You’d expect a guy with Abe Navarro’s position to have a big, fancy office.
He’s Clark County’s chief public defender, after all.
But the small room Abe inhabits on the first floor of the courthouse contains few of Abe’s personal items. A calendar does hang from one wall. It’s June when we speak and the monthly photo highlights fellow public defenders. They wear, of all things, Star Trek costumes. Abe got it free at a conference.
Yet that’s about it for decorations. None of his diplomas or his law license or anything self-proclaiming joins the solitary calendar. The office feels humble. Kind of like Abe, himself.
It’s not where he’s been. It’s where he’s going, he says.
Oh, yeah. There’s also a banner celebrating Abe’s recent graduation that hangs on the cabinets behind his desk. His office staff pinned it up. Knowing Abe, it wasn’t up very long. He’s not one for pageantry.
That graduation was from Harvard, by the way, one of the most acclaimed universities in America. Alongside his undergraduate degree in social behavioral sciences from Indiana University-Bloomington and his JD from Vermont Law School, Abe now has obtained a Master’s Degree in Journalism. He attended Harvard mostly online, although his presence was required in Boston every now and again for group projects and such.
“This was really an exercise in my intellectual curiosity. That’s the pure form of it,” Abe says about his newest accomplishment. He notes that obtaining a Harvard degree is not an impossible task like many think. Sure. Completing the courses takes hard work. Especially while working full time in a demanding job. And teaching business law and ethics classes at local colleges. And spending quality time with your wife and daughter.
“But at 10 o’clock, (the family) are all asleep,” Abe says. “What do you do?”
While most of us would fall into slumber, the Indianapolis native wrote, a hobby he has always loved. He also brought a bit of his adopted hometown to the East Coast. Almost every one of his Harvard writing assignments highlighted issues and places in Jeffersonville.
“I started realizing that the best stories are out there in real life. You just can’t make that up. You go out and report and write a story and it comes back as ‘I never realized this was happening’,” Abe says. “(Getting the Master’s) was for professional development, but it was also for me as a writer. I want to write and, at some point, I want others to read it. But I have to make sure my craft is at least passable.”
And don’t worry about Abe stepping away from his work in the law profession. The new degree, in some ways, augments his job of defending those with few financial resources. In this role, he enjoys helping others. He even took some time off from his studies when he moved into this new position nearly three years ago.
“At times, it’s trying, but it’s satisfying overall. I love to come to work. I don’t dread showing up at the office every day,” Abe says. “If that always starts as a baseline of my professional satisfaction, then I’m a blessed man.”
Having his wife, Sheena, and 14-year-old daughter attend his May 29 graduation at Harvard Yard also was a blessing. More than 30,000 students walked in the commencement ceremony, an event that Abe likens to a concert, but instead of a rock band, he and the other graduates were the opening act.
No guitar solos were strummed, but maybe, just maybe, a few audience members were inspired.
“I wanted my child to see this. Like hey, listen. You can do this, too… It serves as an example. I’m like, ‘Listen, child, I’m interested in this. This is for me’,” Abe says. “No matter what, it’s never too late. Education is one of the best investments in yourself.”
— Amanda Hillard Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at email@example.com.