Congrats, Zoe, 2012

2012-06-08 13.45.19

Dear Zoe,

The past four years have gone by faster for me than any other before them. It’s impossible to believe your time in college is over. Yet Friday I watched you graduate. You did it. Congrats. I’m so proud of you.

I know it wasn’t always easy. MIT wasn’t the make-friends/party-time place college can be. It was often a grind. I vividly remember video chatting with you late one Saturday night, you looking wide-eyed with papers strewn all around you, studying for something or other at a time when many of your college-in-Boston peers would have been headed toward passed-out drunk. It was one of those, “Wait, this is what we want for our kids?” moments; it’s not the feeling most people are imagining when they say, “Wow!” after you tell them your daughter is at MIT. It’s true I urged you to apply for transfer to UCSD at holiday break your sophomore year, just in case you wanted to bail on MIT the following fall. You considered it, but said MIT was something you wanted to complete. It was important to me that you knew there was no penalty from me for wanting to do something different. I didn’t want you to fight it out at MIT for anyone but yourself. But I was EVEN MORE proud when you decided to soldier on. You have heart and drive all your own. It was fun to watch it come to life from inside. I hope you take some pleasure from it as well.

Once it was clear you were there til the end there wasn’t any risk of teasing, “Why don’t you drop out now and come work for your old man? We’ll build music software together! Spelunking the genome and curing cancer sounds hard at best.” “Dad, Computer Science is soooooo 1995,” was probably the best comeback ever. Right you are. What you’re doing in Biology/Genetics is mind-blowing. I bet. If I understood it. Congrats on being in the eye of the storm. Go get ’em. Lead the charge of the next wave.

Now you’ve graduated with a 5.0 GPA from MIT, and are matriculating to Stanford’s Genetics PhD program in the fall with both a Stanford Graduate Fellowship AND a National Science Foundation grant. What can I say? Not a damn thing. You’ve already gone further than I ever could have dreamed. Hell, I was proud of you from day ONE of your life, before eating, talking, reading, or mathematics. What do you call this feeling? What’s the other side of pride? Not sure what you call *that* feeling but there’s piles of love and respect and excitement for having you back on the West Coast. Lucinda asked me today, “When Zoe’s at Stanford can we go visit her once a month?” I dunno if we can, but I’d sure like to.

Congrats, baby. You did it. Take a breath. Please, be happy. Know you’ve already succeeded. Be ok with whatever comes next. Don’t be afraid of changing course. Enjoy life. Manage away the stress, school or otherwise. You’ve no one to impress. Focus your energy on hard work you enjoy. The world will benefit if you do and you will too.

I love you.

Drive safe. See you in 10 days.


[Friends, family, countrymen, citizens of earth — if you have memories or kind words for Zoe please leave them in the comments!]


  1. Brad Feld wrote:

    Beautiful. Congrats Zoe.

    Ian – in one post you help others totally grok the MIT experience. Powerful – and thx for being you!

    Proud of you both and happy that there’s another amazing MIT grad in the world.

  2. ec gladstone wrote:

    Ian and Zoe,
    Although I haven’t seen you both consistently over the years, you have been inspiration to me in more ways than I could express.
    I hope that Zoe’s success is both a beacon to all those who say “I can’t,” as well as a stern lesson to all who look down on ‘alternative’ parenting.
    P.S. If I had known then, I would’ve given “Six year old Zoe” even more pages in the magazine.

  3. Mark Solon wrote:

    Congratulations Zoe, not on your tremendous accomplishments at MIT (mind-blowing!), but for having a father like Ian. I’ve only known him for a short time now, but I can tell that you have the type of very special relationship that I’m trying to forge with my own 13 year-old daughter.

    Enjoy the summer – I hope I get to meet you at TopSpin!

  4. Skip Matheny wrote:

    Wow Ian & Zoe. Thanks for posting this. Best wishes to you from Nashville

  5. Jeffrey McManus wrote:

    Wow. I just read this to my daughter out loud in hopes that she’ll find some inspiration in it, because I sure did. Congrats to Zoe and Papa, you guys are both awfully lucky to have each other, but then you knew that.

  6. JK wrote:

    one of the best things i’ve read in a long time. congrats to you both.

  7. ian hogarth wrote:

    Hey Zoe,

    I get updates every once in a while from Ian and I’m so impressed with what you’ve been up to. Would love to learn more about your research into genetics and hope to see you a bit once you’re over at Stanford. See you at Midem next year perhaps! Even if CS is 1995, music is 2095!


  8. Stephen O'Reilly wrote:

    Congratulations on your amazing achievement.

  9. Dug Song wrote:

    Congrats Zoe! Can’t believe it’s been four years already! You’ve always got a home in Ann Arbor, should work or life ever bring you back for a visit.

    CS is just a tool, you’re right – but as we fast approach the $1k, 1-hour human genome mark (e.g. Ion Torrent, following the shrinking geometries of Moore’s law, a process generation behind), there’s a huge gap in algorithms to process all of that data. So we crusty old CS dudes still get to do some of your dirty work!

    My sister stayed in Palo Alto after her medical fellowship at Stanford, following stints at UM, U. Chicago, and Harvard. I never thought she’d be as happy anywhere as in Cambridge, but she LOVES Palo Alto, even the absurd tech scene (her fiance is a startup guy). Hope you have a great time out there!

  10. keith rogers wrote:

    I’m not sure how anyone or anything could top the proud I’ve felt for your father, but you sure do a good job of it. Congrats, relax, have a great trip, feel the love of your family and friends across the country.
    love you,
    grandpa keith

  11. katrina gagnon wrote:

    literally, crying into my oatmeal right now. remembering you as a 5 year old Zoe. always so smart beyond your age. i love you kid. it’s been so much fun to watch you grow up. GO ZOE!!!!!
    your fan,

  12. Leonard wrote:

    Zoe, I remember congratulating you for starting MIT (you were with your dad, and walking through Hard Rock Hotel at CES – I’m sure you don’t remember!). I can’t believe you are done. Congrats! As a father of two (very young) girls, I have always looked to your dad for inspiration. We’ve had a few talks about fatherhood. He is so proud to be your dad, and I’m so inspired to see the both of you. Congrats! The whole world is before you! But even more than that, you have a loving, supportive, family, and that is priceless. So happy for you.

  13. Justin Levenson wrote:

    Wow…thank you so much for sharing! This is one of the best letters I have ever read and it gave me chills! Congrats to both of you from Music City! Hope you both continue to enjoy the path!

  14. Michele Fleischli wrote:

    what an unbelievable journey you are on…it seems surreal yet for some reason makes perfect sense. Congratulations – your passion for learning is inspiring!
    Michele and Lana

  15. Steve Raymond wrote:

    *What do you call this feeling? Whatโ€™s the other side of pride?*

    Not sure either. Maybe enlightenment? Maybe you don’t need to call it anything… Certainly you two could get a book deal no prob if either of you had any spare time.

    Zoe – we are all that thing beyond proud. Hope I get to see you while you are in LA.

  16. Rob Lord wrote:

    You are an inspiration Z. Your dedication to z mission is indefatigable. Your accomplizments zeak for zmselves.

    Looking forward to your arrival in Nor Cal. Chez Lord in SF has a guest room with your name on it forever.

    r0b + patti + harper + ira

  17. Geoff McFetridge wrote:

    That was great.

    Is it strange, or the opposite, that you always seemed like an exceptional kid, and it turns out you actually are?

    Ian, your parenting has always been a primary inspiration to me.

    Congratulations Zoe!

  18. Shamal wrote:

    Zoe, your amazing life story keeps getting better! Many congratulations and good wishes for all you’ve done and all you’ve yet to do. You are inspiring in your achievements and the character in which you pull them off. I’m excited to hear about your Stanford adventures and given what you’re capable of, I’m sure you will move humanity forward in a major way in whatever you do.


  19. Jason wrote:

    Zoe, you don’t really know me but I’ve been a work-friend turned “just” friend of your dad’s since about 2002 or 2003. He had just joined yahoo then, and I was in Dallas. Most often during that time, I came to Santa Monica and was immediately impressed with Ian’s smarts and ability to inspire others. But it was something on a trip to Dallas that changed my perspective of him forever.

    I did not know much about you until one day we were working on a project, and you called. Ian took the call, and you were walking home. Something had happened that day at school, and I could tell Ian was listening, never judging, and supportive. He praised opyour handling of it, openly told you he loved you, made sure all was well, then returned to our task at hand.

    I was barely married, we were the same age, and here he was being an awesome dad at a time most were living lives of young adults. He had his priorities straight, and I think of that time sometimes when I now chat with my two daughters.

    Reading the story Ian’s written above, I’m reminded of that time a young dad impressed me… and how happy is he for you makes me smile all over again.

    Congrats Zoe. And papa, too.

  20. jonathan wrote:

    Z, I remember you guys coming to hang out in Malibu back when you were still in high-school and my mom was so impressed by you that after you left she joked that she might consider trading me for you. At least I thought it was a joke at the time… Now, I’m pretty sure she regrets not trying ๐Ÿ˜‰

    You are incredibly smart and you’re doing amazing things. These facts are well-established. But IMHO your greatest asset in the time I’ve known you has been your amazing sense of perspective relative to your age. Growing up is inherently dramatic, but you’ve always handled it with poise beyond your years. As long as you continue to draw strength from your unique life experience and the view it affords you, you’ll always come out on top.

    And if you need any tips on places to camp in Ohio, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, or Arizona, I’m your man ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. wendy b wrote:

    only the beginning of great things for this great lady! congrats, woman!

  22. Bruce Warila wrote:

    Has it been that long… When I first subscribed to your blog, I think Zoe was heading off to MIT. Time sure flies. My oldest goes off to the University of Miami in the fall. Your posts and Zoe’s success are inspirational. Congratulations Zoe.

  23. Adam Nathanson wrote:

    Zoe, you are a rock star! Congrats…

  24. Edvard wrote:

    Very heart-felt. Happy for you and your daughter, Ian. Cheers to that!

  25. Bill Fishkin wrote:

    Ian – Amazing, very happy for you proud Papa. Congrats to you and Zoe :)

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