Michigan Remembers 9‑11

Stephen Poulos, 45; a graduate of the University of Michigan for both undergraduate and graduate programs – MMUS, who worked as a manager at AON Corporation. After singing professionally as a baritone for 20 years, Poulos switched careers for financial reasons in 1996 and took up a career in information technology. Right before he died, he had joined an Internet discussion called the Opera Forum, where he was again able to express his love for music.

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 5, 2001

Stephen Poulos spent most of the last year loosening up. He was starting to enjoy opera again after tuning it out for five years. “The louder, the higher and more Italian, the better,” his wife, Lisa, of Basking Ridge, N.J., said of his preference for operas. “I knew not to get him Mozart and things like that. They are more on the pretty side versus the powerful side.”

A high achiever, Mr. Poulos, 45, stopped listening to opera out of frustration when he realized that he could not earn a living as an opera singer after 20 years of training as a baritone. But as he rose quickly in his career in information technology, recently becoming a manager at Aon Corporation, he began to ease up on himself. He even joined the Opera Forum, an Internet discussion, using the alias billybobives, chastising members for their opera preferences.

“It was hard for him to get over leaving the opera,” Ms. Poulos said. “On good days during that time, I would say, ‘Oh, you seem happy today.’ He would say, ‘Lisa, I’m never happy. I may be happier, but I’m never happy.’ “

“This summer, I reminded him about that phrase, saying you must be happier now,” she said. “He said, ‘No, I’m actually happy.’ “