Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Wonderful Man Left

Late this summer David's mentor and professor, the man we followed out to Minnesota, passed away from lung cancer. Xiaojia Ge, or Dr. Ge--we pronounced it Dr. "Ga" and sometimes the kidlins thought it was Dr. "god."--he was an amazing man. We will miss him.

The children were sad for their daddy and wanted to help. They used the money they earned at the lemonade stand to take Daddy out to a Chinese restaurant and remember Ga.

David spoke at his memorial:

Xiaojia Ge’s Memorial Service
16 September 2009, 2:00pm Coffman Theater

I began working with Ge nearly seven years ago as a staff for a large research project. Four years ago, because of his encouragement, I became his graduate student. I have been greatly blessed to have known and to have worked so closely with such a remarkable man. Through the years while we worked through many difficulties and challenges I was able to watch him successfully deal with people and problems. I’d like to share two situations that are dear to me, and illustrate how his life touched and influenced me, and made me a better student, researcher, and human being.

In the third year of my graduate studies which began at the University of California, Davis, and continue at Minnesota, I began to wonder, as graduate students sometimes do, whether completing my program was feasible. Maybe I should change career options? I expressed my concerns to Ge and we discussed them. Part of what he said was, “All of my graduate students have written good dissertations and have placed very well in the job market. I have a perfect record.” And then with his characteristic warmth and humor he said, “And you are not going to ruin my reputation.”

In that statement, Ge expressed his confidence in me and his support of my goals. He took great pride in his students. All of us have been nurtured and shown the way to success. Because of his generosity and wisdom I will be able to finish. I hope to make him proud and keep his reputation bright. And even as a yet-to-be-finished student I couldn’t have asked for a better advisor.

The skills necessary for scholarly success were not the only skills that Ge developed and taught. I was constantly amazed that a man so great as Ge, with so many accomplishments was so kind. His sensitivity to others, his meekness, and humility will always stay with me.

At the very beginning of our relationship I learned what a marvelous man he was. When I was a new hire on a new project, Ge called a meeting to discuss problems staff members were having understanding their duties and what constituted sufficient performance. I too was concerned my efforts were inadequate. As we discussed these issues, I suggested that Ge could tell us when we were doing a good job, and then we would know. My suggestion seemed to make Ge uneasy. At that point I began to worry that I would not know what sufficient performance was. But the next day, when Ge was ready to leave (he had put on his coat and had his bag over his shoulder) he poked his head into my office and without looking at me, and with effort he said, “David, you are doing a good job. Bye.” And he left.

This episode has stayed with me over the years. I was nobody, a new hire and, as far as I could tell, easily replaceable. But this internationally known scholar listened to me and kindly changed his own thinking to go outside his comfort zone so that I could feel comfortable. This charity towards others, towards students, researchers, colleagues, government officials, and nobody new hires is why Ge was a success in every area of his life. Because of Ge’s example I have learned what good performance is.

I miss him greatly but I am glad to have known him and am forever grateful that I could learn from his example in many areas of life.

No comments: