I remember George…

I remember meeting George for the very first time, in Jim Berger’s office in Purdue, his warm welcome and his enthusiasm that we would spend this visiting year together after all (as I had written to him during my PhD to ask for a postdoctoral position in Cornell). This was so much like George to reach out to newcomers and include them naturally into his research projects. His generosity was simply boundless.

I remember working on our first paper, the 1989 “Refining Poisson confidence intervals”, that he suggested out of an earlier paper. It was such an exciting moment, enjoying the luxury of him having no time constraint and being able to confront ideas and scenarios until things clicked. In the following years, each collaboration with George would reproduce this intensity in the commitment to solving the problem and the quicksilver grasp of alternative ways of attacking the difficulties. There was no small or minor project for him and he would involve himself fully into the collaboration, never giving up. Never. A result of his immense optimism and equally strong stubbornness.

I remember George becoming a father, a great father, him being so proud of his children and their achievements, always caring and supportive and full of love. And being so kind and helpful when he visited us right after my son was born. And becoming a volunteer fireman, mostly to help the community but also to have his children relate to something more concrete than statistics and research about him.

I remember our crazy squash games in both Purdue and Cornell as well, how intensely we would get into the games, to the point of breaking rackets against the wall and of almost being expelled once from the courts for cursing too loudly. Again, so typical of George’s commitment to living every aspect of his life at the fullest level!

I remember working on the books, when I approached him with the ill-thought-out idea of working with one of his PhD students on translating the book and his reply that it would be counterproductive for their early career but that he was quite ready to work with me. My delight at the proposal! And the great times we had writing those books together, from Cornell to Paris, to Maine, and to Granada, as George turned his pedagogical skills to making the texts into much clearer and understandable expositions. Even the light fights we had about those were fun and formative! A break to go running would usually bring a solution to our conflicting views…

I remember his laugh and mirth, so contagious and heard so often. During our working sessions as well as the comfy evenings at Anne and George’s home, in the Ithaca woodland and by the Florida pool. The endless laughs. The friendly laughs. May they still ring in memoriam in the ears of all his friends.

I remember our first run together, again in Purdue, again a suggestion of his, and the pleasure of those long hours on the road where we would discuss problems and explore potential solutions, with a various degree of success, but always with the same enthusiasm. We would thus run together many times, under many weathers, and in many places after that, including the popular Paris-Versailles, and it was a sad day when George told me he preferred to run by himself because he had slowed down quite a lot. But I will always keep this image of George running around Padova piazza in the early morning, as I was leaving the city by bus and driving by him. In my mind, he still running there, in the glorious rising sun, concentrated and happy. Run well, my friend!

I remember a runners’ poster in George’s office at Cornell, featuring one of those endless Arizona roads, and a motto like “what matters is the journey, not the destination.” George had a journey like no other journey, a journey where he was greeting anyone ready to join him, a journey we were privileged to share for a while, and this is truly what mattered to him. And what matters now. Run well, my friend!

3 Responses to “I remember George…”

  1. Guido Consonni Says:

    Thanks Christian. Your words about George are perfect.
    I visited George in the Fall-Winter of 2008. I learned a lot talking to him, but above all discovered how great a person he was.

  2. David Hitchcock Says:

    Thank you, Christian, for sharing your memories of George. George was my Ph.D. advisor at Florida. He was a truly amazing person who accomplished so much and inspired so many people in his life. In this difficult time, reading your blog entries is a comfort for me and, I’m sure, for many others.

    • Thank you very much for this, David. I am glad if it brings some comfort: Writing about George is somehow a therapy for managing my grief…

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