Monday, May 7, 2007


Today was the memorial service for my dad at the U.C. Berkeley Faculty Club. Guests and speakers came from literally all over the globe: Ethiopia; China; France; and many other places. Well more than 200 in total. All for just a two hour service. The celebration was warm, thoughtful and reverential, as I hoped it would be. Sixteen speakers spoke. My family was flattered by the breadth of attendees who included many friends of mine and my parents, my girlfriend’s parents and aunt; my sister’s ex-boyfriend and his father, and numerous colleagues and long–time friends of my father. My mother, sister and I were each very touched.

My family is grateful to Alan Almquist and Meg Starr, and to Tim White, Henry Gilbert and all of the other HERC staff for their efforts in arranging the memorial. We are also grateful to Don Dana for hosting and to each of the speakers for their efforts.

I want to interject here a belated but very heartfelt ‘thanks’ to Paul Johnson, who arranged for my and my mother’s recent trip to Hawai’i. It was everything my mother and I wanted and hoped for: quiet; relaxing; and, above all else, reflective. While there, there were no cards, letters or gifts to be received. The phone wasn’t constantly ringing with condolences. My mother and I spent much of our time there simply walking along the coast, talking about my dad, and reclaiming our proprietary interest in my dad’s memory; sharing him with noone else.

So there it is. My dad has died, and been cremated , celebrated, remembered and mourned [today]. And so this blog will now end. I send my heartfelt thanks to each of you reading my blog. Thank you for staying with me throughout this extraordinary journey. I am sorry that we had to take it but I am glad that we were able to take it together.

I leave you with the text of the speech I gave today in memory of my father at the U.C. Faculty Club...

On behalf of my mother, Betty, and my sister, Jennifer, I want to thank Cal’s Human Evolution Resource Center (HERC) for organizing and staging this memorial, and for setting up and running the very nice Web site with the photos and testimonials. My thanks particularly to Henry Gilbert for his work on the Web site. I also want to thank all of the the HERC staff and interns. And special thanks go to Tim White, Alan Almquist, Meg Starr and Leslea Hlusko for their yeoman efforts for this memorial, which I know they began almost immediately upon my father’s passing, now nearly two months ago. We are indebted and grateful to all of you.

I also want to thank Don Dana for agreeing to host today and each of our speakers for taking time to be here—especially those who have come considerable distances. I know my dad would have felt very honored that each of you are here today on his behalf.

When I was ten years old, my father gave me magazine subscriptions to ‘Popular Science’ and ‘Scientific American’. For years thereafter, they were both annually renewed on my birthday. When I was twelve, he gave me a copy of a high school science textbook, Introduction to Physical Science. And when I was in 7th grade, he purchased for me a copy of Asimov’s Guide to Science, a general compendium of basic scientific knowledge. These were in addition to the numerous encyclopedia, atlases and other reference and science books that my dad brought home. They were perquisites of his participation on various editorial boards and sufficient in count to well stock any library. My dad once told me he brought them home, as opposed to shelving them in his office, specifically for my pleasure and benefit.

When I was eleven, my father began working on an exhibit for the California Academy of Sciences. He would go there each Wednesday afternoon for meetings. After his second trip there, he suggested at dinner that evening that I should go with him on his next one. My dad countered my mom’s objections of my being out of school by arguing that I would learn as much or more than I would in a classroom. At length my mother acquiesced and my dad picked me up just before lunch the next day and off we went.

I had a great time! My enthusiasm encouraged my dad to argue in favor of repeating the excursion the following week and then again the week after that, after which it simply became a happy routine. My dad and I would discuss what I’d learned on each drive home.

Finally, when I was sixteen, my dad, my mother and I were passed through Montana. As we did, he gave me a running commentary on the geomorphology of the landscape, including describing the structure and depositional history of an alluvial fan which we drove up. This was followed by a lively and interesting discussion about flood plains and river terraces. I have similar recollections of discussing vulcanism when we visited Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawai‘i and the seafaring and astronavigational skills of the polynesians while vacationing in New Zealand.

I can’t share any heart–warming anecdotes of playing ball with my dad. Nor do I have humorous stories of going on fishing trips with him, or recounting how he and I were almost eaten by a bear on a father–son camping trip into the mountains. There simply weren’t any such adventures. Although we did love to watch Jeopardy! together. With us it was a blood sport! But, in the end, I find great joy and tremendous value in the memories I do have. I realize how much my dad has influenced and continues to influence me, how much I learned from him and because of him, and, for all that, how very much I am his son, and how extremely fortunate I am to be able to claim that relationship.

Life with my dad was a continuously rich and fascinating lesson. I know that everybody here shares those feelings. For though these memories are mine, I know that nearly all of you have been touched by my dad’s extraordinarily giving spirit and his remarkable ability for recognizing our talents and skills, and for helping us—deeply wanting us—to make the most of them. And often that help came completely unbidden and by surprise. Last night, a colleague of my dad told me that early in her career, just after her receiving Ph.D., she would receive small blue hand-written notes of encouragement from my dad after he’d read her monographs. She hadn’t been his student. She didn’t know him that well. But still the notes came.

Since my dad’s passing, I have heard so many stories from people who were overwhelmed and gratified by how my dad gave his valuable time to explain something to a self–described lowly freshman or inconsequential layperson. Or by how my dad went out of his way to create or facilitate an opportunity for someone. I know that many here were able to make their first trips to the field because of my dad’s efforts. Still others had papers published because my dad gave his estimable imprimatur. That was how my dad was: Always generous in sharing his copious intellect and, ready and beyond willing to provide whatever assistance and encouragement he could to all whom he thought deserved it. Now he is gone and each of us is impoverished by this loss. But our sadness is mollified by our many wonderful memories and our loss is more than offset by how he enriched each of our lives.

Thank you