This past weekend brought many alumni back to campus, some recent graduates, some grandparents of current students. One of the alumni who returned was Lee Woodruff ’82. She came not only to visit her son Mack, who is currently a first-year here at Colgate, but also to read from and sign copies of her latest New York Times Bestselling Book, Perfectly Imperfect.
Woodruff, a New York native, graduated from Colgate as an English major. Realizing that she needed to pay the bills, she worked in public relations and became senior vice president of Porter Novelli, a public relations firm. Prior to writing Perfectly Imperfect, she co-authored In an Instant with her husband Bob Woodruff ’83, which was also a New York Times Bestseller. Their memoir remained on the bestselling list for four weeks. Following Mr. Woodruff’s recovery from a brain injury that he sustained while covering the war in Iraq, the Woodruffs also founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The foundation provides assistance to wounded soldiers and their families in an effort to successfully reintegrate them into citizen life.
Perfectly Imperfect grew out of Woodruff’s first book in the sense that she wanted to write a book of stories that would “highlight everyday moments we miss because we are so busy.” It is a compilation of essays about the various roles that Woodruff and many others play in their lives.
“I wanted there to be something in this book for everyone,” Woodruff said.
From the “barf-encrusted” nightgowns that many new mothers live in, to the jewelry boxes that almost every girl owns to the challenges of coping with her husband’s brain injury and trying to be as available as possible for her father suffering from dementia, there is a story for every role imaginable.
In an honest and hilarious way, Woodruff’s words move people at every stage of life.
“It is fun to read it as a new mom and see that those moments we sometimes try to conceal are, in fact, completely normal. I even got a jewelry box like she did in the book and started collecting things that have stories behind them,” said the mother of a ten-month-old baby.
Another woman who attended the reading had suffered a brain injury and experienced some of the same recovery problems such as aphasia (the inability to speak and/or comprehend the meaning of words) that Mr. Woodruff faced.
“It brings relevance to the situation. When it happened to me, my family was my everything. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of someone who watched it.”
The book reading session was held in the Events Room, donated by the Class of 2003, on the third floor of the Colgate Bookstore. With a reservation list that filled two columns and almost an entire page, the room was comfortably full, with a range of ages spanning from a college-aged boy to a grandmother and a retired professor, truly reflecting the book’s universal appeal.
Woodruff also revealed plans for writing future books.
“Yes!” Woodruff said when asked if she would continue to write. “I just need to find the time.”
Comparing herself to John Grisham, she confessed her jealousy of his ability to block out six hours and just sit down and write. She admitted, that, as a mother of four, she does not have that same flexibility. A second book of stories and memories, similar to Perfectly Imperfect, is in the making, in addition to a fictional book. In her fictional book, Woodruff hopes to take one instant and look at how it affects everyone else. In fact, she admitted that after taking her son to dinner, she hoped to take advantage of the quiet time she had and return to her room at the Colgate Inn and polish off a chapter of the book.
When asked about her fondest memories at Colgate she paused, struggling to pinpoint one of many.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but the bonds that are created here because it’s a small town in the Chenango Valley, they bond you for life,” Woodruff ultimately said.
Woodruff also mentioned that the brain only stays in the present for seven seconds, in response to audience members’ inquiries about what advice this book offers to students. Her “homework” for the audience was to stop twice this week for seven seconds and focus on the moment.