International student, retired professor and artwork share common history

by Clémence Daniere, student writer

How does a decades-old Iranian work of art connect a renowned Middle East studies professor and an international student?

Jim Goode, professor emeritus of history and founder of Grand Valley's Middle East Studies program, has spent the majority of his life teaching, traveling and learning about the Middle East. Alongside his wife, Virginia Goode, he has fostered relationships and explored the cultures of the Middle East. 

Before his career as a professor, Goode was a Peace Corps volunteer from 1968-1971 in Tuyserkan, located in the mountains of western Iran. There, he built a strong relationship with Mr. Ehsani, a local educator, and Ehsani's growing family. 

“I'm not sure how the connection began originally, but his family welcomed and hosted the Peace Corps volunteers, so we all became really good friends,” said Goode. 

Farhad Kadkhodazadeh, Jim and Virginia Goode stand in front of a mountain background
From left are Farhad Kadkhodazadeh, Jim and Virginia Goode. They reunited in December when Farhad moved to Michigan.
Image credit - courtesy photo

For years, they spent time together and learned from each other, until Goode left Iran in September 1973. Before leaving, members of the Ehsani family gifted Goode a handmade sugar bowl, “Qand-Dawn,” which had been in their family for decades. 

In Iranian tradition, a cone of sugar is chopped up with a small metal ax into little pieces, which one puts in between their teeth while sipping tea, instantly sweetening every sip. 

During their time in the Middle East, the Goodes collected many items, including carpets, pottery and other everyday objects. They exhibited their extensive collection, including the Ehsanis' sugar bowl, at the GVSU art gallery in 2017. Later, they donated the bowl to GVSU’s permanent art collection.

The Goodes returned to Iran in 2003 and visited the Ehsanis, this time meeting their 10-year-old grandson, Farhad. 

Farhad is now a GVSU student. 

Farhad Kadkhodazadeh gazes at a piece of artwork, a sugar bowl, inside a display case
Farhad Kadkhodazadeh gazes at a piece of artwork, a sugar bowl, inside a display case at the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts
Farhad Kadkhodazadeh stands in a hallway
Farhad Kadkhodazadeh joined the Laker community in January, studying cybersecurity.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Farhad Kadkhodazadeh joined the GVSU community in January as an international student studying cybersecurity. He said he struggled through the process of acquiring a student visa for two years. He got help from Kate Stoetzner, interim executive director of the Padnos International Center. 

“Kate noticed how eager I was to come here and said to keep fighting despite all of the visa problems,” said Kadkhodazadeh. “She encouraged me to push through all of the issues.”

The Goodes met Kadkhodazadeh in December and spent a few days together, reminiscing on their history and their now-shared GVSU roots. 

The sugar bowl is permanently displayed on the third floor of the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health. Coincidentally, it's in the same building where Kadkhodazadeh works as a student IT employee.


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