Tunney turns 80
Posted: October 25, 2011
This weekend I had the privilege of attending the 80th birthday party of my friend, mentor and hero, Tunney Lee. Tunney is not a traditional mentor—I don’t actually recall any words of direct encouragement or praise that in my head I associate with mentorship. But the impact on my life has been profound. Tunney is simply the wisest and at the same time most intrinsically optimistic person I have ever known. I have turned to him for advice and inspiration at all the key transitions in my life and saved some of his special insights as wisdom nuggets in a part of my brain as a sort of intellectual security blanket.
His oldest daughter, Thea, captured it when she said that Tunney doesn’t ever direct people any place, but rather opens pathways for people to move themselves.
Then Tunney spoke about how lucky he feels. He said we are all start with some DNA and whatever culture we are born into. Then who we become depends upon who we encounter along the way—those human interactions are what shape those primal forces. And he thanked everyone for the relationships we have offered to him.
Typical of Tunney, he didn’t allow for speeches or testimonials or even toasts—although my guess is that all 100+ people in attendance would have jumped at the chance. He’s secure in the way we all feel about him and is too humble to hear it declared aloud.
And to top it off, Tunney’s sister lives in one of JCHE’s buildings! That’s a vote of confidence I treasure.
Happy birthday, Tunney. The world is so much better a place for your part in it.
Photograph: (left to right) Mitchell Rosenberg, Tunney Lee, Amy Schectman, Helen Chin