Archive for March 2nd, 2014

Stan was my PhD thesis advisor at Berkeley.  He left a tremendous legacy of professional accomplishment in fields as diverse as applied mathematics, medicine, physiology, and engineering, and he was a dedicated and beloved teacher. Of all the people I have known, he most closely embodied those qualities described by the word “mensch.”  For the uninitiated, the literal translation of this is “human being.”  In the Yiddish vernacular it describes a person of singular integrity, honor, and generosity.  I can’t think of a more perfect description.

Stan was my mentor, but he was also my friend.  When we first met, we shared an immediate sense of recognition.  We were both members of that unusual subspecies of humanity:  the New York Jew.  We knew the same jokes without having to explain them.  We shared the same sense of doom about right wing politics, the same quirky blend of optimism and resignation about human nature in general.   We were part of the same tribe.

Back then, in the mid to late 80s,  if you got to know Stan, you got to know his daughters, Shoshana and Maya, of whom he was immensely proud.  One weekend night, we decided that the four of us — Stan, myself, Shana, Maya — should go to a comedy club in San Francisco.  I have no idea what we were thinking at the time because, in retrospect, it seems like an unusually bad idea.  I’m pretty sure I instigated it, but Stan was nothing if not adventurous.  We arrived a bit early and we thought, oh great!  Front row seats!  Imagine the scene:  a very distinguished middle aged gentleman  and his younger, scruffy sidekick, accompanied by two very attractive, young teenaged women, smack in the front row at a comedy club. You could almost see the comedian’s eyes light up when he saw us.  If I recall, he actually didn’t go as hard on us as he could have, probably out of kindness to the girls. Certainly not to Stan and I, whose judgment was obviously impaired.

I could say more about our work together, our shared enthusiasm for applied mathematics and the physics of fluids, our travels to conferences together, the sense of mishpocha, of inclusion in an extended family, that he imparted to everyone he came in contact with.  There are more stories to be told, but I’ll just leave it there.

Stan, you were a mensch, a real human being, and you remain so in our hearts, now and forever.

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