The first time I met Amy, she yelled at me. I had not yet started my position as the Dean of Admission at her alma mater, George Mason University, where she was already working in admissions. A new mom with just a couple of years of experience, she was fully prepared to tell me, point by point, what was wrong with the office, the field, and the state of education.
And she was right. This would become a theme of our relationship over more than two decades.
Amy Takayama-Perez was unwavering in her dedication to education and worked every day to expand access and opportunity. She inspired all of those around her – and there were a LOT of us around her. She drew talent to her and made us into better teams, into friends, and into family. And she threw one hell of a party.
That party could be months of planning or spur of the moment. The timing didn’t matter, because we all wanted to part of the Amy magic – to be in that club that felt so warm, so connected. To be part of work that felt so important.
After a few years of working together Amy left to pursue her passion for increasing access in a role with Loudoun County schools. Two years later I came to her with my half-baked (maybe just a tenth baked) idea to create a Washington Journalism and Media Conference that would be a catalyst for students around the world thinking about the changing landscape of media and free speech. She yelled at me. Then she created something truly astounding. Because…Amy.
While we were still getting that together, I said why don’t we also offer a new model for bringing together leaders around sustainability and the environment. We should involve the National Zoo and National Geographic – a Washington Youth Summit on the Environment. Again, yelling. Again – amazing.
All of that work, from Mason to her leadership at the College of Charleston, pales to her dedication to her family – and she made so many of her family, her Ohana. She was the one who got us to bring our constantly crying infant out in the world for the first time (to Olive Garden with three other families!). She rallied us to go to the pool together, to basketball games, and to the Final Four. Nothing was as important to her as her incredible son and daughter and husband – but she made us all feel as if we were.
When I was at my lowest in my career I talked with Amy. She yelled – and I got back up and recommitted to the work.
The world has lost an amazing light and force, but we are lucky to have known her. Honor her life. Today and everyday remember that it is a privilege to work to make this world better. That education is a transformative tool that should be valued, and made accessible to every student. That those around are worth your time – worth making them feel like your family, your Ohana – even when you have to yell.
Amy, what I wouldn’t give to have you tell at me just one more time. You are loved and missed, and will be every day. May your memory be an inspiring blessing.
Andrew Flagel, PhD
President and CEO
Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area