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Anna Kindler

Anna Kindler

Professor, former provost | University of British Columbia | Class of 1983

Our single favorite alumni story of the 1,100-plus we've heard comes courtesy of a Poland-born, one-time Hong Kong dean who now lives in British Columbia, Canada.

Take it away, Anna Kindler.

“It all began on the day I arrived in Urbana-Champaign in early September 1982 — on my first day in North America — carrying a small black suitcase, hoping and praying that my scholarship was still in place. I had been unable to leave Poland in time to attend the beginning of the academic year or advise the university about my circumstance due to the martial law restrictions in my country.

“A returning graduate student whom I met on a bus from O’Hare Airport helped me find the International Students Office, where I received both good and bad news: My scholarship was not canceled, but on-campus housing was no longer available and I had no place to stay.

"I was advised to check into a hotel and look for accommodations off-campus — an unrealistic option given that I had less than $200 at my disposal for the whole first month of my stay, until my first scholarship payment.

“This is when the U of I International Hospitality Committee stepped in and connected me with a family willing to provide emergency housing assistance. I was directed to wait in front of the office and, in less than half an hour, a scene unfolded in front of my eyes that made me feel as though I became a part of a Hollywood movie.

“A humongous, winged, pastel-green Cadillac pulled in front of the building and a lady wearing a matching color polyester suit and a gentleman with checkered trousers and a crisp white shirt adorned with a cowboy tie stepped out to greet me. I will never forget the feeling of relief when I slid into the back seat of the biggest car I have ever seen and was driven to their home in Urbana.

"Thanks to the extraordinary kindness and generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Simerl, with whom I kept in touch until they both passed away, I had a roof over my head and a nutritious breakfast for the first three days on my stay in the U.S., until a dorm room became available in Daniels Hall.

“Two U of I degrees later and an academic career filled with opportunities that I would have not dared to think possible on that first day of my arrival at the U of I, I am more grateful than ever to all those at the university who made this journey possible.”