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October 18 , 2004
Accountability in community
Mike mandl is executive vice president for finance and administration
Some of you reading this may not be aware of the events of July 31, 2004, and therefore will not understand immediately when I say how good it is to be back. Others of you are aware of those events, and therefore will understand when I say how sorry I am. The Emory community has experienced a burden of hurt, disappointment and anger because of my actions that day. And for that I am deeply sorry.
I awoke that morning unaware that the events to follow would mark the beginning of what Dr. Paul Earley, an Atlanta physician who specializes in treating addiction, later described as a “journey to defeat your addiction and, during the course of the quest, to learn about yourself.” While I did not fully comprehend what he meant at the time, I do today, two-and-a-half months later.
What happened on that day in July brought me face to face with the consequences of a disease that afflicts me and a surprising number of others in the Emory community. Like many of those others, I had neglected to seek serious treatment for the disease until its public manifestation.
I want to acknowledge that I have a disease of addiction—in my case, to alcohol.
The good news for me is that it is currently in remission. And, like many other chronic diseases, it will stay in remission so long as I follow the recovery program I have learned. While I am not responsible for having the disease, I am 100 percent responsible for my continuing health, and I fully accept this responsibility.
Unfortunately, I had not learned how to manage the disease until an incident at a local restaurant cast me—and, by association, Emory—in an unwelcome light, leading to allegations of public drunkenness and sexual battery. While there was no sexual battery or intent, and the waitress involved in the incident has confirmed as much, it is clear to me that I behaved boorishly at best and made the waitress and the owner of the restaurant uncomfortable and angry. For this I am very sorry. I feel deep regret for many reasons, particularly because my conduct opposed my strong and abiding respect for women as well as my own personal standards of behavior.
Understandably, some people at Emory have raised concerns over the allegations. What is clear to me now is that abuse of alcohol can lead to terrible and regrettable consequences—and that individuals ultimately remain accountable for those consequences. My public actions on that last night in July were inappropriate and caused embarrassment to Emory, as well as pain to others. Again, I apologize for the hurt my actions caused the Emory community.
At the same time, I want to convey my gratitude to my family and to Emory. My wife, Nancy, is the strongest, most committed person I know, and her determination to restore my health has been unwavering. My children have their full dad back, and they have begun to learn how to face some of life’s darkest challenges and come out on the other side. They did this with love, intellect and steadfastness I have rarely seen, let alone in people their age.
While I have daily opportunity to express my gratitude to my family, here I want to express formally, and with heart and soul, my profound gratitude and appreciation for the support, prayers and good wishes from the Emory community. To my colleagues on the President’s Cabinet, my colleagues in the Office of Finance and Administration, the deans, faculty, staff and trustees who called and sent me cards, letters and e-mails—I say simply, thank you. This encouragement gave me strength to navigate the most treacherous parts of the journey, and, while I cannot adequately put into words just how much this has meant to me, I need you to know that I will be eternally grateful. A special word of thanks goes to those people who report directly to me, and who stepped up with such ability and confidence during my absence.
Before closing, I want to turn briefly to a larger issue—an issue that I want to help our community address. It is well documented that at least 10 percent of the population is afflicted by the disease of alcohol addiction. No segment of the population is immune. The disease does not discriminate with respect to race, education, profession, gender or sexual orientation.
Left untreated, the disease has the potential—indeed, the high probability—of progression that will eventually result in serious harm, pain, damage and death. Many never seek treatment.
Many others wait until they “hit bottom.” I did not seek the necessary treatment program earlier in the summer for fear of what others would think—for fear of personal and professional damage. So I made the mistake that so many make: thinking that my strong willpower would help me quit drinking. That was not sufficient, and the rest is now public.
I have learned about the disease of addiction, about self and about the meaning of strength, commitment, love and community. And I have learned a recovery program to keep the disease in remission for the rest of my life, one day at a time. My sincere wish is that my experience can give others the confidence and hope to seek treatment.
If I can help in any way, my door is always open. I urge anyone who suspects they have a problem to seek a medical evaluation or to contact Emory’s excellent Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.
And so I close by expressing again my gratitude to the Emory community and specifically to President Jim Wagner. I am proud to be part of this community and proud to serve this president.
I stand ready to continue my service to this great University. I will do so with humility and strength and with a firm commitment to help advance our mission and achieve our vision. With great respect, admiration and appreciation, I look forward to the days, months and years ahead.