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Town Hall’s newest performance space is the Ishaque and Maria Mehdi Reading Room. Located on the lobby level in the former staff offices, the room features sculptures made from Town Hall’s reclaimed organ pipes and ephemera from Ishaque and Maria’s life. The Reading Room hosts community gatherings and intimate performances of all sorts, and when not in use for an event, is also a quiet place to sit with your thoughts or a notebook. We learned more about Maria and Ishaque from Town Hall board member, Yazmin Mehdi.
“For all of us, it made sense to name this space for Mom and Dad: to have a space to honor them and to be a legacy for their five grandchildren.”
– Yazmin Mehdi
For Liam Lavery and Yazmin, Yusuf and Stephanie Mehdi, Town Hall is a temple of lifelong learning, a place to hear interesting speakers, music from around the world, and more. They were keen to contribute to Town Hall’s capital program to ensure another 100-year future for the building and this wonderful organization. Below, they share Ishaque’s and Maria’s history.
Ishaque Mehdi emigrated to the United States from India at 18 to study. He already had a Bachelor of Science in Physics. He earned a second B.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Florida, and then got hired by Boeing. He later earned both a Master’s of Science and an MBA from Seattle University while working full-time. Maria de Lourdes Sotomayor met Ishaque when he took a rare vacation to San Francisco. She was studying the American educational system with a group of teachers from Mexico, and happened to be there at the same time. Ishaque asked Maria to marry him three days after they met. It took him six months more to get her to agree.
Ishaque was a great believer that a good education was the key to a good life. And as a trained teacher, Maria agreed. Besides her own teaching – of preschoolers, of adults through The Language School, and of students in the Sunset Elementary immersion program in Bellevue – Maria spent time in schools volunteering in her children’s classrooms, making piñatas for parties and attending science fairs, recitals, soccer games, and all manner of school events. Ishaque diligently took both of his children to the Renton Public Library every Monday night to exchange their stacks of books from the week before. By example and through story-telling, Maria and Ishaque instilled a deep love of stories and learning in their children.
All of us at Town Hall Seattle are grateful for the Lavery/Mehdis’ ongoing support and advocacy on behalf of our organization and this place. We are honored to recognize their gift to the Campaign for Town Hall—as well as their family’s legacy—in this room.