Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Blows at the Same Hospital and One Day Apart

The sad and shocking news arrived yesterday. A colleague in my department who also held a chaired professorship and had been on our faculty at the Isenberg School of Management for seven years passed away at Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston this past Monday. He had been battling a very serious illness and had been working to the end. In fact, one of his doctoral students had defended his dissertation proposal the same day that the advisor passed away (but another faculty member stepped in). Also, my colleague had just edited a volume on healthcare. He left a wife and two doctoral students and research discoveries yet to be made.

In today's local newspaper, a front page story captured another tragic death. A neighbor of ours in Amherst who a few days ago was hurt by a basketball stand in the face, had had surgery, and was recovering at Brigham and Women's hospital. He died unexpectedly last Sunday morning, at age 42. He left a wife and two young children and a community trying to understand what happened.

Shocking deaths of two men, each a leader in his own way, dying a hundred miles away from home at the same hospital hours apart.

I remember, like yesterday, the death of my doctoral dissertation advisor at Brown University, Dr. Stella Dafermos, who died at age 49 (I received the phone call while I was a Visiting Scholar at the Sloan School). Dafermos was working with a doctoral student at the time of her death, Georgia Perakis, who, ultimately, completed her PhD under the magnificent guidance of Professor Tom Magnanti of MIT. Professor Perakis has now been promoted to Full Professor at the Sloan School of MIT and Professor Magnanti, the former dean of Engineering at MIT, has accepted the Presidency of the new university in Singapore.

As someone wrote in a condolence tribute online to the family of my deceased neighbor, it is the quality of your life that matters and not the quantity (although lucky were such greats as the Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, who lived fully until age 94 (and was the subject of my previous post), and Professor George Dantzig, the father of operations research, who died at age 90 a few years ago).

My sincerest condolences to the families, colleagues, and friends of those who have passed on during what should be a celebratory holiday season.

One must keep one's spirits up, though, for the students!