We received word that Surekha Adya, Past President of the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, passed away after a valiant struggle against ovarian cancer. Surekha was a dedicated volunteer, especially for the International Visitor Leadership Program of the US Department of State. Here is a tribute by former Executive Director Sue C. Root:
How grateful I am to have known and worked with Surekha Adya. Before she became President of the World Affairs Council, Surekha chaired the Council’s International Visitors program. She spent many hours in the Council office as we pulled together appointments for distinguished people from around the world. Our time working together was an extraordinary period in history for meeting people who would help to reshape policies in their countries: Albania, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, the countries of South America, Thailand and Yugoslavia . . . to name a few.
Surekha was one of the smartest people I know. She understood political issues and the reasons why visitors were selected to come to the United States and to Western Massachusetts. She was extremely sensitive regarding how to receive visitors – taking into account the historical and cultural context of each person and group.
And, we had fun! Surekha and I were both political junkies. What we were doing gave us legitimate reasons to make appointments with public officials at every level: members of Congress, Mayors, City Councillors – Democrats and Republicans . . . as well as members of the press who covered them. Beyond the world of government and politics, International Visitors have been interested in ethnic diversity, community and social services, education and the arts. Surekha once arranged a luncheon for a literary person from China whose single purpose was to meet the well known author John Edgar Wideman, then at UMass and now at Brown. The benefit for us was that, together, our circle of friends and contacts throughout the valley kept growing.
I am so grateful to Surekha Adya for helping me to learn – not just about growing up in India, but also how to ask thoughtful questions and better understand all the people who crossed our paths. Thanks to the Adya family for sharing her with us.