Even a Venn Diagram couldn't illustrate all of the connections and inter-relations between the individuals and events that significantly shaped my life. However, during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, there was one period of study with one professor, Dr. Michael Francis Jiménez, that was the catalyst for me to return to Latin America and eventually realize my dream of living in the region. If it hadn't been for the inspiration with which Dr. Jiménez taught, and the energy he brought to the classroom, I might not have been so willing and eager to seize the opportunity to travel to Cuba when it arose in April 2001 while I was a Coro Fellow at Carnegie Mellon.
I've told the story countless times, but in its simplest form, I was offered the chance to represent the United States at a cycling competition in Cuba, and even though I had been focusing on my work as a Fellow, I left school and again took up the bike. While that decision cost me a master's in public policy, I met Yuliet only a few days after landing in Havana...and three years later we would be married in Vedado.
This is the first January since 2002 that I've not been finishing my preparations to compete in the Vuelta a Cuba, and it is a strange feeling. Granted, this new set of challenges - namely, transferring all of my experiences and successes as an athlete, coach, team manager, race organizer and author into a viable career marketing plan as a means to securing gainful, lucrative employment outside of cycling (say that in one breath!) - requires as much or more energy than did achieving success in sport. But when I think about the adventure that (re)started for me in 2001, I can't help but also think of Michael, and remember that he was perhaps the most inspiring, kind and caring individual I've ever met.
Today I Google'd his name, and found this page, a remembrance to him. Thank you for everything you did for me and all of your students, Michael, and god bless your family.