Heading Out

Seeking the winds that help to sail on Shakespeare's tide.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A Public Farewell

While travelling I had three posts that I wanted to make, but could not and I lost the drafts, so I will try and reconstruct them before returning to the present and the Gotcha that my colleagues played in my absence (remember Boyar).

Thirty-two years ago a nascent science held its first major conference in Europe. Among those attending was a junior assistant prof from America and a graduate student from Germany. We really did not get to know one another well until the fourth of these biennial conferences, when he suggested we call each other by first names (a bigger deal in Europe back then). From then on we met, chatted, swapped information and helped organize some things at about yearly intervals all around the world.

Last week he announced that this would be his last Conference. He is going to make a clean break at the end of the year and be gone. His University (where he stayed and moved up through the ranks) is budget bound and so he will not be replaced. It is unlikely that we will meet again.

And so, at the end of the conference, it was I who came forward to praise the Kaiser in the last act of the meeting. I began to talk about his work, his students and his influence, beginning by looking directly at him. But as I spoke it became harder to go on, and I looked away, and truncated my remarks, so that I could end with dignity. He came out of the audience and we shook hands a final time. Two old folk, quietened by time and emotion.


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