Sunday, August 4, 2019

Tribute to Godfried by Paco Gomez

Godfried’s death came to me as a very painful surprise. As in the case of others, Godfried was friend, teacher, mentor, and adventure mate. But before anything else, he was a friend, a very good friend. I met him in 1992 at McGill. Soon his love for research and especially his approach to it made a great impact on me. I came from a place where research was conceived as an individual work that you would do with your supervisor, almost secretly, where only the results were important (you weren’t important). With Godfried, however, research was about beauty and fun. He conveyed that sense of beauty through a fierce passion for the subject as well as excellent communication skills (he was a great orator and writer). He was able to raise above the sea of results in the area and spot new virgin territories where to extract new and exciting problems.

Godfried also was a polymath. He was a musician and so was I, and very soon we connected and started to play together back in 1992. He’d visit me in Madrid on a regular basis and every time he was in town I organized some kind of gig, concert, show with more friends (Giovanna, Shima, Stefan, Andrew). I remember that we started to do research in Mathematical Music Theory at the same time, around 2002. We had so much fun by doing so! He’d invite me to his Bellairs workshops, where I met so many fascinating researchers. Among other Godfried’s interests, we find dance, literature (he wrote a couple of novels), cinema, sports.

Another distinctive trait of Godfried was his sense of humor. He was always laughing. He could find reasons to laugh about in the smallest details of daily life, so good-humored he was! When I first met him, I happened to have an obsession for water guns. I’d like to squirt people with small water guns pretending I was sneezing or something along these lines. I challenged him to go to a bar and squirt the patrons just to see their reactions (sometimes we’d aim at the most beautiful women in the bar just to strike up conversation with them). And he’d follow down my crazy paths. We laughed like hell. He was that type of guy.

The last one indelible impact Godfried made on me was of social nature: the way he interacted with students. Godfried treated them as their peers in the adventure of learning. More important, he treated them as human beings, and considered that every single student had very valuable things to put on the table. I remember with great joy the lunches that we had together, him and other students, every single day of workweek. We discussed research problems, laughed, talked about our worries, personal and otherwise; in a nutshell, we celebrated life and the human condition.

Yes, Godfried was good at living life. Thank you, friend. I miss you.