STORY: James Combs PHOTO: Matthew Gaulin
Most noteworthy achievement: I was part of a team that developed one of the country’s first early intervention programs and curricula for babies and children with serious developmental disabilities. The focus was on giving parents the skills they needed to be their child’s first and best teacher. What is neat about the model is it also works for normally developing preschoolers and their parents. It has been replicated all over the world. I wish I had it when my kids were little!
Collection: As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to tribal art and artifacts. It began with Native American art collected when I was a consultant to the Navajo Nation and grew when I discovered and fell in love with “primitive” African art. I worked for the U.S. Department of Defense in England as a school administrator and I used my holidays to travel to African and Oceanic countries to collect in situ. My home is chock-a-block full of wonderful stuff.
Favorite travel destination: As you might expect, East African countries hold a special place in my heart. Given the peace I felt when I was there, perhaps it was my home in a previous life. Watching rainbows form over Victoria Falls was something I’ll never forget, along with the safaris and magnificent animals roaming free. Bali and India are also high up on my “maybe-I’d-go-back-if-I-wasn’t-so-old” list.
Meeting a famous person: I’d never won anything before, but in 2008, I was one of 10 people in the country selected to attend the Democratic convention in Denver as a VIP. I met Barack Obama backstage before he accepted his party’s nomination. I was an active supporter of the then-senator and I’m a total political junkie, so you can imagine how exciting this was. Even after saying all that, the experience exceeded all my expectations.