Gail lived her life focused on those simple things that mattered most in life - relationships with family and friends, and living a life of new experiences. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, and passed away in June 2019 at age 56. This Fund is dedicated to her life and memory, and the courage and compassion she showed during her illness.
Gail was born in Little Falls, New Jersey and attended Rutgers College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Gail's intelligence and work ethic led to distinguished academic and professional careers. She attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
After law school she clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and then joined what was then the D.C. law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering as an associate. From there she began a series of public service positions, working for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence Legal Action Project, and then to the U.S. Department of Justice, where she rose to the position of General Counsel to the Inspector General at DOJ. For the last 6 years she served as Deputy Inspector General at NASA. She enjoyed her work, and especially the relationships she had with her colleagues.
While Gail's academic and professional career was impressive, Gail's story is also about how she lived her personal life and established her priorities for living, both before and after her cancer diagnosis. Her essence was about the people in her life, and new experiences to be enjoyed. Cooking and planning dinner parties, travel vacations with family or friends, gathering at holidays, arguing politics, going to plays or concerts, enjoying good wine, being at the beach, and most importantly raising her children and being present in all aspects of their lives - these are what gave her life meaning and joy.
Her life philosophy was unchanged after her diagnosis. In between treatments and setbacks, she focused on family, and as much travel to new and different places as circumstances allowed. She shared the details of her illness with others sparingly; she wanted whatever time she had to be focused not on her or her disease, but on living the life she had to the fullest she was able. As she told her sister-in-law, "I will live the best I can as long as I can."
Throughout her life, Gail lived a healthy lifestyle - eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting all her periodic breast cancer screenings. This is why her sudden Stage 4 diagnosis, coming only a few months after a clean mammogram, was such devastating news. While unlucky to receive such a diagnosis, Gail, even during her illness, felt fortunate for other aspects of her life - having good health insurance and the financial resources for uncovered medical expenses, strong family support, good medical care nearby, and the ability to travel and spend time with family and friends for those periods when her disease was controlled. She knew others facing the same illness faced more hardships than she did, and wanted to help.
In trying to stay centered on those positive aspects of her life, even with cancer, Gail lived the advice she had given her younger brother many years before: "Focus on what you have, not what you don't". She could not control the hand she had been dealt and its consequences, but she could focus on what she did have, and felt fortunate for the support around her and the life she had lived. In his forward to the famous book Man's Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl, the Rabbi Harold Kushner summarizes Frankl's insight about drawing meaning from life in similar terms: You cannot always control what happens to you in life, but you can seek to control what you will feel and do about what happens to you. Gail continued to seek and live a meaningful life on her own terms even with cancer and until the end, and her courage and dignity will always inspire us.