Indy native finds happiness as author after high profile positions

by Charles Cassady

Gina Vild, raised in Independence, now residing in New England, has lived a full life working in higher education, communicating with politicians and co-authoring a book on living a happier life.

Concurrent with the pandemic, she wrote a second book on resilience, a characteristic that people learned to develop over the past three years especially. She explores her personal experiences in the book, including a career-defining opportunity at Independence High School.

Vild said she remains in touch with Jerrie Kaftan, an IHS English teacher, who was Gina’s faculty advisor when the future Harvard eminence became the first-ever junior editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. “She is an inspiration to me still,” said Vild.

Her family moved to Hillside Road from Little Italy when Vild was five. She attended Independence elementary, middle and high school, graduating in 1974. “For all intents and purposes, I am an Independence girl,” she said. “My life was shaped by the town’s culture, teachers and community.”

She then attended Hiram College in Ohio. “It was a perfect environment for someone who wanted immersion in broad general knowledge,” she said. “At the time we would joke that we left Hiram so well rounded, we didn’t graduate so much as ‘roll out.’”

Vild would proceed to rock-and-roll through a number of illustrious positions focused on marketing/communications and external relations for MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Ohio statehouse (under former Gov. Richard F. Celeste). She also worked on the Biden presidential campaign, and led a particularly auspicious stretch at Harvard Medical School, where she was an associate dean and chief communications officer and collaborated on projects ranging from the Clinton Foundation to Dubai.

During her Harvard term, she and HMS Professor Sanjiv Chopra collaborated on “The Two Most Important Days,” a 2017 book from St. Martin’s Press, subtitled “How to find your purpose and live a happier, healthier life.” It was a theme that would later become alarmingly relevant.

“I retired, or as I often say ‘recalibrated,’ in 2020 after 12 years in a senior leadership role at Harvard,” she said. “My last official activity was to represent HMS at Super Bowl events.” She supported physicians and scientists who were examining the many issues that impact the total health and well being of former NFL players.

“It certainly was a privilege to work with some of the brightest minds in medicine.”

She planned a vacation in Spain – just in time for international lockdowns, quarantines and the chaos that accompanied the COVID-19 virus.

“I knew I wanted to write a second book,” she said, “and in January 2020 met with my editor … in New York. And we discussed a book on resilience. Little did we know that a pandemic was about to sweep the world. And the hunger for advice on how to remain buoyant during stressful times would grow exponentially.”

Resilience is a recurring theme in Vild’s columns, online postings and motivational presentations. She calls her new book manuscript “Roses in Winter.” It will pull petals, seeds and thorns from her personal life as well as the thoughts of ancient philosophers, poets and modern mind researchers.

“I explore the universal nature of sorrow. No one escapes disappointments, setbacks, grief and unexpected detours in this life,” she said. “My premise is that rather than choosing to rail against unfairness, sink into sadness, or embrace victimhood, we must come to accept all that comes our way.”

One autobiographical example she cites goes back to Independence High when she was not chosen to be yearbook editor as a senior. “At the time, I truly believed I had peaked as a high school junior and that my best days were forever behind me.”

But, she said, a series of “ah-ha” revelations led her to realize her junior year experience was the greater gift, and that she had the opportunity to explore other avenues, not repeat herself.

To students searching for their next academic step, Vild said they should find a college “where they can make the most of their unique skills and academic acumen. Your intuition – or as they say your gut – will never fail you.”

Vild said this is true for every aspect of life. “When you find people, jobs and opportunities that inspire you, hold them close. Success will follow.”

While Vild said work on “The Two Most Important Days” was crammed into a hectic Harvard schedule, “Roses in Winter” is different. “This time I am working slowly and am savoring the process. I have had the privilege of talking with extraordinary individuals who have experienced both great tragedies and smaller challenges that have reset the courses of their lives. It will be an honor to share their stories.” ∞

Gina Vild poses with a certificate marking
her completion of crisis leadership in
higher education from Harvard Kennedy
School. Photo submitted.