The University of Arizona

An Inspiring Memoir of Triumph

By Holly Schaffer, UA Press | April 1, 2011

UA President Emeritus Peter Likins has produced a memoir, "A New American Family: A Love Story," providing a frank and open account of the difficulties his family has faced.

Peter and Pat Likins have both served as teachers. Peter Likins' long academic career illuminates more
than just his personal success. His professional attainments produce a context for his family story,
wherein high achievements in educational, athletic and financial terms coexist with the joys and
sorrows of this exceptional family.
Peter and Pat Likins have both served as teachers. Peter Likins' long academic career illuminates more than just his personal success. His professional attainments produce a context for his family story, wherein high achievements in educational, athletic and financial terms coexist with the joys and sorrows of this exceptional family.
In his memoir, UA President Emeritus Peter Likins talks about the challenges he and his family have faced over the years.
In his memoir, UA President Emeritus Peter Likins talks about the challenges he and his family have faced over the years.

University of Arizona President Emeritus Peter Likins has had – by most accounts – a successful life. 

A long academic career has taken him from Stanford to Columbia and Lehigh universities where he served as a professor, dean, provost and, ultimately, president. 

In 1997, Likins arrived at the UA where he served as the institution's 18th president through 2006. For his service, the Arizona Board of Regents granted Likins the Regents’ Medal, making him the 11th person to receive it in its 41-year history.

His professional accomplishments, however, are only the backdrop for another story – the story of his family, whose trials and triumphs hold lessons for many American families in the 21st century. 

Likins' memoir, "A New American Family: A Love Story," was published this month by the UA Press. It is a poignant but ultimately empowering memoir, which traces the lives of Likins, his wife Patricia, and the six children they adopted in the 1960s.

With issues such as interracial adoption, mental illness, drug addiction, unwed pregnancy and homosexuality entwined in their lives, Likins' tale isn't just a family memoir, it's the story of the American experience.

And it carries a message.

"Its message is that America can continue to be a nation whose greatness is rooted in family values, but only if we embrace a more inclusive concept of family," Likins said. "It's an illustration of what that broader, more inclusive family looks like even today, and what the American family will become in the best years of the 21st century."

Circumstances of race, age and health made all of the Likins' children virtually unadoptable by 1960s standards.

Only in 1994, for example, was the Multiethnic Placement Act passed, which finally recognized that adults of all cultures should be working to help all adopted children reach their highest potential.

Likins and his wife, however, never strayed from the belief that loyalty and love could build a strong family, whatever the varied makeup of that family. 

Candid and unflinching, the memoir "is not always a pretty tale and it never a simple narrative, but it is a true story of an American family that speaks to the complexities of contemporary life in our country."

Contacts

Holly Schaffer

UA Press

520-621-3920

hollys@uapress.arizona.edu