When kidnappers were holding professor Alan Garen’s son Micah hostage in Iraq this summer, Yale stepped in to support the Garen family and aid efforts to free Micah Garen.
Micah Garen, 36, a journalist, was working on a story in Nasiriyah when he was abducted by Al-Sadr militiamen on Aug. 13. His captors released him after nine days, and he returned to the United States in late August.
Though Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on any specifics, he said he became personally involved in the effort to free Micah Garen. The University’s Office of Public Affairs helped the family deal with the press while the story of the kidnapping was unfolding.
It is common for members of the University staff to rally behind faculty members during hard times, Levin said. But he said in the Garens’ situation, he felt it was necessary to take a more active role.
“We have a lot of staff around here to help take care of faculty — sometimes I get personally involved,” Levin said. “It’s a terrible ordeal they had to go through, and it’s a relief that Micah is OK.”
Though Alan Garen declined to comment on any details related to his son, he said he appreciated the University’s involvement during a trying time for his family.
“There’s always support on a personal basis,” Garen said. “People expressed their horror and concern and their relief at the outcome.”
Alan Garen also received support from within his department, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. MB&B chairman Nigel Grindley said the department is a close-knit community.
“Certainly there have been a lot of things we’ve done to help out,” Grindley said.
Yale stepped in to aid the Garen family with the numerous media requests they received after Micah’s abduction was first reported. University spokesman Tom Conroy said the Office of Public Affairs offered assistance to the family by mediating between the Garens and reporters by “simply passing along information from the family to the media.”
“As a general rule, when it comes to issues that are unrelated to Yale itself — in other words, media inquiries that are coming in because someone has an association with Yale — our general view is we’re glad to help if the faculty member wants that,” Conroy said.
Though Conroy said OPA did not tell reporters who gathered near the Garen home in August to leave the premises, the office conveyed that the family would not release a public statement to the media. Having people outside the family deal with news media can be not only a relief to the family but also appreciated by reporters, Conroy said.
“I think for the reporters who were gathered that day, some found it helpful to know there wasn’t going to be a statement,” Conroy said.
In general, those working at Yale are responsive when a colleague is experiencing a situation related to a family dilemma like Garen’s, a Yale faculty member said.
“I think there is that feeling that there is a solidarity when something major happens to a Yale faculty member, especially something like this,” said the faculty member, who declined to be named out of respect for the family.