||Few things are as important to aspiring young scholars as finding the right mentors. For many gay and lesbian scholars Esther Newton is one such mentor. Many of us began as Alice Walker did – graduate students in search of ancestral connection and intellectual kinship. To this day, most graduate programs lack either gay and lesbian faculty, scholars doing research within gay and lesbian communities, or even faculty who actively support such work. As a result, we are often left standing, exposed, in the middle of a field – forging our own paths, with no footsteps to follow. From the first time I met Esther, she impressed upon me the importance of history, of knowing the past as well as the present, of forging ahead and learning to leave behind footsteps of my own.
Esther has always sought out and supported young gay and lesbian scholars, both as anthropologists and as gay and lesbian people working to establish careers. It is an ethic about which she feels strongly and one that she gently encourages her colleagues to follow. To speak of legacies is unsettling because it feels like a discussion of finished projects. It is precisely because of her commitment to her students, to mentoring, and to continued change and learning that Esther has defined herself as an unstoppable and unending force within the profession. If Esther can be said to have a legacy, it would be that her work, through her students, continues to have a future. The pathways are everywhere.