Remembrance of Becky Morton from Abraham Aldama

My first memory of Becky Morton was when she emailed on February 15, 2013 to say that she was very pleased to hear that the graduate admissions committee at NYU had decided to accept me into the program. At the time, I was not aware of much of her work and had not mentioned an interest in working with her in my application. However, Becky reached out to me. She was more than willing to take time to answer my questions and put effort into convincing me to attend NYU. As I have come to learn, that was standard for Becky. She constantly took time to mentor students and junior colleagues. Becky was never too busy to serve as a PI on a grant or IRB application for me or any other student, even if she was not chairing their committee. She was never too busy to throw a party or organize a workshop or conference so that junior people in the profession could learn more and network with senior colleagues. Becky was never too busy to give feedback on a paper.

The first paper I published would have never occurred if it were not for Becky. In early 2016, Mateo Vásquez-Cortés, also an NYU student at the time, and I attended the Winter Experimental Social Science Institute (WESSI), which Becky organized every year in Abu Dhabi. There, we met Lauren Young, at the time a graduate student at Columbia. At the workshop, Lauren presented some of her dissertation work on the impact of emotions on collective action. As we saw her present, Mateo and I realized we shared common interests with Lauren and approached her about working together on a project. This has become a multi-paper endeavor. Lauren, Mateo, and I are not unique. I know of many collaborations that budded at WESSI.

Our field is certainly richer because of Becky. The amount of knowledge that has been created and divulged thanks to her direct or indirect action is immense. Not only did she write groundbreaking papers, but mentored numerous students, organized the annual NYU CESS Experimental Political Science conference and the annual NYU alumni workshop, and also served as an editor at JEPS. Becky’s impact is truly wide reaching. Her impact, however, goes beyond the intellectual. In the world of academia, it is easy to forget that we are more than our publications and accolades. Becky did not forget that. She treated both Ivy-League tenured professors and small-school graduate students with the same respect and dignity. She cared more about someone’s story than their latest APSR or AJPS.

My last memory of Becky is the party she threw to say good-bye to New York. She was permanently moving out of the city to become Associate Dean at NYU Abu Dhabi. She invited both her graduate students and professors with endowed chairs. At the party, she told us stories about her daughters. She also recalled witnessing 9/11 from her window and she mentioned how much she would miss throwing parties at her Greenwich Village apartment. As it had become usual at Becky’s parties, the food and the company was spectacular. As I left Becky’s building, I noticed I had forgotten by backpack, so I went back to pick it up. When I arrived, she asked me to fill the backpack by taking home some of the leftover wine bottles. That was Becky: always generous, always kind.

Abraham Aldama, University of Pennsylvania