In the end, we attended three farewell parties for our Boss. Two parties were for the whole department and our team, and the speeches were very formal. The last one, however, was for his own trainees. Each attendee was asked to say something.
Most of us simply recalled funny occasions in the past. Many talked about how they shared a room with the Boss during overseas conferences and why they could not sleep. Discussing research in a swimming pool was also a collective memory. On the other hand, hardly anyone mentioned anything about success and achievements.
When it was JW’s turn, he boldly discussed built to last. He said few people could remember or cite our finest research papers in 1990s. Although those were great achievements, their importance faded with time. JW concluded that the achievement with really lasting effect was the establishment of a team of people who could continue to serve in different areas.
I cannot totally agree. Each generation has its own problems to solve. A low citation rate of papers on smallpox does not mean the original works were unimportant. Nevertheless, I suppose the point is nothing can substitute for the time you spend with your trainees and children.
P.S. The book we gave Boss contained a poem by Su Shi (蘇軾), <和子由澠池懷舊>. "人生到處知何似？應似飛鴻踏雪泥。泥上偶然留指爪，鴻飛那復計東西。" I am not interested in leaving a name in history. However, leaving a small footprint that may benefit others in the future is always a beautiful thing.