Thanks, Derek

June 12, 2011

As Derek Araujo stated in his post a few days ago, he is resigning his position at CFI to pursue graduate studies in physics.  Let’s see . . . with his existing law degree from Harvard and now an upcoming PhD in physics from Columbia, this means Derek will become Master of the Universe in about four years time.  The good news is that it seems he will be a benign Overlord, and will treat us lesser beings kindly. 

Derek has been vice president and general counsel for CFI, and in that capacity he served as our in-house counsel and supervised our litigation, including the submission of amicus briefs in various important church-state cases.  But he was much more than a lawyer.  He also supervised our Office of Public Policy (writing and/or editing several position papers himself), was our UN representative, and coordinated the work of our international affiliates. Oh, and he was also treasurer for CFI and its related organizations. And he blogged.  When there was a task requiring some intellectual ability that needed to be assigned someone, the default reaction at CFI was “Let’s give this to Derek.” 

Amazingly, given Derek’s various and varied tasks, he never complained or missed a deadline.  In fact, Derek was an executive’s dream.  His work product was always first-rate and delivered on time.  I reviewed his work more out of a sense of obligation than out of any real need.  

Most of the staff here at CFI earn less than they would in for-profit businesses.  They make this sacrifice because they believe in the cause.  Derek’s financial sacrifice for the cause was exceptional, however.  He left a Wall Street firm to work for us.  The gap between what he could have earned in private practice and what we paid him would easily exceed the salaries of most managers. 

Derek’s commitment to the movement is a longstanding one.  He was one of the founders of the Campus Freethought Alliance (the predecessor to CFI On Campus) way back in 1995.  Moreover, I have been reliably informed that he not only helped organize CFA, but he gave musical performances at their meetings—of works that he composed.  If the array of his talents were any more diverse, we’d suspect him of having cloned himself. 

But what I will miss most about Derek was having a colleague with unimpeachable integrity and an acute sense of responsibility.  At the end of the day, it is character that counts most, and Derek’s character counted for a lot in the last few years—a period during which CFI experienced a significant and difficult reorganization.

To Derek and his many contributions “I can no answer make but thanks, And thanks, and ever thanks.”