Newcomers: David Gordon & Marisha Pessl

Nov 23, 2022

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In the now almost-three years since covid hit, one-third of all houses in the B&NC Mag area have been sold to newcomers – the vast majority of whom are young families!…Welcome!


To illustrate the evolution, we’ve featured four young newcomer families in this issue: Dr. David Gordon and Marisha Pessl; Dr. Evan Goldstein and Andy Yu; Stephanie Sandler and Libby Kountzman, and; Coltrane Curtis and Lisa Chu. And to lay out the Welcomemat, our cover feature in this issue focuses on the New Canaan Newcomers Holiday House Tour’s five fabulously furnished residences. 


You newcomers – one-third of the 25,000 most-affluent homes receiving B&NC Mag – were drawn to the local lifestyle, with a location only one hour from New York City. You’ve paid covid-inflated top-of-market prices to join our ranks, including a record number of Five and Ten Million Dollar homes. The greater-than-normal turnover will revitalize our community. We’d experienced a lower-than-average rate of turnover, dating back at least to the financial crisis of 2008, so the community had aged.


Newcomers mean a lot more school-aged kids for the public and private schools. Newcomers mean thriving downtown shops and restaurants. Newcomers means work for plumbers and electricians, decorators, and landscapers. Newcomers means retail consumer and discretionary luxury spending… 

David and Marisha might have chosen to move from Manhattan to Bedford with their 7, 5, and 2 year-old daughters, but the truth is David was recruited. He’s the new Chief of Neurosurgery at Phelps Hospital, Chair of Neurosurgery at Northern Westchester Hospital, and Regional Chair of Neurosurgery for Northwell Health in Westchester, and his arrival signals the availability of immediately-available world-class neurosurgery right here at Northern Westchester and Phelps Hospitals.

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David grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, as his dad was a neuropsychologist on the faculty at nearby Temple University. David went to Cherry Hill East public high school, where he found a mentor in an English teacher who turned him on to reading and literature. With that focus, David started out as an English major at Brown…and it wasn’t until he took a neuroscience course that his life took its current direction. On the first day of class the professor asked ‘who wants to stay and dissect a human brain’, and when David participated he was immediately hooked – for life. David recalls, “A bit later in my studies, when I first got to watch a surgeon clip an aneurysm and save the patient’s life…and sensed the technical necessity, procedural complexity, risk, stress, tension, and consequences…I knew exactly what I needed to be doing professionally. I went back to my dorm and called my dad, and told him I was going to be a brain surgeon!” 


And David is not just any brain surgeon! While David is expert in treating the entire brain, he has a particular focus in cerebrovascular and skull base concerns – meaning the hardest-to-access underside of the organ. He specializes in open surgical and catheter-based techniques to treat issues including brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, stroke, and tumors. His diplomas are extraordinary: he went to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; began his residency in neurological surgery at the University of Washington, and then continued his training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and then completed a fellowship in skull base surgery at Roosevelt Hospital; and another fellowship in endovascular neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.


“I’m grateful for the opportunity to help lead the neurosurgery effort for Northwell at Northern Westchester/Phelps. I was attracted by the exceptional skill of the doctors who were at both hospitals, and I was empowered by hospital and regional Northwell leadership to bring in select specialists to give the group world-class capabilities in every facet of neurosurgery. Any programmatic build is ultimately about the people – and we’ve assembled the best! We’re capable of the most complex procedures, and we’re focused on developing safer methods of accessing and treating brain disorders,” David explains. “Our team is dedicated to collaboration, and I believe that our team approach to analysis and treatment is the only effective way to treat the brain.” 


“I understand that everything we do has to be perfect. That our patients expect the best result, and that just very good isn’t good enough. It is brain surgery! Best practice requires a patient-centered, truly multidisciplinary approach, and I feel lucky to have such outstanding colleagues,” David says with a measure of pride and confidence. “But I also understand what our patients are going through – and that our empathy and compassion is an essential part of our care.”


When minutes and seconds count – as is often the case with aneurysm, stroke and other brain disorders – the proximity of top-notch neurosurgery is hyper-critical. Not having to go to Manhattan for this type of medical care can mean life or death. …And putting Dr. Gordon’s number in speed-dial – now – might be the difference when it matters.


In poetic contrast to David’s life-saving heroics, Marisha is a professional killer. …Or at least she’s started each of her New York Times Best Seller thrillers with a murder. She’s authored Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking), which involves the hanging of a charismatic teacher at the St. Gallway prep school, Night Film (Random House), the serpentine investigation into the daughter’s death of a reclusive and underground horror filmmaker, and Neverworld Wake, about a group of teens stuck living the same day over and over, which will only relent when they solve the murder of one of their best friends.  “I suppose I write ‘literary mysteries’, because I use the structure of a mystery story to investigate human themes of life, death, legacy, betrayal, loss, and everything in-between,”  Marisha explains. “I’ve always loved the writing process, building a world and a cast of compelling characters from scratch. I started writing when I was six – on my mom’s old Smith Corona typewriter – and even then, I was writing mysteries.  To be a mystery writer is to be a magician, creating a magnetic illusion, diverting the reader’s eyes to be focused on this little red herring over here, while laying the foundation for utter surprise.  Building a splendid magic trick – that leaves the reader breathless on the final page – is an art.  And I’m always learning.”  


Marisha grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, starting at the private Asheville School and graduating from the public Asheville High School. Marisha recalls, “We didn’t watch much TV at home. Watching a movie was a family event – and about the only form of entertainment around. I loved writing stories, but was also a theater geek, appearing in children’s plays from Oliver! to The Wizard of Oz.  I went to Northwestern for the film  program there, but when I spent the summer between sophomore and junior years at a theater program in New York, the City’s pull was inexorable…and so I transferred to Barnard. I was an English Lit major with a minor in Playwriting, but got a job out of college working as a financial consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Then I worked helping analysts at JP Morgan put together powerpoint presentations.”


“I used to write night and day – often while I was at work,” Marisha admits. “When I met David I was just about to release my second book, Night Film. It was love at first sight – for both of us – and after three weeks of constant phone calls, David joined me on my European book tour. We had the best time!” David smiles and adds, “It was probably the first time I had off since the summer after I graduated college, and I was lucky to get to see Marisha doing the book tour. From the beginning, I’ve always seen her as a rock star. And now, being a full-time author and a full-time mom and a full-time wife – all at the same time…she’s a superhero!”


The couple were married in 2015 and have three very precocious young daughters: Winter, Avalon and Raine. The girls have already taken to Bedford. Winter and Avalon are enrolled at Rippowam Cisqua, where David serves on the Board, and Raine is starting out at St. Matthew’s Preschool. The girls ride horses, and take ballet in New Canaan . Marisha smiles and says, “The kids already have the reading and writing bug. They each have their own typewriter. Winter already wants to be published.” David adds, “And we have a lot of music in the house, and the girls have already formed a band. I play guitar – poorly – but we all have a great time singing Dylan and The Beatles, and making up new songs of our own.”


David and Marisha seem to have perspective. What another intellectual, former N.Y. Knick and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, called ‘A Sense of Where You Are’. David gets that what he does is special, but has managed to get ego out of the way and focus on service to others. He volunteers each year, going to Ulan Bator in Mongolia in order to teach Mongolian surgeons advanced techniques in neurosurgery. “I learn more from the experience than they do,” David says humbly. “I am constantly impressed by the honesty, transparency and stoicism of the Mongolians I treat. The way they thank me for my diagnosis – even when it’s a reality that’s hard to accept. I’ve learned about humanity and grace.” And Marisha adds, “Yeah, David may see me as a superhero, and what he does really does mean the difference between life and death for others, but at home we’re the typical family – entirely focused on providing a safe, supportive, happy and culturally rich environment for our children. …And we’ve found a real home in Bedford!”


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