History Alumna Reflects on Dalai Lama Meeting

by Rashad Mulla

History Alumna Reflects on Dalai Lama Meeting
Meg Ventrudo (right) meets the Dalai Lama on May 22. Photo provided by Meg Ventrudo.

Meg Ventrudo’s crowning moment in her education about Tibet came on Saturday, May 22, when she and 14 others had a private audience with the Dalai Lama before his talk at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Ventrudo, MA history ’94, is the executive director of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art in Staten Island, N.Y.

Securing the interview was a long, difficult process. In 2008, the museum sent an invitation to the Office of Tibet in New York City, which serves as the official agency representative of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government, because Tibet itself is a disputed territory. After sporadic, back-and-forth talks, representatives of the Dalai Lama invited the group to meet the spiritual leader, who had visited the museum in 1991.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Ventrudo said. “He (the Dalai Lama) exudes so much warmth, compassion and charm that you feel his presence. Whether you’re close to him or in a big stadium, you can still feel the compassion radiating from him.”

Now in her sixth year as executive director, Ventrudo plans to continue the 65-year-old museum’s important work. Built to replicate an ancient Tibetan monastery, the museum attracts visitors, including many Buddhist monks, from around the world. Ventrudo says many items in the museum’s collection do not exist anywhere else. Having spent 10 years at the Museum of American Financial History in New York City before this position, the museum veteran says the item rarity should make future generations appreciate the Tibetan collections more.

“I feel like it’s an honor as well as a job to preserve our collection of Tibetan art,” she said.

As a graduate student at in the Department of History and Art History at Mason, Ventrudo wrote her master’s thesis about George Mason’s son, John Mason, a Georgetown businessman. Originally, she planned on earning her PhD, but she left to work at the Museum of American Financial History and never looked back.