to watch the kids grow up, and here's what he wrote back:
"As I sit around and mope about overwork and next year's tenure evaluation, it is easy to forget what is really important. It's much more important I be a good father than a successful academic. For darned sure."