Opus Optimus Exemplars

Fifteen individuals, some famous, some not so famous, have been chosen (one-to-three per chapter) as exemplars of the discussions in each of the chapters of Opus Optimus.  The exemplars and their biographical portraits include the following notable individuals (graphic portraits by Dusty Higgins):


Chapter 00:

Life and Death


Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004),
“Serious Study of Death”

Physician-researcher, elaborator of grieving, death, and dying processes. Courageous soul.

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), “Life of Firsts”

Attorney, state senator (Texas), U.S. Congresswoman, and professor. Diversity pioneer.


Chapter 01:

Looking Forward, Looking Back


Robert M. Dixon (1939- ), “Overcoming Adversity to Serve Students”

Nuclear and theoretical physicist, professor, and university administrator. Champion of underrepresented students.

Susan Saab Fortney (1953- ), “A Scholar Who Loves Students”

Devoted legal scholar and practitioner, professor, and collegiate decanal appointee. Noted legal ethicist.

Valerie Osland Paton (1954- ), “Model Teacher-Scholar-Administrator

Higher education scholar, researcher, administrator, and mentor to dozens of PhD students. Known for her personal commitments to reverence, humility, and love of students and colleagues.


Chapter 02:

Planning Life’s Days


F. Forrester Church (1948-2009), “Living a Life of Giving”

Long-time senior minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City. Public theological intellectual and prolific book author, including notable end-of-life books.

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (1964- ), “A Model First Lady”

Inaugural African-American First Lady of the United States and initiator or contributor to socially significant national programs, especially for children. Inspired leader of educational causes, especially for young women and girls.          


Chapter 03:

Physical and Emotional Health


Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), “Giving the World the Green Revolution”

World renowned plant scientist, teacher, and administrator.  Developer of wheat varietals that transformed India, Mexico, and Pakistan from net-importers to net-exporters of grain and possibly saving a billion or more lives from starvation. Humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize awardee.

Karen Parfitt Hughes (1956- ), “Emotional Health and an Ambassador”

Television news reporter, White House Director of Communications and Counselor to President George W. Bush, and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Intuitively insightful representative of the people of the United States.


Chapter 04:



Warren Edward Buffett (1930- ), “A Billionaire with a Conscience”

Globally know financier, businessman, and philanthropist.  Has pledged to donate about eight-five percent of his wealth to noble causes.


Chapter 05:

Creating and Recreating


Barbara Harbach (1946- ), “A Highly Creative Music Scholar-Teacher”

Music scholar, performer, teacher, and beneficent contributor to regional, national, and international programs.  Prime mover of programs devoted to women in the arts.

Randolph (Randy) Frederick Pausch (1960-2008), “From Childhood Excitement to a Creative Life”

Professor and creator of software to advance computerized entertainment.  Beloved computer science teacher and mentor, particularly of women in graduate programs.


Chapter 06:

Thinking About Love


Diane Ackerman (1948- ), “Illuminating Love Through Art, Literature, and Science”

A “born writer/poet” with a love of the universe and all its creatures, Ackerman has taught writing and English at several universities and is known for her poetry, essays, memoirs, and fictional, non-fictional, and children’s books. Nature’s advocate for love.

Sonia Sotomayor (1954- ), “Love for the Law and the People It Serves”

From a background as a respected attorney in private and public practice, including pro-bono services to low-income families, to her current post as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sotomayor’s life has been dedicated to serving people with respect and love. 


Chapter 07:



Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961), “A Noble Statesman and Human Being”

Despite his privileged birth in Sweden, Hammarskjöld went on to serve the European Continent and the world through various posts at the United Nations, including UN Secretary General from 1953 to 1961, where he worked tirelessly for peace.  After his untimely death during a UN mission to the Congo, President John F. Kennedy referred to him as “the greatest statesman of the twentieth century.”